In 1903, before the Ford Motor Company was even incorporated, Stephen Tenvoorde signed a contract to sell Ford mobiles at his bicycle shop in St. Cloud, Minnesota. Four generations later, the Tenvoorde family still operates what is now the oldest Ford dealership in the world. Brian McMahon chronicles how the fortunes of the company and the state became intertwined during that century.
Ford assembled Model T cars in the world's tallest automobile plant in Minneapolis and a three-story structure in St. Paul both still standing. These factories quickly became functionally obsolete after the development of the moveable assembly line. The hunt for a new site to build a modern, single-story plant stirred intense rivalry between Minneapolis and St. Paul. Henry Ford took a rare personal interest in the search and selected a 125-acre parcel in St. Paul overlooking the recently built High Dam on the Mississippi River, which allowed for navigation and hydroelectric power. The Twin Cities Assembly Plant would go on to manufacture millions of cars, trucks, tractors, and military vehicles until its closure in 2011.
Henry Ford's large-scale experiments with every aspect of the industrial economy sent ripples and shock waves through the lives of Minnesotans management and assembly line workers, dealers and customers, families and communities. First-person accounts of more than forty retired auto workers share what it was like to work at Ford from the early years of the Minneapolis plant to the final hours of the Twin Cities Assembly Plant in St. Paul. McMahon documents the company s transformation through the Depression, the rise of the United Auto Workers Union, World War II, women joining the workforce, competition from imported cars, globalization, outsourcing, and the closing of the plant.
Brian McMahon, a trained architect, has lectured and written extensively on industry, urban history and architecture, and has developed and designed several exhibits for museums and galleries in New York and Minnesota.