Henry's Made a Lady Out of Lizzie

Walter O'Keefe, Robert Dolan, 1928

Who is "Lizzie"? Tin Lizzie, Model T Ford. When was the Model T produced? 1908–1927. What did the Model T do to revolutionize the automobile industry? Affordable basic transportation. How did Henry Ford accomplish this? Basic styles, assembly line production.

What does "Henry's Made a Lady out of Lizzie" mean? Introduction of Model A in 1928. How did the Model A improve on the Model T? What technical innovations and comforts does the song mention? 4-wheel brakes, suspension.

Did the Model A ever become as popular as the Model T? What happened to Ford's product line eventually? Diversified.

Do the singers seem fond of "Lizzie"? Why might people feel affection for a car? What other car has inspired this kind of loyalty for a similar "car for the people"? Volkswagen Beetle.

What hints does this song contain of Americans' new relationship with the automobile? What changes to the landscape, economy, and social life occurred because of the automobile? Paved roads, cars overwhelmed the railroad, parking problems, suburbs, bridges, tunnels, air pollution, etc.


"Henry's Made a Lady out of Lizzie" performed by Happiness Boys on Come Josephine in My Flying Machine, New York: New World Records [NW233], © 1977. Available online on Spotify and on YouTube.

This recording is by the duo known as the "Happiness Boys," consisting of tenor Billy Jones (18891940) and baritone Ernest Hare (18831939). They met in 1919, not long after they had each started recording. A record company executive suggested that they form a team, but they often recorded for other labels using other names. The duo reached the height of their popularity in 1920s. This song was recorded in 1928.

View the lyrics for "Henry's Made a Lady Our of Lizzie."

View the published score.

Tin Lizzy ad
Advertisement for Ford's "Tin Lizzy."

Walter O'Keefe died in Los Angeles in June of 1983, after a long life of entertaining. He was a nightclub performer and vaudeville entertainer who also appeared in radio programs in the 1930s. He is also known for his performances of "The Man on the Flying Trapeze." He co-wrote this song with Robert Dolan, commemorating the changes made in the Ford Model A.

The simplicity of the assembly-line-produced Model T, affectionately known as the "Tin Lizzie," had revolutionized the young automobile industry by allowing most anyone to own a car. By 1928, however, declining sales of the "rattletrap" Model T, which had been in production since 1908, forced Henry Ford to make significant changes to compete. The result was the Model A—the "Lady" of this song.

This song was most likely conceived as a vaudeville act with an opening conversation to set the stage, followed by half-sung dialogue, and ending with both characters singing. The ragtime piano accompaniment in the background unifies the entire exchange. The audiences of the day would certainly have appreciated the comparison of this automobile with a lady, as well as the references to politics and Fanny Ward.

Fanny Ward: Silent film star.

do re mi: Money ("dough").

What cars have you known with "personality"? Create a cartoon, poem, or song that expresses how you felt about this car.

Compare this song to other songs glamorizing transportation technologies:

"The Glendy Burk" (Unit 3)

"Crossing the Grand Sierras" (Unit 5)

"I Get Around" (Unit 8)