Did Henry Ford’s Customers Really Want Faster Horses?

Portrait of Henry Ford (ca. 1919)
Portrait of Henry Ford (ca. 1919) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I don’t know if the use of “celebrity quotations” is a new trend that I noticed, or if I’m just fatigued from reading such worn-out proclamations and overly sensitive to them.  The quote that caught my attention recently was the oft-referenced quote that is attributed to Henry Ford about innovation, “If I had asked my customers what they wanted, then they would have said a faster horse.”

The problem with this particular quote is not only that Ford may have never said those words, but that so many people seem to have latched onto the quote as some kind of proof source in support their world view.  The recycling of the quote seems to have cemented it into the mythology of our times.

I’ve certainly been guilty of tossing out celebrity quotes myself as a kind of short-hand answer that is usually met with knowing-nods as a perfectly acceptable response.  This horse quote in particular doesn’t ring true to me.

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