Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Henry Ford’s Great ‘air-con’ Deal

The three Goldberg brothers, Norman, Hyman, and Max invented and developed the first automobile air-conditioner.

On July 17th, 1946, the temperature in Detroit was 97ºF.

The three brothers walked into Henry Ford's office and sweet-talked his secretary into telling him that three gentlemen were there with the most exciting innovation in the auto industry since the electric starter.

Henry was curious and invited them into his office. They refused and instead asked that he come out to the parking area to their car. They persuaded him to get into the car and pointed out that the thermometer was registering 130ºF. They turned on the air-conditioner and the car cooled down immediately.

The old man got very excited and invited them back to the office, where he offered them three million dollars for the patent.

The brothers refused saying they would settle for 2.5 million but they wanted recognition by having a label "The Goldberg Air-Conditioner" on the dashboard of each car that it was installed in.

Now, old man Ford was notoriously more than just a little bit anti-Semitic, and there was no way he was going to have the name "Goldberg" displayed prominently on every Ford car.

They haggled back and forth for about two hours and finally agreed on three million dollars and that just their first names would be shown.

And so, even today, all Ford cars have air-conditioners which show on the controls, the names “Norm”, “Hi” and “Max.”

Source: This is one of those legends in the genre, ‘Why let truth get in the way of a good story?’ For a commentary and variations on the same story see Urban Legends.