Biographies: Edsel Ford (United States, 1893-1943)

Figure 1.--I'm not sure when this portrait was taken, presumably about 1940. It shows Edsel and his wife Elenor with their four children: Henry II, Benson, Josephine, and William Clay. Note that the two youngest, Josephine and William Clay wear very similar saddle shoes.

The Ford's only had one son, Edsel, who was born November 6, 1893. He was Edsel named after a childhood friend Edsel Ruddiman. I have little information on his childhood at this time or the clothes he wore as a boy. A British reader remembers visiting the doctor sometime during the 1960s and while waiting to see him picked up a magazine with an article about Edsel. "There was a picture of him as a boy wearing a suit with short trousers. I thought this kind of odd at the time a I was always under the impression that American boys never wore short trousers and that only boys in the UK and Europe wore them." Of course short pants were much more common in Britain and knickers more common in America, although boys from American boys from affluent families were more likely to wear short pants. At the turn of the 20th century when Edsel was a boy, most American boys of all social backgrounds wore kneepants. The only exception here was boys who had to work, they would begin wearing long pants earlier than boys still going to school. Edsel married Elenor and they had four children: Henry II, Benson, Josephine, and William Clay. Ford retired in 19?? and Edsel became president of the Ford Motor Company for a quarter of a century. Edsel grew up in and around the Ford Motor Company that his father devoted himself to. There was the controversy of his World War I draft notice and an exemption, the change from the Model T to the Model A, and the creation of the Ford Foundation. Edsel's role in Ford is rather lost today, but it was in fact significant. [Dominguez] Interestingly while his father believed in making a very basic car and opposed inovations like colors and stylistic changes, Edsel gave considerable attention to styling when he took over the company. The classic 1939 Lincolmn Continental, for example, reflected the influence of Edsel who played an important role in giving the Lincoln line its destinctive style and elegance. Needless to say, he had nothing to do with the disatrous Edsel car named after him. Edsel died unexpectedly, however, during 1943 in the midst of World War II. His father briefly resumed the presidency, but was because of his age and health not up to the task.


Brinkley, Douglas. Wheeles for the World: Henry Ford, His Company, and a Century of Progress (Viking, 2003), 858p.

Dominguez, Henry L. Edsel: The Story of Henry Ford's Forgotten Son (SAE), 425p.


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Created: June 28, 2003
Last updated: June 28, 2003