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Car History - Get a Horse!   Part 2: Henry Ford's Third Effort to Make Good

By Carl Burgess Glasscock

Revised by Jeremy Wilson

In the meantime there was further evidence of the skepticism with which the American public looked upon the budding auto­mobile business. Henry Ford had what appeared to be two fail­ures behind him in a little more than three years of attempted manufacturing on a commercial scale. He had quit the Detroit Automobile Company by mutual consent, and had written off the Henry Ford Automobile Company after a few months of grief. He was organizing the Ford Motor Company in a third effort to make good.

The following was told to the author by Norval A. Hawkins, auditor and first sales manager of the Ford Motor Company:

Alexander Y. Malcolmson, a Detroit coal dealer, had been induced to put up some money for Ford. At the time Hawkins was an auditor and public accountant in Detroit, with Malcolm-son as one of his clients. One bright morning a good-looking, well-dressed man called at Hawkins’ office, and asked if Hawkins could do a small job of auditing for him. He identified himself as a coal jobber from Cleveland, and explained that he had a customer in Detroit who had failed to meet a recent bill for seven thousand two hundred dollars. He had been advised by friends that this customer was dabbling in some silly automobile venture, and had actually put money into it. So he wanted an audit of the coal dealer’s books to safeguard himself against loss. No sound busi­ness man, he believed, could invest money in an automobile proj­ect and remain sound. The name of his customer was Malcolmson.

Hawkins grinned, and explained that he was Malcolmson’s auditor, and that he knew all about the books, the capital and the credit of the coal dealer, but that it would be hardly ethical to disclose that information without his client’s permission and ap­proval. However, he was perfectly willing to take the jobber over to the coal dealer’s office and put the matter up to him. The jobber agreed, Hawkins made the contact, and Malcolmson controlled ah incipient outburst of temper. It took only a few minutes to convince the jobber that the item of seven thousand two hundred dollars due him had been delayed only by some minor confusion in the office routine, that Malcolmson’s credit was still good, and that he was not losing his economic balance because he was willing to invest a few thousand dollars in the new Ford Motor Company.

The jobber departed with his money, but the point that con­servative business in 1903 was extremely suspicious of anything pertaining to automobiles had been clearly demonstrated. In that year Hawkins opened the books of the Ford Motor Company in its first plant, on Mack Avenue, Detroit, rented from Albert Strelow at seventy-five dollars a month. It was ten years after Henry Ford had trundled his first automobile by hand out of the little brick workshop in the rear of his modest home on Bagley Avenue, Detroit. So slow was the United States to accept the automobile.

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