Knowing where to make the mark

In your article on Steinmetz (April 23, 1965) you mentioned a consultation with Henry Ford. My father, Burt Scott, who was an employe of Henry Ford for many years, related to me the story behind that meeting.

Technical troubles developed with a huge new generator at Ford’s River Rouge plant. His electrical engineers were unable to locate the difficulty so Henry Ford solicited the aid of Steinmetz. When “the little giant” arrived at the plant, he rejected all assistance, asking only for a notebook, pencil and cot. For two straight days and nights he listened to the generator and made countless computations. Then he asked for a ladder, a measuring tape and a piece of chalk. He descended and told his skeptical audience to remove a plate from the side of the generator and take out 16 windings from the field coil at that location. The corrections were made and the generator then functioned perfectly.

Subsequently Ford received a bill for $10,000 signed by Steinmetz for G.E. Ford returned the bill acknowledging the good job done by Steinmetz but respectfully requesting an itemized statement.

Steinmetz replied as follows:

Making chalk mark on generator $1. Knowing where to make the mark $9,999. Total due $10,000.

Jack B. Scott
Letter to Life Magazine (1965)