The Vagabonds: The Story of Henry Ford and Thomas Edison's Ten-Year Road Trip (Hardcover)
In 1914, Henry Ford and Thomas Edison embarked on the first of what was to become a decade of summer road trips, calling themselves "The Vagabonds." Across untamed wilderness at eighteen miles per hour and along poorly maintained, signless roads, they traveled the American expanse, developing their friendship and helping to establish the Great American Road Trip as a cultural tradition. A story of self-made innovator tycoons, with plenty of politics, newspaper sensationalism, and drama, Jeff Guinn's book is a fascinating and entertaining look at the beginning of the truly modern, truly American 20th century. -Andy— From Summer Booknotes 2019
A “fascinating slice of rarely considered American history” (Booklist)—the story of Henry Ford and Thomas Edison—whose annual summer sojourns introduced the road trip to our culture and made the automobile an essential part of modern life.
In 1914 Henry Ford and naturalist John Burroughs visited Thomas Edison in Florida and toured the Everglades. The following year Ford, Edison, and tire maker Harvey Firestone joined together on a summer camping trip and decided to call themselves the Vagabonds. They would continue their summer road trips until 1925, when they announced that their fame made it too difficult for them to carry on.
Although the Vagabonds traveled with an entourage of chefs, butlers, and others, this elite fraternity also had a serious purpose: to examine the conditions of America’s roadways and improve the practicality of automobile travel. Cars were unreliable and the roads were even worse. But newspaper coverage of these trips was extensive, and as cars and roads improved, the summer trip by automobile soon became a desired element of American life.
The Vagabonds is “a portrait of America’s burgeoning love affair with the automobile” (NPR) but it also sheds light on the important relationship between the older Edison and the younger Ford, who once worked for the famous inventor. The road trips made the automobile ubiquitous and magnified Ford’s reputation, even as Edison’s diminished. The automobile would transform the American landscape, the American economy, and the American way of life and Guinn brings this seminal moment in history to vivid life.
About the Author
Jeff Guinn is the bestselling author of numerous books, including Go Down Together, The Last Gunfight, Manson, and The Road to Jonestown. He lives in Fort Worth, Texas, and is a member of the Texas Literary Hall of Fame.
"A fascinating slice of rarely considered American history."
“The Vagabonds is Jeff Guinn at his incisive and entertaining best. Meticulously researched and gracefully written, The Vagabonds shows us the architects of the 20th century in a new and fascinating light. A great read.”
— Thomas Cobb, author of Crazy Heart and Darkness the Color of Snow
"Henry Ford and Thomas Edison, road-tripping buddies. . . . An entertaining story that mixes sharp portraits of their vivid personalities with details of their travels and a portrait of American society during those years."
— Kirkus Reviews
"A fascinating snapshot of some of the less-famous years of American history. . . .[And] a portrait of America's burgeoning love affair with the automobile."
— Camila Domonoske
“Jeff Guinn is a gifted writer, and his smooth prose transports the reader to the early 1900s, where we travel along with two of America's most celebrated icons. Guinn's unflinching portraits of Ford and Edison reveal that while these men accomplished great things, they were also deeply flawed individuals. One of the book's biggest surprises is how many of the currents running through it still roil our politics and culture today.”
— Eric Jay Dolin, Author of Black Flags, Blue Waters
"An arresting account of America's auto-camping movement and its incipient motivators."
— Library Journal (starred review)