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Monopoly on Wheels: Henry Ford and the Selden Automobile Patent

Monopoly on Wheels: Henry Ford and the Selden Automobile Patent

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Monopoly on Wheels: Henry Ford and the Selden Automobile Patent

476 pages
9 hours
Mar 15, 2011


Examines the eight-year legal fight to overturn the Selden automobile patent in the early days of the American auto industry.
Mar 15, 2011

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William Greenleaf was professor of history at the University of New Hampshire until his death in 1975. From 1952 to 1955, he was a research associate of the Ford Motor Company History Project sponsored by Columbia University and worked with Allan Nevins and Frank Ernest Hill on their monumental history of the Ford Motor Company, Ford: The Times, the Man, the Company. Greenleaf is also the author of several other books of industrial and business history.

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Monopoly on Wheels - William Greenleaf



A complete listing of the books in this series can be found online at wsupress.wayne.edu


Charles K. Hyde

Wayne State University

Advisory Editors

Jeffrey Abt

Wayne State University

Fredric C. Bohm

Michigan State University

Michael J. Chiarappa

Western Michigan University

Sandra Sageser Clark

Michigan Historical Center

Brian Leigh Dunnigan

Clements Library

De Witt Dykes

Oakland University

Joe Grimm

Bloomfield Hills, Michigan

Richard H. Harms

Calvin College

Laurie Harris

Pleasant Ridge, Michigan

Thomas Klug

Marygrove College

Susan Higman Larsen

Detroit Institute of Arts

Philip P. Mason

Prescott, Arizona and Eagle Harbor, Michigan

Dennis Moore

Consulate General of Canada

Erik C. Nordberg

Michigan Technological University

Deborah Smith Pollard

University of Michigan-Dearborn

David Roberts

Toronto, Ontario

Michael O. Smith

Wayne State University

Joseph M. Turrini

Wayne State University

Arthur M. Woodford

Harsens Island, Michigan


Henry Ford and the Selden Automobile Patent


With a New Introduction by David L. Lewis

Paperback edition © 2011 by Wayne State University Press, Detroit, Michigan 48201. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced without formal permission. Manufactured in the United States of America.

15 14 13 12 11                         5 4 3 2 1

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Greenleaf, William, 1917-1975.

Monopoly on wheels : Henry Ford and the Selden automobile patent /

William Greenleaf; with a new introduction by David L. Lewis.

p. cm.

Includes bibliographical references and index.

ISBN 978-0-8143-3512-3 (pbk. : alk. paper)

e-ISBN 978-0-8143-3584-0

1. Ford, Henry, 1863–1947—Trials, litigation, etc. 2. Selden, George Baldwin, 1846–1922—Trials, litigation, etc. 3. Patent suits— United States–History—20th century. 4. Automobile industry and trade—Law and legislation—United States—History—20th century. 5. Automobiles—Patents—History—20th century. I. Title.

KF228.F667G74 2011








PROLOGUE: Roots of a Legend

I. Beginnings

II. The Long Vigil

III. Mr. Whitney Comes to Hartford

IV. The Opening Battle

V. David and Goliath

VI. A Mountain of Evidence

VII. The Tournament of Motors

VIII. Trade War

IX. Argument and Decision

X. Path of Progress





A Cause Célèbre of Industry

It is seldom indeed that a story as dramatic as this, a narrative as fascinating, offers so much material of analytical value for the student of history. The author is concerned primarily with one of the numerous legal duels over patent rights; but he does much more than supply a case parallel with Cyrus W. McCormick’s battle against Obed Hussey, of George Westinghouse’s against Gardner & Ransom, or that of the Thomas A. Edison companies against the Joseph Swan companies. In three respects his book offers more important values. He furnishes the most expert and comprehensive account yet given of the birth and development of the essential elements of the automotive industry. In doing this he presents a thoughtful interpretation of the processes inherent in invention and in technological progress as applied to industry. Finally, he gives us an able psychological study of two unusual men: one, George B. Selden, a striking figure; the other, Henry Ford, as remarkable as anyone in his generation.

