1959 – Ford discontinues the Edsel

The 1958 Ford Edsel is today recalled as one of the world’s greatest flopped products. This is usually attributed to it being a bad design, but in fact the car itself was the equal of any of Ford’s other lines at the time. The true failures were of timing and marketing.

The release of the 1958 Edsel – which took place in 1957 – occurred during a general slowdown of the US economy that year, when all car sales fell. It was that much harder for a newcomer to the market to find a place. Ford had also attempted a teaser style marketing campaign, creating a mystery regarding the car’s appearance – which led to it being less recognizable than its competitors. In addition, it was competing against very well-established brand names in its class – not least among them Ford’s own Mercury range. Finally, of course, it had a dorky name.

Slightly more than two years after its initial release, the Edsel was discontinued (although production and sales of existing models continued for some months), and Ford suffered a publicity black eye and a bad earnings year from it. Ironically, many of the features of the Edsel that were derided at the time are now standard for cars of its class.

Referenced in:

We Didn’t Start The Fire — Billy Joel

1828 — Franz Schubert dies

Franz Peter Schubert was only 31 when he died of what doctors diagnosed as typhoid fever (although others claimed that it was tertiary syphilis). The Austrian was one of the most prolific composers of his era, writing more than 600 songs, 7 symphonies – not including his famous “Unfinished Symphony” (of which he wrote two movements before his death) – 5 operas and 21 sonatas.

His 600 songs were primarily Lieder, and Schubert’s greatest influence is found in this form – understandably, as in doing so many of them he explored nearly every possible variation of them. There is no telling what he might have accomplished had he lived longer – even in his relatively brief span, his style changed and evolved markedly. His epitaph reads “Here music has buried a treasure, but even fairer hopes” – and rarely has anyone had a more accurate epitaph.

Referenced in:

Decomposing Composers — Monty Python