June 2016

My name is Lisa Stevens and I am the Digitisation Assistant at the BMIHT Archive. For the past couple of months the Archive Store and Public Reading Room have been undergoing refurbishment and improvement. Part of the project has been to update our Public Reading Room area. Myself and my colleague, Mollie, have been particularly involved with the development of that. 

Once the Reading Room refurbishment was finished, we made the most of our extended space and sorted through and re-shelved our existing book collection. We also added a new personal collection recently donated by Sam Roberts, an avid collector of books, in particular Ford. One particular book from this Collection caught my eye. It is titled ‘The Believer, The Life Story of Mrs Henry Ford’ written by Louise Clancy and Florence Davies. It is quite a rare book, having been published some years ago in the US, and so I would not have seen it had it not been part of this donation. It is also unusual for being the biography of an industrialist’s wife, rather than the man himself.

Why This Book?

I have chosen this book because I was interested to see what kind of a person Clara Bryant (later Mrs Clara Ford) was, to have supported and encouraged such a successful man. It is an informal biography of a modest woman whose faith in her husband was the cornerstone of an industrial empire and who met the challenge of great wealth, power and influence with dignity and simplicity.

Clara’s Mother, Martha Bench, had come to the New World with her parents as a girl of seventeen, in the 1860’s. Times were hard in England in those days and the family had decided to leave their home in Warwickshire and set out for Michigan, USA.

  • Clara Bryant Ford, 1888

Clara and Henry’s attraction for one another was ignited at a New Year’s Dance in 1885, apparently Henry told his sister that it took him 30 minutes to know that Clara was the girl for him. After Clara Bryant met and fell in love with the shy young inventor, they were married in April 1888.  From the beginning of the relationship Clara quietly encouraged Henry’s experiments and ideas, always believing that he could achieve whatever he set his mind to. Clara and Henry went on to have a son, Edsel. The relationship between the father and son was always close, but fraught with tension.

It is an engaging book to flick through with some evocative black and white photographs charting the couple’s life together and the various homes they shared. Clara was a daughter, sister, wife, mother and grandmother; cook, gardener and dancer; modest philanthropist and quiet role model. The story of Henry Ford cannot be told without telling the story of Clara Bryant Ford.

  • Henry and Clara Ford

The Reading Room is now fully open to the public and our selection of books are wide ranging, covering many subjects such as Art and Design, Motorsport, Industrial and Social History, Biographies, Marques, Companies, Commercial Vehicles, Reference and Technical, all suitable for anything from a quick flick through to a fully absorbing read.

  • Visit England Gold Accolade