In 1908, the thoughts were about horses, steam engines and "wise people." The relevant technologies and topics have changed. However, the "wise people" have not. Below is a full transcript with my highlights.
I didn't realize that "a horseless carriage was a common idea" when Ford started thinking about it. What separated him from others was that he made it happen. That's what great entrepreneurs do. They execute. It's not about the idea.
Ford also did a couple of other things that all great entrepreneurs do. 1) He pivoted early on (initially, he wanted to build tractors, not passenger cars). 2) He pushed forward and didn't listen to all the naysayers and "wise people."
Thoughts on Horses by Henry Ford, April 1908
Ford Motor Company, Detroit, MI, USA
EVEN BEFORE THAT TIME I HAD THE IDEA of making some kind of a light steam car that would take the place if horses - more especially, however, as a tractor to attend to the excessively hard labour of ploughing. It occurred to me, as I remember somewhat vaguely, that precisely the same idea might be applied to a carriage or a wagon on the road. A horseless carriage was a common idea. People had been talking about carriages without horses for many years back - in fact, even since the steam engine was invented - but the idea of the carriage at first did not seem so practical to me as the idea of an engine to do the harder farm work, and of all the work on the farm ploughing was the hardest. Our roads were poor and we had not the habit of getting around. One of the most remarkable features of the automobile on the farm is the way that it has broadened the farmer's life. We simply took for granted that unless the errand were urgent we would not go to town, and I think we rarely made more than one trip a week. In bad weather we did not go even that often. Being a full-fledged machinist and with a very fair workshop on the farm it was not difficult for me to build a steam wagon or tractor. In the building of it came the idea that perhaps it might be made for road use. I felt perfectly certain that horses, considering all the bother of attending them and the expense of feeding, did not earn their keep. The obvious thing to do was to design and build a steam engine that would be light enough to run an ordinary wagon or to pull a plough. I thought it more important first to develop the tractor. To lift farm drudgery off flesh and blood and lay it on steel and motors has been my most constant ambition. It was circumstances that took me first into the actual manufacture of road cars. I found eventually that people were more interested in something that would travel on the road than in something that would do work on the farms.
But I did not give up the idea of a horseless carriage. The work with the Westinghouse representative only served to confirm the opinion I had formed that steam was not suitable for light vehicles. That is why I stayed only a year with that company. There was nothing more that the big steam tractors and engines could teach me and I did not want to waste time on something that would lead nowhere. A few years before - it was while I was an apprentice - I read in the World of Science, an English publication, of the "silent gas engine" which was then coming out in England. I think it was the Otto engine. It ran with illuminating gas, had a single large cylinder, and the power impulses being thus intermittent required an extremely heavy fly-wheel. As far as weight was concerned it gave nothing like the power per pound of metal that a steam engine gave, and the use of illuminating gas seemed to dismiss it as even a possibility for road use. It was interesting to me only as all machinery was interesting. I followed in the English and American magazines which we got in the shop the development of the engine and most particularly the hints of the possible replacement of the illuminating gas fuel by a gas formed by the vaporization of gasoline. The idea of gas engines was by no means new, but this was the first time that a really serious effort had been made to put them on the market. They were received with interest rather than enthusiasm and I do not recall any one who thought that the internal combustion engine could ever have more than a limited use. All the wise people demonstrated conclusively that the engine could not compete with steam. They never thought that it might carve out a career for itself. That is the way with wise people - they are so wise and practical that they always know to a dot just why something cannot be done; they always know the limitations. (continued page 2)...