Henry Ford - Grill Master

Welcome to the days of warm weather and impending summer one and all. Here in America we can look forward to days spent sunbathing, cooling off at the pool, camping, and all the other activities that define an "American summer". One of those is the time honored tradition of eating tasty things prepared on a grill. Burgers, bratwursts, hot dogs, and chicken wings all prepared on that magical cooking instrument. But many of you may not know who is responsible really for making grilling such a vital part of our society. Well, it is also the same person who is responsible for making the automobile something every Tom, Dick, and Henry can own...Henry Ford.

While it seems so unlikely that Henry Ford's name should be tied with outdoor grilling, there is a funny story behind it. A tale of ingenuity and entrepreneurship by a captain of American industry. And sure he may have been a teetotaler and an anti-Semite, but he was a man who easily saw solutions to problems. His problem was that Henry Ford liked to go camping with his friends, Harvey Firestone and Thomas Edison. Two names that we should know thanks to tires and light bulbs being everyday items. Well when they went camping they had trouble in bringing adequate fuel with them. Wood was too bulky to transport and was a pain at times to collect in the wild. This often plagued Ford who thought there must be an alternative somewhere...and he found it.

If you drive a car these days you would have a hard time thinking that they used to use a lot of wood in the construction of automobiles, but they did. If you ever look at early automobiles up through the mid 1930's you will see quite a bit of timber used in their construction. And no we are not talking about dashes, but floors, doors, and body supports. Vital components of the car's structure were made with wood. It was easier to shape than metal, was cheap, relatively robust, and did not wear the tools used to craft it like steel of the time would. So there was a lot of wood shavings and sawdust as a byproduct of making vehicles. Ford, the problem solver found a way to solve two problems. He could turn this waste product into a profitable and useful product, the cooking fuel he needed for camping with his friends. And that is what he did...he invented the charcoal briquette that so many of us have used in our grills at home and while camping . Ford started a company to sell the new charcoal with a family member named E.G. Kingsford. This is why we know it at Kingsford charcoal instead of Ford Charcoal today when we go to the store with the invention of grilling out.

Left to right Harvey Firestone, Henry Ford, William Borroughs, and Thomas Edison circa 1918 (Ford did not figure out the solution until the 1920's)


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