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How did we get here? Part 14

Lead Summary
By Jim Thompson
HCP Columnist

(Continued from last week.)

Henry Ford lived from 1863 to 1947. Famous for the assembly line, he didn’t really invent it. The assembly line concept had been in use for many years, and Ransom E. Olds patented it in 1901.

However, Henry Ford exploited this invention to push the time to assemble a Model T from about 12 hours down to one and one-half. Ford was driven to produce an automobile for the common person and did all he could to take the cost out of building a car. Ironically, one of the places he did not cut costs was wages. He believed in high wages for his employees. He raised pay to $5 per day in 1914 from $2.34 in order to reduce turnover.

Ford had many social ideas which we would find appalling today. He was also anti-Semitic. He hated dealing with New York bankers whom he stereotyped as Jews, hence his attitude.

• Marie Curie (1867-1934) (birth name: Maria Salomea Skoldowska – there is a high school in Chicago with this name) was born in Poland and became a naturalized citizen of France, where she did her life’s work.

Marie Curie developed the theory of radioactivity and named it. She shared the 1902 Nobel Prize in physics with her husband, Pierre Curie, a fellow researcher. In 1911, she won the Noble Prize in chemistry for her discovery of the elements polonium and radium. Her interest in radioactive isotopes was driven by her interest in human health. Curie had many firsts as a scientist and as a woman.

• Vladimir Lenin was born in 1870 in Simbirsk (now Ulyanovsk), Russia, which is on the Volga River about 438 miles east of Moscow. He became radicalized upon the execution of his brother, who had been part of a group plotting to assassinate Tsar Alexander III.

Lenin developed his own version of Marxism. For his nefarious, anti-government activities, he was exiled to Siberia. Eventually, Lenin wound up in Geneva, Switzerland. It was the later days of World War I. The German leadership was looking for a way to take Russia out of the war. They devised a plan to spirit Lenin across Germany, through Finland and into St. Petersburg (at the time “Petrograd”) for the purposes of starting a revolution and, as stated, taking Russia out of World War I.

He arrived in April 1917 and began his successful revolution from there. Being a relatively small group, the Bolsheviks seized control of the country by focusing on controlling the train stations, printing presses and telephone and telegraph exchanges. From this era, came the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).

Lenin died of ill health (he had had a series of strokes) in 1924 in Gorki, a suburb of Moscow.

• Joseph Stalin (1878-1953) was born in what is now the country of Georgia, formerly part of the USSR. He became a follower of Lenin, edited the propaganda newspaper Pravda, and financed this effort through robberies, kidnappings and other illegal activities.

Stalin succeeded Lenin in 1924, but it was a number of years before he had wholly consolidated power in solely himself. His government oversaw mass repression of the citizens of the USSR and has been credited with over 10 million deaths through terror, executions and an induced famine, which peaked in the early 1930s.

Seeking a degree of normalcy and respectability in the world, the USSR was finally admitted into the League of Nations and achieved diplomatic recognition in the United States during the presidency of Franklin Roosevelt. The USSR was an ally of the U.S. and Britain during World War II. There is great movie about his demise, “The Death of Stalin” (2017) subtitled “A comedy of terrors.” Obviously, a dark comedy.

Jim Thompson, formerly of Marshall, is a graduate of Hillsboro High School and the University of Cincinnati. He resides in Duluth, Ga. and is a columnist for The Highland County Press. He may be reached at

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