Most inventions have deep and intricate roots, a fact one famous innovator summed up in the remark: Our ancestors were all very dishonest; they stole all our best inventions. The pioneer inventor is usually ahead of his time, and to see his inspiration made fruitful he or his successors must wait until social, economic, and mechanical developments present a situation in which the experimental idea can be given practical shape to meet a clear demand.

Mr. Greenleaf in this compact history shows what a wide array of talents had to be fused to form the mere foundation for the invention of the automobile: the talents of the Belgian Lenoir, the Englishman Brayton, the German Otto, the Frenchman De Rochas, and others. Selden, who was much ahead of his time, had the patience to wait, but not the persistence or industry to continue experimenting. This book contains a very sympathetic as well as detailed record of his actual accomplishment; but it has to record the fact that he never got beyond a crude embodiment of his first general idea. As the author puts it, Reliance upon language rather than genuine development was to be characteristic of Selden.

The environment had to mature, collective effort as well as individual insight had to elaborate the technological equipment needed, and then great difficulties had to be surmounted and heavy risks taken to give the new devices a sound economic application. Mr. Greenleaf so tells the story as to illumine the whole general process of invention. At every step he offers fresh and authoritative detail.

He shows how the gifted Siegfried Marcus failed because his Viennese community was hostile; public sentiment stopped his noisy vehicle. He shows how the still more gifted Brayton met the requirements of power without satisfying those of space and weight. He explains how the advances of Benz had to be united with those of Daimler. As he emphasizes, it was because the time was ripe and not because any substantial exchange of information took place, that in the late 1880s and early 1890s scores of inventive promoters like Daimler and Benz, Panhard and Levassor, Duryea, Haynes, and Olds appeared; fifty in one time and country, as Hiram Maxim testified. On their heels came the industrial organizer, as the author tells us in his chapter entitled Mr. Whitney Comes to Hartford. The eager financier took pains to arm himself with the best patents available; and with the emergence of well-capitalized patent-holders the giant Monopoly stalked on the horizon, crushing small independents under its heavy boots.

It is at this point in the narrative that Mr. Greenleaf’s presentation of Henry Ford becomes a dominant element. It is attractive as well as able, for here we have the Ford of the earlier and most idealistic periods. Always a complex man, Ford, of course, had mixed motives in playing St. George against the dragon. His pride was wounded by the allegation that the fruit of his brain and skill, his ingeniously devised car, should be stigmatized as the offshoot of another man’s thought. His feelings were hurt by the arrogant rebuff the Selden patentees gave his and Couzens’s request for shelter. He saw his whole future prosperity at stake. Nevertheless, that he was largely actuated by public-spirited motives is undeniable.

The man who defied the Selden ring was the Ford who earnestly wished to give farmers and workingmen as usable a car as the banker owned; who intended to break down the monotony, loneliness, and servitude to distance that had marked rural life since his boyhood; and who felt a deep thirst for independence, for he said that his chief ambition was to be free—to be a free man. It was the Ford who had been taught by the Populists, the muckrakers, and the early Progressives to detest monopoly. It was the Ford of the five-dollar day and the welfare or sociological’ department at the Ford works; the Ford of the Peace Ship"; the Ford who employed great numbers of negroes, gave paroled convicts a new chance, and hired the crippled and defective by the thousands. Mr. Greenleaf is not uncritical, but a sympathetic impression of this self-made leader, as of Selden, disengages itself from his pages.

