I've attempted to find descendants of Frank Kulick, one of Henry Ford's first employees, who drove several Ford racers and cars to records and wins. He also drove the 10 millionth Ford across the country for Ford Motor Company, and was one of the key people close to Henry Ford.
With help from a few MTFCA members (with the "cost" of promising a few rides during next years Old Car Festival) we've found two direct descendants who knew Mr. Kulick personally.
Amazingly, they have shared information that is incredibly interesting (to me, anyway), and surprisingly (or not), in some cases directly conflicts with accepted Ford history. Over the next several weeks we'll attempt (a few Early Ford Registry friends) to document these stories, and share with any Ford enthusiasts who are interested.
A few "tidbits," as relayed directly to one of the relatives:
Concerning the Ford six cylinder racer crash that would seriously injure Mr. Kulick in October, 1907:
The wreck was caused, according to Frank Kulick, by a Ford employee over-tightening the wire spokes on the six cylinder racer, just before the world record attempt, resulting in the rear wheel coming apart and the resulting accident. The employee, according to Mr. Kulick?
The wreck would permanently injure Mr. Kulick, and this relative recalls seeing Mr. Kulick remove his leg braces "that he wore every day, like the ones worn by a young Forest Gump in the movie."
On Frank Kulick's departure from Ford Motor Company. According to the relative, Frank Kulick said he quit, and was not fired, by Ford Motor Company. Frank Kulick's account was that he was asked by Henry Ford to "keep an eye" on Harry Bennett, and when he (Kulick) found out Henry Ford told Bennett to do the same with him, Kulick quit. Both relatives said Frank Kulick had a temper, and when angered, was stubborn and could hold a grudge.
That every year, for some years after this, Henry Ford would send a new Ford car over to Frank Kulick as a Christmas gift, and that each time, Mr. Kulick would refuse the new car.
To those who helped us follow this trail, thank you.
That is fantastic!! I look forward to seeing the stories.
Best regards, John Page, Australia
Sounds fascinating! I, too, look forward to reading these reminiscences.
Drive carefully, and enjoy, W2
Great work! A big thank you to you and the others that have helped tracked down the additional information. And of course the story of the “Blind Men and the Elephant” [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blind_men_and_an_elephant ] is usually applicable to information we gather from interviews. Not that the information is wrong, but it is often incomplete or influenced by their biases. Ask me what I think of Model T Fords, and I am probably a lot more biased in favor of them than the average die-hard Chevy man. And of course when asked to recall what someone else said or did long ago, time seems to paint over some of the facts with what was most important to the original speaker and then to the ones that repeated it.
We look forward to what is shared and how it will be able to add to the information we have. How it may provide clues on where to look for additional information and facts. And how it will hopefully allow us to better see if the stories we have read in the past are really about an elephant, a rhinoceros [i.e. close to what others have published or spoken about] or perhaps if there is a tree with a rope hanging down somewhere in the picture and it was missed by the people who reported on it in the past.
Hap l9l5 cut off
Rob, once again you've reached out and found the stories that keep this hobby so darn interesting. Thank you.
Henry Ford's practice to divide and rule has been described by others. I fully understand Mr Kulick quitting and leaving. Hopefully he had a good life after Ford despite of the braces.
Good on ya Rob!!!!!!! Bud in Wheeler,Mi.
Thanks for the comments guys. Hap, I suspect with time, memory and emotion, facts will change or be altered (does that mean they are no longer "facts?"). However, I like the idea that we will hear for the most part, Frank Kulick's "side of the story."
Frank Kulick was intimately involved in many key points of early Ford history. A few "highlights;"
By some accounts, he was one of the first five employees of Ford Motor Company.
He drove the Ford 20 hp racer (two Model A 10 hp engines) to several tack and world records for light and middleweight racers.
Head tester for the Model K throughout it's production cycle.
Drove the six cylinder racer, Model K world record car, and Ford Special (Model T chassis with 400 plus cubic inch engine).
Drove the third place Model T number 1 on the New York to Seattle race.
