It was dubbed “E-Day” by the Ford Motor Company and the air was heavy with hype – the first new automobile brand introduced by Detroit’s Big Three since the 1930s. For months, the company had been running ads that simply pictured the car’s hood ornament and the line “The Edsel Is Coming.” (Alfred Hitchcock was more successful a few years later with “The Birds Is Coming.”) Everything about the car was hush-hush. Dealers who showed even a tailfin to the curious public would lose their franchise (which turned out to be not such a calamity).
E-Day was a gluttony of hoopla, promotions and prizes. And it did lure would-be shoppers to the Edsel showrooms. And when they got there, they found a car that was certainly different, but not pleasantly so. “A Pontiac pushing a toilet seat,” said one reporter. “An Oldsmobile sucking a lemon.”
And those were just the problems with appearance. The transmission was a confusing push-button affair on the steering wheel. The rear turn-signal lights were shaped to point in the opposite direction from which the car was turning. And if you pushed the Edsel speed up to 50 mph or so, that famous hood ornament was likely to fly off and crash into the windshield. It guzzled gas. It was an over-sized, over-designed camel just when cautious consumers were looking for a horse.
And perhaps after all that hype, any car would have failed. And fail the Edsel did, spectacularly. In its first year, Edsel sold just 64,000 cars and lost $250 million (about $2.5 billion in today’s dollars). After the 1960 model year, the Edsel division folded for good. And Ford President Robert (Strange) McNamara went to run the Department of Defense.
September 4, 1886: That’s G . . .
The legendary Apache, Geronimo or the One Who Yawns, made a pretty big nuisance of himself throughout much of the late 19th century. Finally on September 4, 1886, Geronimo surrendered to government authorities, bringing to a conclusion the Indian Wars of the Southwest.
In his retirement, he remained a prisoner of war, but became something of a celebrity as well, appearing at fairs and carnivals, selling souvenirs from his extensive collection of settler scalps and autographed photos of his warrior days. He took a ride on a Ferris wheel at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair and hobnobbed with President Theodore Roosevelt during his 1905 inaugural parade. He would most likely have joined the 2016 Republican nomination battle had he not died in 1909.