Yet the core of the book remains its account of a hard fought cause célèbre, one of the great trials of our industrial history. No piece of patent litigation has greater suspense of more histrionic elements. At first the odds seemed so heavily against Ford that we follow the successive steps anxiously. The Russell House luncheon, where he and Couzens defied the monopoly and cast down the gage of conflict; the long-range artillery duel of newspaper advertisements; the subtle enlistment of public opinion; the marshalling of evidence; the courtroom grapple, where Ralzemond A. Parker, of rumpled clothes and bulldog tenacity, closed with the Selden attorneys and the hired experts; the initial defeat and undaunted renewal of the attack; the second trial, the feat of the attorney Frederic R. Coudert in confuting the chief opposition witness out of his own mouth, and the triumphant finale and ensuing celebration—all this is a tale of unflagging interest. Mr. Greenleaf, thorough in research, vigorous in style, has given us the definitive treatment of a significant and previously cloudy episode.



The story of the early motor car industry in the United States is inseparable from the shaping influence of the Selden automobile patent and the pioneer builders who took their stand as champions or opponents of the broad Selden claim to the invention of the gasoline automobile. The formative period of the industry is also inseparable from the emerging legend of Henry Ford, who gained his first luster as an individualist by his central role in battling the Selden patent. This volume, which attempts to set down the first full-scale narrative of this celebrated patent controversy, is primarily a study in industrial and technological history. The book had its origin in 1952, when I went to Detroit as research associate of the Ford Motor Company History Project sponsored by Columbia University and executed under the directions of Allan Nevins. Some of the material in the present study appeared in different form in the initial volume of the Ford history, published by Charles Scribner’s Sons in 1954 under the title Ford: The Times, The Man, The Company.

It is a pleasure to acknowledge my debt of gratitude to Dr. Nevins, De Witt Clinton Professor Emeritus of American History at Columbia University, now senior research associate of the Huntington Library, San Marino, California, and Frank Ernest Hill of New York City, both of whom gave warm encouragement when this manuscript was being prepared as a doctoral dissertation accepted at Columbia University.

Various persons and institutions have provided me with valuable help. I am thankful to Henry E. Edmunds, archivist, the Ford Motor Company Archives, Dearborn, Michigan, and his staff, for giving me access to a veritable storehouse of manuscript and published materials bearing on Ford history. I am obligated to the following persons and collections in Detroit: at the Detroit Public Library, Mrs. Elleine H. Stones, former chief of the Burton Historical Collection, Mr. Robert E. Runser, chief of the technology department, and Miss Maud Payne of the Automotive History Collection, which has a matchless file of early motor trade periodicals; the law division of the Wayne State University Library; and the patent department of the Automobile Manufacturers Association. I am also under obligation to Dr. F. Clever Bald, assistant director, Michigan Historical Collections, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; Ralzemond D. Parker of Washington, D.C., and Grace E. Parker, of Royal Oak, Michigan; T. V. Quarnstrom, patent officer, American Steel and Wire Division, United States Steel Corporation, Cleveland, Ohio; the Buffalo Public Library and the late Professor Ralph C. Epstein of the University of Buffalo; the New York Public Library; William V. Connell, clerk, United States District Court for the Southern District of New York; the late Frederic R. Coudert of New York; the Hartford Public Library and the Connecticut State Library; and, in Washington, D.C., the United States Department of Justice, the Smithsonian Institution, the National Archives, and David C. Mearns, chief of the manuscripts division, Library of Congress. To the late Hermann F. Cuntz of Washington, D.C., who patiently answered inquiries about events in which he played a role, goes a special acknowledgment.

I alone am responsible for any errors of fact and for the opinions expressed in this book.

Special thanks go to my wife, Ellen Chanin Greenleaf, for her helpfulness, patience, and wise counsel.



JULY 15, 1960



Kudos to the Wayne State University Press for reprinting William Greenleaf’s definitive book on the Selden patent suit, which a century ago liberated the auto industry and became a foundation stone upon which Henry Ford’s folk heroism was built. Copies of the original book, selling for $5.95 in 1961, are commonly priced at more than $800 on the used-book market. One seller is asking $1,044. Why such high prices? The question cannot be answered with certainty. One driver may be law firms engaged in patent litigation that might find instructive Greenleaf’s perceptive analysis of legal patent issues. There are, of course, collectors willing to pay almost any price to round out a collection. Continuing interest in Henry Ford may be another factor. In any event, the reprint makes Monopoly on Wheels affordable to a much wider audience.

