Saturday, February 26, 2022

The Ukrainian Holodomor (Hunger-Extermination) of 1932-1933

Chicago American - Monday, February 25th, 1934
Not widely known by many Americans, the Holodomor was the premeditated mass starvation of the Ukrainian peasantry in the name of Soviet collectivization of Ukraine's farmland in 1932-1933. Recent international human rights research estimates the number of dead at somewhere between 2.4 and 7.5 million victims. It is impossible to arrive at an accurate figure. But there is one thing that scholars agree upon, this was the worst peacetime catastrophe in Ukraine's long and fabled history. The loss of life rivals the Holocaust of European Jews by Adolph Hitler and the Nazis.

Since 2006, the Holodomor has been recognized by many countries as genocide of the Ukrainian people. History notes that the destruction of the Ukrainian peasantry was premeditated on the part of Joseph Stalin. The term Holomodor emphasizes the man-made causes of the famine, like the Soviet confiscation of private property, farmland, livestock, wheat crops, and all the implements of farm and industrial production.

A campaign of terror was unleashed on ethnic Ukrainians, primarily in the southeastern "breadbasket" region of the country. Those who resisted Soviet authorities were shot or deported to Siberia. Families who attempted to hide their grain stocks were killed. Even so, some families chose to burn their homes to the ground and kill their livestock rather than hand them over to their Soviet overlords.

A system of internal passports was instituted preventing the free movement of the Ukrainian populace from villages and towns to suppress widespread knowledge of what was occurring in Ukraine. When the news of the famine reached the West, the Ukrainian diaspora in Western Europe and the United States quickly raised relief funds and sent food supplies to Ukraine which were rejected at the border by Soviet authorities. As a result of growing international notice, the Soviets responded by banning all journalists in Ukraine, and among the Ukraine populace, the banning of the words "famine" and "hunger." Using either word could result in a jail term.

With the exception of grain reserves used to feed livestock and not people, the vast bulk of Ukrainian grain was exported to neighboring countries to generate revenue for fueling Stalin's Five Year Plan. The Soviet Union was able to purchase Western commodities, among them military weapons and hardware. In return, those countries turned a blind eye to the Soviet Union's internal problems.

In addition to Ukrainian farm peasants, more than 5,000 Ukrainian intellectuals were arrested and charged with plotting an armed rebellion. Those who were not summarily shot were deported to Siberian labor camps, never to be heard from again. It is believed that Stalin feared a general revolt in support of Ukrainian nationalism. The Soviet goal was to have Ukrainians abandon all nationalistic fervor. This preemptive move left the rest of the population without leadership or direction.

For more detailed information on Holodomor, visit the United Human Rights Council's site at:

To view the many monuments dedicated to the victims of Holodomor, tap on this link:

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Ford Model A Replaces Tin Lizzie

Henry Ford posing with a Model T

From the mid 1910s through the early 1920s, the Ford Model T dominated the American car market. As the history books note, "Henry Ford put America on wheels." But over the car's eighteen-year run, cities began to pave the roadways and consumers wanted modern, comfortable, and fancier cars. The Tin Lizzie fell out of favor.

During the late 1920s and early 1930s, used Model Ts sold for five to ten dollars because they were obsolete and nobody wanted them. Bootleggers used them to smuggle liquor across the frozen Detroit River because it was no great loss if they went through the ice.

A "flivver" as they were called during Prohibition.

By the mid 1920s, General Motors upgraded their manufacturing techniques and began to offer more powerful engines like a V-6, sleek styling, convenient driver controls, various colors, and some amenities as standard equipment like headlamps. When GM came out with an electric starter, while the Model T still had a crank and magneto, Chevy sales in particular cut deep into Model T sales.

Henry Ford resisted most efforts to upgrade the appearance of his Model T during its model run from 1908 until 1927, but his engineers continued to make improvements on the powertrain. Ford's son Edsel, president of FoMoCo in name only, tried to convince his father that the car market was evolving and people wanted something more stylish with better performance. Marketplace realities finally convinced Henry Ford that a new model was necessary.

After months of secret planning, on May 2, 1927, Henry Ford telegraphed his dealers nationwide that he was starting production of a totally modern car of "superior design and performance to any now in the low-priced field."

He announced to the press that he would be closing his factories and halting production to manfacture a new model which he and his son were sure would be "the next big thing." This was in mid 1927 which allowed Chevy to outsell Ford for the first time, though it was a false comparison. Ford stopped production on the Model T halfway through the year.  

The elder Ford oversaw the mechanical engineering leaving Edsel to work with a design team on body styling. This was the first and last time that father and son worked together on the same project.

Henry decided to name the secret car the Model A, which showed a lack of imagination and marketing savvy. It was redundant. In 1903, his first commercial product was also named the Model A, but because this new car was totally re-engineered and redesigned, he chose to begin all over again with the Model A designation. Not a single component of the Model T was used in the construction of the new Model A.

Original 1903 Model A also known as the Fordmobile. This was Henry Ford's first production car.

Mechanically, the reincarnated Model A was the first Ford to use the standard set of driver controls common in more modern cars which included a clutch, brake, and gas pedal on the floorboard. The Model T controls were antiquated and awkward by comparison. The standard Model A came equipped with four-wheel hydraulic shock absorbers, four-wheel mechanical brakes, and a new L-head inline four-cylinder, 40 hp engine with a top speed of 65 mph. Rather than a Model T two-speed transmission, this new car had a three-speed, manual transmission which greatly improved performance. 

