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Michigan Historic Figures

Henry Ford
1863-1947: Automobile engineer and manufacturer; born in Greenfield Township, Michigan. While working as an engineer at the Edison Illuminating Company' Ford experimented with internal combustion engines, eventually creating an automobile which he called the Quadricycle. After two unsuccessful attempts to establish an automobile manufacturing company, the Ford Motor Company was incorporated in 1903 with Ford as vice-president and chief engineer. The company produced only a few cars each day. Ford realized his dream of producing an automobile that was reasonably priced, reliable, and efficient with the introduction of the Model T in 1908. By 1918, half of all cars in America were Model Ts. In order to meet the growing demand, the company opened a large factory in 1910. Ford revolutionized automobile production by combining precision manufacturing, standardized and interchangeable parts, a division of labor, and in 1913, a continuous moving assembly line. By September 1927, all steps in the manufacturing process, from refining raw materials to final assembly of the automobile, took place at a vast plant in Dearborn, Michigan, characterizing Ford's idea of mass production. Ford ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 1918. He and his wife Clara Bryant had a son named Edsel who was born in 1893 and became president of the Ford Motor Company in 1919.
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Charles Lindberg
1902-74: Aviator, born in Detroit, Michigan. Pilot, inventor, author, and environmentalist, he made the first solo transatlantic airplane flight in 1927 and returned to America a hero and celebrity of unsurpassed dimension. The son of a Minnesota congressman, Lindbergh showed early mechanical aptitude as well as physical daring. He brought a war surplus Curtiss "Jenny" biplane in 1923 and barnstormed the Midwest and South, completed army flight training in 1925, and worked as an airmail pilot on the pioneering St. Louis-Chicago run. In pursuit of a $25,000 prize, he lifted off from Rossevelt Field, N.Y., in a monoplane named Spirit of St. Louis on May 20, 1927, crossed the Atlantic, and landed at LeBourguet Field near Paris after 33 1/2 hours - a flight of 3,600 miles. "The Lone Eagle", as he became known, made a series of epic flights during the 1930s, many with his wife Anne Morrow Lindbergh. In one of America's most notorious crimes, the couple's infant son was kidnapped and murdered in 1932; four years later Bruno Hauptman, protesting his innocence to the last, was put to death for the crime. Lindbergh worked with Dr. Alexis Carrel on experiments that led to the development of an artificial heart. Impressed by German military power, especially in the air, he campaigned for American neutrality in the years leading up to World War II. During the war years he served as a consultant for Ford and United Aircraft Company. Shy, and at periods almost reclusive, Lindbergh began to appear more often in public in later years as a spokesman for environmental conservation. His autobiography, The Spirit of St. Louis (1932), won a Pulitzer Prize; his wife was the best-selling author of Gift from the Sea (1955) and other books.
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Gilda Radner
1946-89: Comedienne; born in Detroit, Mich. (married to Gene Wilder). After working with the Second City comedy troupe, she appeared on the National Lampoon Radio Hour in 1974. On National Broadcasting Company's Saturday Night Live (1975--80), she created zany characters whom she brought to Broadway in Gilda Radner Live from New York (1979). She wrote It's Always Something (1989) about the ovarian cancer that ended her life prematurely.
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William E. Boeing
1881-1956: Aircraft manufacturer, born in Detroit, Michigan, USA. A lumberman, in 1916 he formed the Pacific Aero Products Company. In 1927 he organized what would become United Aircraft and Transport. In 1934 the federal government divided United Aircraft and Transport into Boeing Aircraft (a major manufacturer of military and civilian aircraft), United Aircraft, and United Airlines, and he retired from business.
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Thomas E. Dewey
1902-71: Governor' presidential candidate, lawyer; born in Owosso, Mich. His record of investigating and prosecuting vice and racketeering led to his election as district attorney in New York City (1937--41) and wide support as a possible Republican nominee for president in 1940. He served as governor of New York (1943--55) and was the unsuccessful Republican candidate for president in 1944 and 1948; in the latter contest he seemed like such a sure winner that the Chicago Daily Tribune went to press too early with the headline "DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN." He also earned another place in American legend when, because of his bland demeanor, Dorothy Parker said that he looked "like the man on the wedding cake." After leaving the governor's office, he returned to private law practice.
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