The book grew out of Greenleaf’s 1950s research in the Ford Archives, which led to the two best chapters in Allan Nevins’s 1954 book, Ford: The Times, the Man, the Company. Nevins, a Columbia University professor and twice a Pulitzer Prize winner for history, was Greenleaf’s doctoral chairman. His protégé’s research and writing doubled as a dissertation and the basis of his book. The thesis was one of the outstanding dissertations of the Columbia History Department, Columbia historian Richard B. Morris wrote two decades after its completion.

At first glance a treatise on a patent suit may not seem a compelling read, even though, as Nevins observed, it is based on a wealth of colorful material and records one of the great trials of America’s industrial history. Greenleaf, making the most of these assets, wove the suit’s strands and personalities into an interesting, even suspenseful, book.

Reviews for Monopoly on Wheels were highly favorable. The Journal of Economic History’s reviewer introduced his essay by stating, I begin by seconding Allan Nevins’s statement in the Foreword [that] ‘this is a tale of unflagging interest. Mr. Greenleaf, thorough in research, vigorous in style, has given us a definitive treatment of a significant and previously cloudy episode.’ The Journal also described the book as being dramatic and wonderfully revealing of the history of the automobile’s ‘invention’ and early production, as well as of the oddities of the Selden case and patent law.

Technology in Culture’s review noted that Dr. Greenleaf’s research has been exhaustive … the material he has produced is impressive … he has given us a useful and lucid account of an important event in automotive history. The Business History Review described the book as an admirable account of the litigation. The Mississippi Valley Historical Review observed that it was an excellent monograph [and] provides a provocative framework for the record he [Greenleaf] has painstaking assembled.

There was criticism. Harold G. Vatter’s Mississippi Valley critique accuses Greenleaf of having a pro-Ford perspective. Automotive historian John B. Rae, in Technology and Culture, questions some of Greenleaf’s inferences and suggests that the book should have an additional subtitle: The Case for the Defense. Rae also observes that the author, in discussing the technical aspects of the case, is sympathetic toward Ford, then adds that his criticisms are admittedly details, perhaps minor.

First, I offer a summation of the suit and its contribution to Ford’s image—especially that of a magnificent individualist—then commentary on a self-effacing author described by former colleagues as a great academic, a traditionalist teacher, and a devoted father.

The suit grew out of an 1879 patent application filed by a visionary Rochester, New York, attorney, George B. Selden, for a road vehicle he had designed but not built. In anticipation of a future auto industry, he cleverly delayed the patent’s issuance for sixteen years by filing additions and changes that took advantage of technological developments in the intervening years. His claims were valueless, of course, until motor vehicles were being built and sold in the United States. Finally, in 1895 he obtained a patent for a road-carriage covering all gasoline-powered vehicles designed since 1879 and manufactured, sold, or used in the United States during a seventeen-year period ending in 1912.

In 1899 Selden assigned the patent to the Columbia & Electric Vehicle Company (reorganized as the Electric Vehicle Company in 1900) for $10,000 and a percentage of whatever royalties could be collected. Suits were filed against five automobile firms, including the nation’s largest auto producer, Winton Motor Carriage Company. By March 1903, all of the defendants had been intimidated into acknowledging the validity of the patent and negotiating settlements. Ten other auto manufacturers, believing further resistance useless, made a deal with Electric Vehicle to organize a patent-pooling combination called the Association of Licensed Automobile Manufacturers (ALAM).

In the summer of 1903, the association’s twenty-six members agreed to pay Electric Vehicle a royalty of 1.25 percent of the price of each car sold. The company sent one-fifth of the fees to Selden, turned over two-fifths to the ALAM, and kept two-fifths for itself. Each party profited handsomely. The ALAM was given the privilege of selecting the manufacturers to be licensed under the patent and those to be sued. The latter, presumably, would be put out of business.

