Wednesday 26th May 1943
Edsel Ford, president (49) of the Ford Motor Company, died. He worked closely with his father, as sole heir to the business, but was keen to develop cars more exciting than the Model T (“Tin Lizzie”), in line with his personal tastes. Even as president, he had trouble persuading the older man to allow any departure from this formula. Only a change in market conditions enabled him to develop the more fashionable Model A in 1927. Edsel also founded the Mercury division and was responsible for the Lincoln Zephyr and Lincoln Continental. He introduced important features, such as hydraulic brakes, and greatly strengthened the company’s overseas production. Edsel was a major art benefactor in Detroit, and also financed Admiral Richard Byrd’s polar explorations. He died of stomach cancer aged 49, with his father resuming presidency of the company, before handing it over to Henry Ford II. The range of cars launched by Ford in 1957 under the name Edsel is remembered as one of the classic marketing failures.