Restored Model A [notice retrofit turn signals]

In addition to a shatterproof laminated windshield, the exterior of the new Model A was lower and sleeker than the Model T. This was the first Ford to carry the iconic blue oval logo. The Model A was available in many different body styles including coupes, a cabriolet convertible, various sedans, phaetons, a station wagon, a police model, a taxi, and a pickup truck. Rather than the body being available in just black, the original Model A also came in Niagra Blue, Arabian Sand, Dawn Grey, or Gun Metal Blue.

The 1928 Model A was officially introduced on December 2, 1927, immediately becoming a big hit with the public giving Chevrolet a run for its money. In its four-year production life, 4,858,644 Model As were built. That is a healthy number considering the Great Depression was raging at the time. Because of the car's popularity then and now, the Model A is considered by many car buffs to be the best classic American car ever made.

Best American Car Ever Made video

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

General Motors' Rocky Start

William C. Durant

In 1904, William C. "Billy" Durant, owner of America's largest horse-drawn wagon manufacturer Durant-Dort Carriage Company, bought the ailing Buick Motor Car Company from a Flint, Michgan businessman. Durant was not keen on the new horseless carriage craze, but having an eye on the future, he knew automobilies were the future of personal transportation. Durant partnered up with Charles Steward Mott and Frederic L. Smith to create General Motors (GM) on September 16, 1908.

Durant already owned Buick which became the first nameplate in the new corporation's stable with Oldsmobile soon to follow later that year. In 1909 with the corporation's profits and line-of-credit, Durant bought Cadillac and Oakland [which later became Pontiac Motors]. Durant continued on a spending spree and acquired four other fledgling automakers and a truck company. Durant even considered buying GM's archrival Ford Motor Company, but he fell two million dollars short on the funding.

By 1910, GM was struggling. The country was in a period of recession from 1910 through 1911. The banks tightened up their lending policies and car sales dropped. Because Durant's aggressive expansion of GM left the corporation over-leveraged and vulnerable to bankrupcy, stockholders voted Durant out of the chairmanship, but he continued to hold a large share of GM stock.

In 1911, Durant lured popular Swiss racecar driver Louis Chevrolet away from GM for whom he raced Buicks. Durant wanted to capitalize upon Chevrolet's international fame, and he knew that the automobile-buying public wanted to drive something glamorous and exciting. Durant sweetened the business offer for the racecar driver by naming the new company after him--the Chevrolet Motor Company. Durant merged three small automobile manufacturers, Little Motor Company, Mason Motors, and Republic Motor Company to form the new company.

Louis Chevrolet

Two years into the partnership, the two men battled over design issues and the direction the company was taking. Chevrolet wanted to design a car for the high-end market while Durant wanted to produce an affordable car for the low-end market to compete with Henry Ford's obsolete Model T. Chevrolet chose to return to racing and sold his stock to Durant in 1913.

The dissolution agreement allowed Durant to continue using Chevrolet's name for the car's nameplate. If the gear-jammer had any business sense, he would have negotiated a licensing agreement to use his name. The Chevrolet heirs would still be earning royalties if he had. The following year, Chevys were branded with its modified Swiss Cross bowtie logo.

Original Chevrolet Bowtie Branding

Billy Durant offered a four-cylinder engine in 1912 which outperformed Ford's four-cylinder in every way and came with a magneto starter rather than a crank. Women especially appreciated that. The car had cutting-edge styling and came in grey, green, blue, or red. The Chevy, as it was soon called, was an instant success cutting into Ford's low-priced market. Chevys were a little more expensive, but consumers were willing to pay a little more to be seen in a snappy-looking car.

1913 Chevy Model

Durant wisely used the profits he made from Chevy to buy GM stock. The Chevrolet quickly became so popular with the public that Durant offered GM a five-for-one stock trade in a reverse merger. On May 2, 1918, Durant regained controlling interest of GM as the corporation's largest stockholder. Billy Durant was back in the driver's seat as corporation president. He brought Chevrolet into GM's product line in 1919, as well as Fisher Body and Frigidaire.

As co-owner of Frigidaire, Durant essentially sold his company to himself as president of GM, an example of financial sleight of hand and a clear conflict of interest. The corporation was once again debt-heavy and flirting with bankrupcy. 

In the background, Pierre S. DuPont and his family-owned chemical company had opened a line of credit with Wall Street financier J.P. Morgan. By 1919, DuPont invested 50 million dollars in GM stock. The following year, DuPont and the board of directors forced Durant out of GM for the last time because of his reckless speculation and dubious management ability.

Pierre S. DuPont

GM was the largest consumer of DuPont automotive finishes and artificial leather [vinyl] fabrics. GM's possible failure would hurt DuPont Chemical's business interests. Pierre S. DuPont stepped up and paid off Durant's debt to buy him out.

Alfred Pritchard Sloan

Alfred P. Sloan was elected president in 1923 to reorganize and manage the sprawling corporation. Under Sloan's management, GM established annual model changes which ushered in the age of planned obsolescence creating a vigorous used car market.

To prevent GM brands from competing with themselves, a pricing structure was established with Chevrolet as their most affordable brand followed by Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick, and their luxury brand Cadillac. As soon as buyers could afford a more expensive car, GM had an upgrade ready for them which inspired customer loyalty.

To help car buyers finance a new car or buy more car than they could otherwise afford, GM formed the General Motors Acceptance Corporation (GMAC) which introduced consumer installment credit ensuring the company's long-term financial success. When the stock market crashed on October 29, 1929, ushering in the Great Depression, GM was well-positioned to survive it.

"We Never Called Him Henry"