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Drive!: Henry Ford, George Selden, and the…
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Drive!: Henry Ford, George Selden, and the Race to Invent the Auto Age

by Lawrence Goldstone

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A useful history I will return to again and again. Taking the 30,000-foot view, with plenty of details to give the history a personal feel. With the wide-angle overview approach, however, the story moves along without becoming bogged down in details most readers won’t be looking for in such a book. Goldstone weaves the early history of automobiles into a highly readable account, creating a very straight-forward narrative arc, though historical topics are anything but. Highly recommend to those interested in the later Industrial Revolution, early 20th-century history, and of course, car nuts.

https://benjaminlclark.com/2016/08/03/book-review-drive/ ( )
  benjclark | Sep 29, 2016 |
Contrary to popular belief, Henry Ford invented neither the automobile nor the assembly line manufacturing process. The truth is, no one person invented either one of those things. What one person did invent, however, was the idea of a gasoline internal combustion engine. George Selden came up with that, and filed to patent it in 1879 (it wasn’t granted until 1895). Then he never developed the idea further, other than to collect patent royalties from those who actually built and sold gasoline engines.

By the time Henry Ford became interested in automobiles, they were being built and raced in Europe. The development of the car was a group effort, with people all over contributing bits that added up to something that ran under its own volition, and, if one was lucky, also stopped when you wanted it to. Ford was a visionary who could see what an inexpensively made automobile could be, and who had the ability to find and hire people with the skills to make his vision come to reality- even when he didn’t like the people. Ford chose to ignore the Selden patent and fight it out in court, while a large number of independent car builders joined together to form General Motors, paying the royalties and pooling their resources. They figured Ford would go under. We all know how that one worked out!

I chose this book because both my father and my father-in-law were both auto mechanics. My father was born in 1905 in Detroit, and so saw the car industry in its infancy and watched it grow. I wanted to see what he saw. It is an interesting book even though I don’t really understand the technical details. The book doesn’t go deep, but it gives a good overview. It could have used more photographs of those great old cars. The automobile changed the world- roads needed to be built that cars could handle, fueling stations needed to exist, mechanics to handle breakdowns, road laws needed to be made, people could spread out- and this book shows some of the problems encountered along the way. ( )
  lauriebrown54 | Mar 23, 2016 |
A fascinating history of the rise of the automobile as a common means of transportation, eminently readable, and well researched, and entertaining. I was surprised by how engrossing the story is and to learn how the US Patent Office was used as a weapon to discourage competition among the early auto manufacturing companies. Principal among these was, of course, Henry Ford, and his auto company, who not only had to create a reliable product that could be sold at an affordable price, but to fight against the entrenched, established auto manufacturing companies and their trade associations. Henry Ford is portrayed with his prejudices, and faults as well as his determination to create such an automobile in the face of the competing manufacturing firms' opposition. A surprisingly easy and quick read, truly enjoyable. ( )
  dmclane | Feb 26, 2016 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0553394185, Hardcover)

From the acclaimed author of Birdmen comes a revelatory new history of the birth of the automobile, an illuminating and entertaining true tale of invention, competition, and the visionaries, hustlers, and swindlers who came together to transform the world.

In 1900, the Automobile Club of America sponsored the nation’s first car show in New York’s Madison Square Garden. The event was a spectacular success, attracting seventy exhibitors and nearly fifty thousand visitors. Among the spectators was  an obscure would-be automaker named Henry Ford, who walked the floor speaking with designers and engineers, trying to gauge public enthusiasm for what was then a revolutionary invention. His conclusion: the automobile was going to be a fixture in American society, both in the city and on the farm—and would make some people very rich. None, he decided, more than he.

Drive! is the most complete account to date of the wild early days of the auto age. Lawrence Goldstone tells the fascinating story of how the internal combustion engine, a “theory looking for an application,” evolved into an innovation that would change history. Debunking many long-held myths along the way, Drive! shows that the creation of the automobile was not the work of one man, but very much a global effort. Long before anyone had heard of Henry Ford, men with names like Benz, Peugeot, Renault, and Daimler were building and marketing  the world’s first cars.

Goldstone breathes life into an extraordinary cast of characters: the inventors and engineers who crafted engines small enough to use on a “horseless carriage”; the financiers who risked everything for their visions; the first racers—daredevils who pushed rickety, untested vehicles to their limits; and such visionary lawyers as George Selden, who fought for and won the first patent for the gasoline-powered automobile. Lurking around every corner is Henry Ford, a brilliant innovator and an even better marketer, a tireless promoter of his products—and of himself.

With a narrative as propulsive as its subject, Drive! plunges us headlong into a time unlike any in history, when near-manic innovation, competition, and consumerist zeal coalesced to change the way the world moved.

Advance praise for Drive!

“Business history as you have never read it before. Lawrence Goldstone tells the tale of the important but now forgotten legal fight over the patent for the automobile. With more plot twists than a murder mystery and a cast of well-known industrial titans, Drive! takes the reader down the road from the dawning age of the automobile, when Henry Ford’s dream almost turned into a nightmare.”—James McGrath Morris, author of Pulitzer: A Life in Politics, Print, and Power

“Utterly compelling and filled with fascinating stories and larger-than-life characters, Drive! is a joyride. I’ll never get behind the wheel of my car again without thinking about Drive!—Howard Blum, author of Dark Invasion and American Lightning

“In suitably fast-paced prose, Goldstone tells the enthralling story of the fraught early days of the ‘Horseless Age.’ The cast in the high-stakes battle includes brilliant engineers, Gilded Age tycoons, and reckless daredevils both on the track and in the boardroom. Silicon Valley’s billionaires have nothing on these guys for either ingenuity or ruthlessness.”—Ross King, author of Brunelleschi’s Dome

“A lucid, intelligent page-turner, Drive! will enthrall and enlighten you.”—Elizabeth MacDonald, senior stocks editor, FOX Business

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 18 Feb 2016 07:36:07 -0500)

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