In February 1903, four months before Ford Motor Company’s June 17 incorporation and again in June or July (exact date unknown), Henry Ford and his associates approached the acting president of the ALAM seeking a license for their proposed enterprise. They were rebuffed, the ALAM executive expressing a lack of confidence in Ford’s ability to meet the association’s manufacturing standards and qualify as a creditable member of the auto industry.

The rejection was followed by an ALAM advertisement in the Detroit News that characterized its twenty-six licenses as the pioneers of the industry and warned the makers, sellers, and buyers of unlicensed cars that they would be liable to prosecution for patent infringement. Ford’s defiant advertising promised protection against suits that might be leveled against its dealers and purchasers. In addition to describing the company’s founder as an eminent designer, the ads claimed that Henry Ford also was a pioneer and inventor. Our Mr. Ford made the first Gasoline Automobile in Detroit and the third in the United States, the ads declared; both assertions being untrue.

The patent battle was to have an interest transcending the industry. The rising tide of Progressivism and hostility to special privilege loomed in the background. Now, as the manufacture of motorcars began to promise large profits, the Electric Vehicle Company and the ALAM, said to represent resources of $70 million, were attacking an automobile company that had just started operations with a working capital of $28,000. The public relations implications of this situation were not lost on Henry Ford, who stated that he would give the ‘trust’ $1,000 if they would advertise his business by commencing suit against him.

Ford’s views were vindicated by the press’s and public’s view of the suit. News stories alluded to the ALAM as the automobile trust, and many contemporary motorists believed that every time Selden added its royalty to the purchase price they were being flimflammed, cheated, and robbed. Henry Ford and the Ford Company, on the other hand, were frequently pictured as underdogs fighting for their very lives.

The Selden case was a suit in equity, and once begun, it was conducted in a routine and undramatic fashion. The evidence was highly technical, and for several years only sporadic reports on the suit’s progress appeared in the general and even the trade press. Ford’s attorney was partly responsible for the paucity of news, refusing to permit the company to furnish information to the press for fear of supplying legal ammunition to the Seldenites. The principal source of anti-Selden propaganda, therefore, was a trade group, the American Motor Car Manufacturers’ Association (AMCMA), established in 1905 by Ford and nineteen other unlicensed firms. By 1907 all the evidence had been submitted to the court, and the Ford Company itself felt free to supplement the trade association’s efforts. During the trial, the main exhibits provoked the most publicity. In 1907 the Selden forces had constructed a motor buggy to demonstrate that a car built in accordance with the patent’s specifications would run. The defense, to refute Selden’s claims to originality, built a machine with an engine resembling one patented by an Englishman in 1869. The cars were demonstrated to reporters, after which each side praised its car and deprecated its opponent’s.

In a typical exchange in Motor Age (which pointed out that it was running both stories just as received so the dear reader may take his choice) the Selden group said that its car was reversed, turned around and backed up several times much to the surprise and humiliation of those who have belittled the work. The adjacent Ford version said that its car traveled four times as far and fast as what has been termed the Selden machine and offered to race the Selden car over fifty miles, giving it a forty-five-mile head start. Ford also said that the Selden buggy started only when facing downhill and that it always had to be pushed into position.

After these volleys, the case remained in limbo for two years. Finally, in September 1909, the federal district court in New York decreed that every manufacturer, importer, and user of unlicensed cars infringed on Selden’s patent and was subject to consequent penalties. Henry Ford immediately announced that he would appeal. His resoluteness was not shared by the majority of his AMCMA colleagues. Within a month, eight of the organization’s forty-three members defected to the ALAM. In February 1910, with thirty of its members now in the licensed camp, the independent association folded. For all practical purposes, Ford now stood alone against the industry. By this time, however, the firm was Detroit’s largest and was a king-size adversary.