Piloted the 10 millionth Model T across the U.S. for Ford.
Another "tidbit" shared by the relatives, when Mr. Kullick was seriously injured in the racing accident in 1907, Henry Ford chopped/sawed the back seat from a Model K touring to make an ambulance to carry Kulick to the hospital (this is corroborated in several Ford histories). Additionally, the relatives say Frank told them Henry Ford bought a mattress from a local farmer to put him on for the ride. Also, that the Detroit hospital was called from the Michigan Fair Ground racetrack, but they would not send an ambulance, as it was outside their call area.
Granted, just little "tidbits," but it fleshes out the story, and adds a personal touch, from Frank Kulick's perspective.
Frank Kulick at the wheel of the 20 hp Ford racer, 1904:
Thanks Rob. We all knew that there was more to the story. It takes a lot of research to bring it to the surface. Most of us do not have the insight or computer skills to do this. But we do love finding out more about the past. Please keep up the good work and the updates on your "K". Scott
As Hap suggests, The documentation of history is influenced by biases.
That doesn't mean ignore what we hear or read, it just means that we need to understand the source of the information.
In this case -- it is fantastic to read what happened from the perspective of Frank's family and add to our understanding of the "characters" that made the T what it is.
Rob -- Keep up the good work.. People that were there are gone and those that heard the first hand accounts are quickly disappearing
Hi Rob - This is great! Keep up the good work!
Rob, I find it interesting on some level, but I wouldn't put much stock into someone's musings as far as changing history. They will say something that sounds plausible, and then in the next sentence say something that is verifiably untrue. It doesn't mean that what they said before is also untrue, but for me it strains my credulity.
My perception is that accepted history seems to be a continuation of what one or a few historians write, continued (sometimes verbatim) through follow-on writings, and eventually accepted as entirely accurate.
It's unfortunate that Frank Kulick's experiences and opinions were not included with the Oral Histories compiled in the 1950's. As a result, one of the few men who "were there" from the beginning, and survived until the mid 1960's, has not "had his say" as many others, such as Charles Sorensen, have.
Maybe we'll learn a few things from the Kulick relatives that help us understand the men and times our early Fords were produced.
One area I would like to look into in depth is the "firing of Frank Kulick." Ford historians describe Harry Bennett, with Henry Ford's approval, telling Frank Kulick to ride on the front fender of a Ford, to listen for an engine noise. Bennett then drives out the gate (Rouge plant?), dumping Frank Kulick off with a sharp turn, and driving in the gate, and having security prevent Frank from re-entering the plant.
This story, while much more provocative, is explained by the Kulick family as Frank simply becoming angry with Henry Ford asking both he, and Bennett, to spy on each other, and quitting.
Which is true? The Henry Ford-Bennett firing is the accepted story, however, what it it's not the accurate story? The perception of Henry Ford is somewhat changed if Frank Kulick did indeed quite of his own accord, instead of the accepted story of Henry Ford and Harry Bennett conniving to remove a trusted friend and long time employee.
An accepted version of Frank Kulick's firing, as told in David Halberstam's book, "The Reckoning," page 82:
If the version recited by the Kulick family is correct (and I have no way of knowing if it is, or isn't, at this point), it paints a very different picture of the parting of ways between Kulick and Ford. If Henry Ford did indeed send a "peace offering" of a new car to Frank Kulick at Christmas, that also supports the idea of a different ending to the relationship, in my opinion.
Rob, you have obviously thought this over and I seems you are looking at it the correct way, in my opinion. It is a good jumping off point to try to find the truth, which may be impossible at this point.
Out of curiosity, where did the Bennett/fender story originate?
I believe the "Kulick termination" story goes back to the Oral History Reminiscence of W. C. Klann.
It appears to me the Ford history versions of the story are all similar to this. To me it sounds a little far fetched that Bennett "disposed" of Frank Kulick this way, but until now I had no reason to suspect anything else. It certainly makes for an interesting story:
W. C. Klann Reminisces, courtesy The Henry Ford, all rights apply: