When Henry Ford was born on June 30th, 1863, neither him nor anyone for that matter, knew what an important role he would take in the future of mankind. Ford saw his first car when he was 12. He and his father where riding into Detroit at the time. At that moment, he knew what he wanted to do with his life: he wanted to make a difference in the automobile industry. Through out his life, he achieved this in an extraordinary way.
That is why he will always be remembered in everyone’s heart.
Whenever you drive down the road in your car, you can thank all of it to Henry Ford. Through his life he accomplished extraordinary achievements such as going from a poor farm boy to a wealthy inventor who helped Thomas Edison. When he was a young man, he figured out how to use simple inventions, such as the light bulb. He then taught himself the design of a steamboat engine.
His goal was to build a horse-less carriage. He had come up with several designs and in 1896, he produced his first car, the Model A. When Ford’s first car came out, he had been interviewed by a reporter and when asked about the history of the car, he had said “History is more or less bunk.”
Ford worked in Thomas Edison’s factory for years and the left to become an apprentice for a car-producer in Detroit. While working there, he established how he was going to make the car. He looked through hundreds of books on bicycles and books on horse and buggies. Ford decided to use wheels from a bicycle, and the same steel framing. From the horse and buggy, he took the idea of the shape of the actual frame. He also made a handlebar that was in the same place as horse rider for a buggy. When Henry For opened his first automobile plant, not only did it bring much attention to the industry, but it also made people want to own a car so that they looked “cool”. People knew that this was going to be a successful industry so they wanted to work in it.
Even though most people think that the first true car ever made by Henry Ford was the Model A; they are actually being deceived. Henry Ford’s first actual cars were made for racing. Only a year or so later did Ford start making Model A’s. The profits from the Ford Motor Company were used to make racecars for special races. When Henry Ford first decided to make cars, he had a huge dilemma. He didn’t know whether to use petroleum, electric, or steam engines for the car. After much reasoning and many experiments, he finally rested on petroleum because there was an abundance of it in the U.S. at the time.
When the car began production, it immediately had an impact on the working hours of people. The car allowed people to get to work and home much quicker. This allowed bosses to shorten the workdays for their employees. However, not many people were able to benefit from this because cars they were still a lot of money and the average person was unable to afford it.
When Ford Motor Company started producing the Model A, they had to come up with a slogan. While Ford was walking down the street one day, he was listening to a conversation between two men and one of them said: “The person who invented this car was definitely thinking of the people, not himself.” This is where Ford got the saying Ford: Car for the People. The reason many people felt this way was because it was cheap and could be purchased by the average person.
The Model A was so successful that Ford began working on a new car. Little did he know, it would become the most famous car ever. In 1907, the work on the Model T started. While working on the project, Ford never rushed his people to work harder but he inspired them by saying things such as “I wonder if we can do it?” The car was so well liked because it was so high off the ground, the mechanics were simple, and the car itself was incredibly strong. When a prototype Model T came out, Henry Ford immediately put it to the test. Ford himself took the car to the British Isles, where he drove the car to the top of Ben Nevis, the highest and toughest hill of it’s kind. When the car achieved this without a hitch, attention was drawn to it and it became very popular.
Since the Model T was so successful and well built, over the course of 20 years, there were only minor changes made to it. As the Model T was at its top point of sales; a competitor came into the picture. A new company called General Motors started producing several kinds of cars. However, despite all of this, Ford Motor Company was still able to maintain the top position in their industry. To stay on top, Henry Ford’s top managers brought up an invention they had been working on. This invention and also means of production, was called mass production, which used the assembly line.
The assembly line worked in a way that had never been used before. Parts of the car moved down the track and people attached their own certain piece to the car. Not only did it make the production faster, but it also made it less expensive. However, when the idea was first presented to Ford, he was not very fond of it. He was a very strong believer in standardization. The most famous quote that he ever said comes from this belief. This quote is: “You can have any color, as long as it’s black.” The assembly line made it so that instead of taking 12 and half hours to make a car, it only took 1 and half with the new method.
When Henry Ford had originally opened his plant, he was paying workers $2.34 per day for a 9 hour work day. However, when the Model T came out, Ford became so wealthy from his profits, that he raised wages to $5 a day for 8 hours of work. This method had never been used before and was so popular, that there were greater sales, production, and the prices of the car went plummeting as well. At the same time, people would line up everyday outside the plant just to wait for a job. Sometimes, these lines went on for miles!
During the period of time that the wages at Ford were so low, people and unions were very satisfied and happy. One of Henry Ford’s employees wrote this poem:
All of the people were in favor of the pay increase because when the raise was given, other people in the family had the opportunity to stop working, and it gave families a chance to become a family again.
When the Model T first came out in 1908, it was priced at $850. From there, it went down to $360 in 1916 and after that, it went even lower to $290 in 1924. This caused sales to go through the roof because more people could afford the car. By 1927, Ford Motor Company had sold over 15 million cars. On average, 9,190 cars were made per day in the factories.
When the year 1910 rolled around, Henry Ford had even bigger ideas for his company. He had already conquered the U.S. but he had not conquered the International regions. In early 1910, Ford Motor Company started to ship Model T’s to countries such as Turkey, Malaya, Newfoundland, Barbados, Mauritius, India, Africa, and Japan. When World War I started, Ford still produced cars yet at the same time, they started to produce airplanes for the airforce. When the war ended, many companies in other countries, tried to copy Ford’s Model T yet, they were not successful. One man, Morris Oxford, came so close to Ford’s design but did not produce the car he instead, used it for his own use. Oxford later moved onto other industries to use similar methods as Ford’s to run his business.
By the 1920’s, Ford Motor Company, made well over half of the motorized vehicles in the entire world. At this time, the automobile industry was so large, that it used more than 80% of rubber, and well over 75% of glass. However, in 1928, Ford lost its seat as the largest U.S. producer of automobiles. General Motors had been producing a larger variety of cars for a much cheaper price. Even though Ford Motor Company lost its number one place in the U.S., it was still the largest overseas producer of automobiles. Ford was shipping over 75% of all the cars in other countries, excluding the U.S.
When Ford Motor Company was no longer the number one car producer in the U.S., Henry Ford decided that it was time to invest in other industries. Over the course of only a few years, Henry Ford came to be a major owner of coal, iron ore, steel mills, paper, cement, and oil. Ford also took part in growing timber, Sawmills, rubber plantations, railroads, blast furnaces, planes, and ships. It did not take long before Henry Ford was making back the money he was loosing from not having the number one seat in the U.S.
However, more trouble was just a few years away. Soon, there were three major automobile companies: General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler. General Motors and Chrysler were coming out with new cars every few months. On the other hand, Henry Ford was very certain he would still make it on the Model T. His stubbornness about not producing a new type of car not only made him drop to the third largest producer, but he also lost almost half of his fortune.
After this event, Ford knew that his time was up. So in 1945, in his early 80’s, Henry Ford stepped down as the owner of Ford Motor Company. When he did so, he handed the business over to his grandson, Henry Ford II. The new Henry Ford started producing new state of the art cars. Once again, Ford’s sales went skyrocketing and they were back up at the number two spot of the producer of all cars.
Two years after Henry Ford stepped down from his position at Ford Motor Company, he passed away at the age of 84. When his death first occurred, many people were corrupt and argued that Ford’s way of business was unlawful because machines were replacing skilled men. However, in the minds of most individuals, Henry Ford will forever be remembered as not only the creator of one of the greatest car companies of it’s time, but the inventor of one of the best cars ever made, the Model T.
1.) Cy Caldwell Henry Ford, Juilian Messner, New York, © 1947 pg. 1-40
2.) Paul Joseph Henry Ford, Inventors, Minnesota, © 1997 pg. 1- 29
3.) Edmond O’Connor Henry Ford, Geenrhaven World History Program, Minnesota,
© 1980 pg. 2-18
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