In 1910 the ALAM launched a nationwide advertising campaign to educate the public against the folly of buying an unlicensed vehicle. As in 1903, Ford also took his case to the public. It is said everyone has his price, an ad said, but I can assure you that while I am at the head of the Ford Motor Company, there will be no price that would induce me to permit my name to be added to those of the seventy-two varieties [the number of companies in the ALAM]. The patent, Ford added, was a freak among alleged inventions, and he offered a bond to each buyer backed by the $12 million assets of the company and its bonding company.

As to the suit’s effect on Ford sales, the evidence is contradictory. Ford, in his 1922 biography, My Life and Work, said that fewer than fifty buyers asked for bonds to cover potential losses. In 1926, however, Ford’s sales manager, Norval A. Hawkins, testified that the suit greatly increased sales resistance and that some dealers were so discouraged that they left the company.

Ford’s defiance of the patent was considered heroic. There’s a man for you, a man of backbone, typically declared a 1910 Detroit Free Press editorial entitled, Ford the Fighter. Of the case behind him, the Free Press continued, lawyers are more able to talk, but as a human figure he presents a spectacle to win the applause of all men with red blood, for this world dearly loves the fighting man.

The appellate court’s decision was handed down on January 9, 1911, and Ford’s victory was total. Dozens of telegrams and letters poured into company offices, many from opponents as well as from friends. Every automobile man in the country had the name Ford on his tongue. The decision was reported in most of the nation’s papers, and Ford, for the first time, was front-page news in the Detroit and trade press. On all sides he was lauded as a giant-killer, as a symbol of revolt against monopoly, and as a magnificent individualist. The victory was of tremendous advertising value. Ford later said (and James Couzens, the company’s secretary, and Hawkins agreed) that no one factor publicized the company and its products as effectively as the Selden suit.

As noted earlier, the suit was a foundation stone, along with the Model T, mass production methods, and five-dollar day, upon which Ford’s reputation—and particularly that of a rugged individualist—was built. Publicity at the conclusion of the case was but the beginning. Over the decades books and articles continue to comment on the suit in terms highly favorable to the automaker. In addition, the Ford Company, recognizing the public relations value of the case, has issued press releases, run advertisements, and aired radio and TV commercials pointing with pride to the founder’s role in freeing the auto industry.

As pugnacious as Ford was stubborn, James Couzens, Ford’s principal partner, who controlled 10.5 percent of the company’s stock, perhaps deserves equal credit for pressing the Selden suit to a victorious conclusion. Opposed to the ALAM from the outset, he never wavered in his determination to fight the case to the finish. Couzens also wrote or signed most of the early anti-Selden advertising and publicity. But his role in the suit’s outcome was minimally recognized either in 1911 or afterward. Henry was handed the flowers—and kept them.

The Selden win was one of Ford’s sweetest. Although the victor did not dance a celebratory jig, as he did when acquiring full ownership of his company, he basked in the glow of effusive tributes paid him at posttrial banquets. In time Ford liked to believe that Selden was victim rather than villain. He was a decent old fellow, he remarked after describing a meeting with his former opponent. Selden remained convinced that his patent entitled him to be regarded as the father of the automobile. Morally the victory is mine, he said on his deathbed in 1922.

The Selden patent casts a long shadow. In 1990 it was cited as one of ten patents that changed the world in an American Heritage article, The Power of Patents, by Oliver E. Allen. Other patents designated as world changers involved the cotton gin, sewing machine, barbed wire, telephone, light bulb, machine gun, xerography, and transistor.

Monopoly on Wheels focuses on issues of invention, patents, and technological progress, as well as the auto industry. These issues have changed since the Selden suit’s resolution a century ago and the book’s publication a half-century later. For one thing, the lone inventor has become a less important economic force over the decades. Inventions increasingly emanate from research and development laboratories of large corporations, universities, and government agencies; individual accomplishment is often difficult to measure. For example, there is no single inventor of the personal computer, the cellular telephone, or the iPod and similar devices, nor has anyone remotely attained Thomas Edison’s reputation. Ironically, Edison’s Menlo Park (New Jersey) industrial research laboratory, the world’s first, played a primary role in shifting invention from individual endeavor into highly organized, large-scale activity.

