In E.L. Doctorow’s novel Ragtime, Henry Ford plays a major character. In the 1920’s the Industrial Revolution was in full affect and Ford was a major part of it. Henry Ford was known as the automobile tycoon of the 1920’s. Ford help develop some of the major inventions that are used in cars today. His desires for faster and efficient production lead to the assembly line. He helped merge the massive gap between the upper and middle class in the United States. Henry Ford in the 1920’s was part of the extremely wealthy group that involved J.P. Morgan, Henry K. Thaw, and Stanford White. Henry Ford throughout the novel displayed the theme of reincarnation through Ford’s views on reincarnation, the Model T, and workers wages. Henry Ford was born July 30, 1863 to William and Mary Ford. Ford grew up in Greenfield Township a farming town outside Detroit, Michigan. He grew up with four siblings, two sisters, and two brothers. He was destined to be a farmer growing up but chose to leave the farm and take an apprentice machinist job in Detroit. Although Ford ended up coming back to the farm, his heart was really on machines and was later hired by the Westinghouse Company. In 1891, Ford got his first big name job working for Edison Illuminating Company, where he worked all the way up to Chief Engineer. While Ford worked, he was also devoting his time and money into gasoline engines. After having success with the gasoline engines, Henry Ford joined forces with William H. Murphy and founded the Detroit Automobile Company. Fords first company tanked due to the low quality of the cars and the extremely high prices. Fords then joined up with Harold Wills and other investors to create Henry Ford Company. Yet again Ford left and the company was later renamed Cadillac Automobile Company. In 1903 finally founded what is known today as Ford Motor Company. Five years after the company first was built it produced the Model T. The Model T was an extremely cheap car and easy to drive that most Americans were able to have one. Fords next major breakthrough came when he and other inventors developed the assembly line. He also implemented the five dollar a day work wage that created a better work place and ultimately a lower turnover rate, so all the good quality workers were staying. Henry Ford passed away in September of 1945 handing down his empire to his grandson Henry Ford II.
Henry Ford believed thoroughly in reincarnation. Doctorow uses Henry Ford’s accomplishment to show reincarnation of the 1920’s. Reincarnation is believed to occur when the soul or spirit, after the death of the body, comes back to life in a newborn body. In Ragtime, Reincarnation is described as things should change slightly; let’s learn from the past and improve a little for the future, but nothing drastic. Henry Ford like J.P. Morgan had a fascination with reincarnation and believing that they would be reborn again and again. While J.P. Morgan spent all his money on this philosophy, Ford knew it the best “In this book which cost me just twenty-five cents, I found everything I needed to set my mind to rest.” (Doctorow 127) Ford was a very humble and intellectual man who did not come from a wealthy background, so he valued the hard earned dollar. What J.P. Morgan spent all his money on, research and trips, he could have found out in a simple twenty-five cent book. In addition, many of the wealthy class inherited their wealth like J.P. Morgan, but in the case of Ford “I had grit, all right, but I was an ordinary country boy who had suffered his McGuffey like the rest of them” (Doctorow 126). Ford was never handed anything in his life he worked hard for what he had, unlike Morgan. Ford shows how reincarnation isn’t about wealth but more about how hard work leads to being reborn. Ford believed in change in moderation through the Model T. The Model T was helping slowly bridge the gap between the upper and lower class this is evident in the