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The only child of Clara and Henry Ford, founder of Ford Motor Company, Edsel was born in 1893 — the same year his father made his first gasoline engine. From riding in his father’s experimental Quadricycle as a toddler to driving on his own by age 12, Edsel grew up with the automobile industry.
Edsel attended an all-boys school where he was assistant editor of the yearbook and a sprinter on the six-man track team. He met Eleanor at Detroit’s Strasburg School of Dancing, where he was taking lessons. While he courted Eleanor, escorting her to dances and parties, he spent a lot of time in the factory learning the family business with his father. Edsel and Eleanor married in 1916 and had four children together. He was a devoted father and husband.
As Ford Motor Company’s secretary, and later in 1919 as its president, Edsel was known as an even-tempered executive — always a gentleman. With a keen interest in art and design, Edsel brought an aesthetic to the company, and is credited for the development of the wildly successful Ford Model A, bringing Lincoln into Ford Motor Co., and the creation and design of the stylish Lincoln Continental.
He was a noted philanthropist, founding the charitable Ford Foundation in 1936, and an avid arts supporter and collector of fine art. Edsel commissioned the Diego Rivera murals for the Detroit Institute of Arts, and his personal collection include great masters like Van Gogh and Matisse, as well as art and artifacts from Africa and Asia. Much of his collection is in the DIA today.
Edsel died at age 49 of stomach cancer and was survived by Eleanor and their four children.