When publicized, lone inventors often are portrayed as victims of corporate greed, as was Henry Ford. One such man was Edwin Howard Armstrong, who forced RCA, AT&T, and other broadcasters and radio manufacturers to pay royalties for the use of his FM patents. Another was Robert Kerns, inventor of the intermittent windshield wiper, who after a lengthy court battle, squeezed royalties out of Ford and other automakers. Commenting on Kerns in his 1993 New Yorker essay, Flash of Genius, John Seabrooks, draws on the Selden suit and quotes Monopoly on Wheels. So does Seabrooks’s 2008 book of the same title.

Patent controversies reminiscent of the Selden suit remain with us. In the 1980s, French and American teams battled over which deserved credit for discovering the retrovirus associated with HIV/AIDS. At stake was a lucrative patent for blood tests to detect the disease. In 1976, when Kodak introduced an instant camera, Polaroid filed suit, claiming infringement on its instant photography patents. After a fifteen-year court fight, Kodak was found liable for patent infringement and ordered to pay Polaroid $925 million. In 2010, Nestlé filed patent infringement suits against European firms introducing coffee pods to compete with the plantiff’s Nespresso coffee machine, a system protected by 1,700 patents. Firms also continue to file patent applications for inventions long before they can live up to their claims. The Department of Justice filed suit against Microsoft after the firm announced vaporware products (software yet to be proven) to dissuade consumers from buying or adopting competing software.

Aside from blurbs on book jackets, little has been written about William Greenleaf, a modern-day Thomas Carlyle, as described by Stephen Gilmore, a University of New Hampshire colleague. He neither sought publicity, nor revealed much of his inner self, observed another colleague, Hans Heilbronner. He hid his light under a basket.

Thus a biographical sketch of the author seems apropos, the more in that 2011 marks the one hundredth anniversary of the Selden patent’s resolution and and fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Monopoly on Wheels.

As it happens, I became slightly acquainted with Greenleaf in 1952, when he and I worked in the Ford Archives, located in Fair Lane, the former Ford mansion in Dearborn, Michigan. I knew that he was researching the Selden patent suit. He knew that I, as a member of Ford’s news department, was writing feature stories and playing host to journalists in advance of the company’s 1953 golden anniversary. But we never did more than nod or utter a cursory good morning to one another. My lasting impression of him is of a man of serious demeanor in his mid-thirties (ten years my senior) absorbed in notetaking or typing, oblivious to all else. Upon reading this sentence to a Greenleaf colleague, Charles Clark, he exclaimed You’ve got him!, an opinion seconded by Robert Mennel, chairman of UNH’s Department of History from 1974–77.

Greenleaf was born in Brooklyn on July 1, 1917. His father, Harry Greenblatt, born in Germany in the late 1870s, emigrated to the US around 1902. His mother, Annie Goldstein, born in the mid-1880s, lived on a farm in the Russian Steppes before her family emigrated to the US. The couple had four children: a daughter who died young, followed by Charlie, born in 1910, Minerva (Minnie) in 1912, and William. Annie and Harry died in 1926 and 1940, respectively.

Greenleaf was educated in New York City public schools and in 1942 graduated from City College of New York, where he demonstrated exceptional proficiency as a writer. When he tried to enlist in the army early in World War II, he was initially rejected because of nearsightedness, a consequence of a childhood disease. Subsequently accepted for army service, he was assigned in 1943 to Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces (Eisenhower’s command) in London. While with SHAEF he conducted interviews and served as a radio announcer for military radio. Following discharge in 1946, he enrolled at Columbia University on the G.I. Bill, and earned master’s and PhD degrees from Columbia in 1948 and 1955, respectively. His mentors were Allan Nevins and Richard Morris, the latter also one of America’s foremost historians.

