Drive! Henry Ford, George Selden, and the Race To Invent the Auto Age

Ballantine. May 2016. 384p. photos. notes. index. ISBN 9780553394184. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780553394191. HIST
OrangeReviewStarIn 1895 attorney George B. Selden received a patent for a "road-carriage" he designed but didn't construct. The Selden patent covered all rudimentary gasoline-powered vehicles built since 1879 and manufactured, sold, or used in the United States during a 17-year span. His collaborators, the Association of Licensed Automobile Manufacturers, awarded licenses and collected royalties on automobiles made by other manufacturers until 1903, when the patent was challenged by a coalition of automakers headed by Henry Ford. Historian Goldstone (Birdmen) argues that Selden was a visionary, one of the first Americans to apply a nascent technology—the internal combustion engine—to a vehicle, and that had Selden acquired the necessary funding and political connections, he almost certainly would have become a preeminent auto magnate. Goldstone outlines Ford's eventual legal victory over Selden in 1911; this revisionist work insists that Ford's genius was not inventor but rather as a corporate manager, publicist, and an adapter to the demands of the marketplace. He concludes, "men such as Henry Ford will always be patrolling the fringes eager to convert ideas to cash. And it is that alchemy…that defines the process we call innovation."
VERDICT A splendid dissection of the Selden/Ford patent face-off and its place in automotive historiography, this work will be enjoyed by business, legal, transportation, social, and intellectual historians; general readers; and all libraries.

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