In 1952, Greenleaf married New Yorker Ellen Nora Chanin, the daughter of Leo and Sophie Chanin. That same year she received her MD from Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, an uncommon achievement for a woman in midcentury America. In addition, she was one of the first Jews to graduate from Columbia P&S. The couple had four sons: Peter, David, Eric, and Allan, born in 1954, 1955, 1956, and 1959, respectively. In 1952 Greenleaf also changed his last name from Greenblatt to Greenleaf, blatt meaning leaf in German. His given name last appears in print as an editorial assistant in the Encyclopedia of American History’s 1953 edition.

Greenleaf was a full-time Columbia researcher from 1952-56, working first in Dearborn, then in New York City. As noted earlier, he furnished two chapters—The Shadow of Monopoly and No Monopoly—for the first of Nevins’s three books on Ford. The preface of this book acknowledges him as a research assistant who contributed understanding, accuracy and constructive suggestions. He is credited as a research associate on the title pages of the second and third volumes, entitled Ford: Expansion and Challenge 1915-1933 and Ford: Decline and Rebirth 1933-1962, published in 1957 and 1962. The preface to the second volume notes that Greenleaf’s careful research, constructive vision, and able written reports on diverse sections of this history have been invaluable. In the third volume, he is thanked for his invaluable services.

Greenleaf served as an assistant professor of history at Colorado State University in Fort Collins from 1956-58. The latter year he became an associate professor in the Department of History at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, New Hampshire. He was promoted to full professor in 1964 and was later a visiting professor at Columbia in the fall of 1966.

In 1964 Greenleaf authored a second acclaimed Ford-related book, From These Beginnings: The Early Philanthropies of Henry and Edsel Ford, 1911-1936. Its reviews were as favorable, if not more so, than those of Monopoly on Wheels. An on-and-off Ford Foundation consultant between 1955-61, Greenleaf also authored a manuscript entitled, The Ford Foundation: The Formative Years. It was neither published nor made available for Nevins’s [and Frank Ernest Hill’s] second and third Ford volumes because, as explained by the Milne Special Collections and Archives of the University of New Hampshire, The Ford Motor Company never waived the rights for this work.

In 1959 Greenleaf authored a one-volume abridgement of Allan Nevins’s 1953 two-volume Study in Power: John D. Rockefeller, Industrialist and Philanthropist. When complimenting Greenleaf on the abridgement, titled John D. Rockefeller: A Study in Power, Nevins said that he wished he had written such a one-volume book in the first place. Greenleaf’s other books included The Making of Industrial America: 1840–1900 (1969); USA: The History of a Nation, a two-volume survey text coauthored with Richard B. Morris (1969), American Economic Development Since 1860 (1969), and America: A History of the People, an abridgment of USA with a third coauthor, Robert H. Ferrell (1971). In 1968 Greenleaf wrote the preface for the reprint of Keith Sward’s 1948 book, The Legend of Henry Ford, and in 1974 the Henry Ford entry for the Dictionary of American Biography.

In 1971 Greenleaf was a judge for the Bancroft Prizes annually awarded by Columbia University to authors of distinguished works on American history and diplomacy. He also served as the University of New Hampshire’s representative to the New England University Press. Reflective of his interest in early photography and oral history, he championed, among other books, publication of John P. Adams’s 1976 book, Drowned Valley: The Piscataqua River Basin (the lower part of the river dividing New Hampshire and Maine).

Greenleaf had varied interests, ranging from technology and old cars to Western literature, architecture, and higher art forms. He was exceptionally well-read, and his intellect impressed all who knew him. He was very astute, recalls colleague Charles Clark. He knew everything—he was a resource, says Robert Mennel, Department of History chair from 1974–77. He was one of the most intelligent persons I’ve ever known, colleague Heilbronner remarks. His I.Q. must have been very high, and he combined knowledge and good judgment. Melvin Bodick, a colleague and longtime neighbor, describes Greenleaf as a genius. You could ask him a question on almost any subject, Bodick recalls, and his detailed answer would be so well organized that it could be published without editing. Colleagues also enjoyed Greenleaf’s sense of humor and wry,

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