Henry Ford was born on July 30, 1863 to William and Mary Ford. He was the first of six children. He grew up in a rich farming household in Dearborn, Michigan. He enjoyed a typical childhood, spending his days in a one-room schoolhouse and doing farm chores. Ever since he was young, he showed an interest for the mechanical aspect of things, and how they worked and functioned. He used to take things apart and put them back together to get an idea of the inner workings of basic mechanical tools (Nevins, 47 – 50).
In 1879, at a young age of 16, he left his home to travel to the near by city of Detroit to work as an apprentice for a machinist. He occasionally returned home to work on the farm. He remained an apprentice for three years and then returned to Dearborn. During the next few years, Henry divided his time between operating and repairing steam engines, finding occasional work in Detroit factories, and working on his fathers broken down farm equipment, as well as lending an unwilling hand with other farm work. Henry got married to Clara Bryant in 1888 Henry supported himself and his wife by running a sawmill (Collier, 145 – 152).Order now
In 1891, Henry became an engineer with
the Edison Illumination Company. This was an important event in his life
because it signified that he had made a conscious career move into industrial
pursuits. He was promoted to Chief Engineer in 1893. This gave him enough
time and money to devote attention to his personal experiments on internal
combustion engines (Lacey 13 – 14).
The high point of this research came with
the completion of his own self-propelled vehicle, the Quadricycle. This
bike had four wire wheels and was steered with a tiller, like a boat. It
had two forward speeds, and no reverse. Although this was not the first
self-propelled vehicle, it set Henry Ford as one of the major pioneers
whom helped this nation become one of motorists (Head 22 – 24).
Ford decided that he wanted to become an
automobile manufacturer. After two unsuccessful tries, Ford motor company
was finally incorporated in 1903 with Henry Ford as the Vice President
and Chief Engineer. When the company first started it was only producing
a few cars a day at the Ford factory on Mack Avenue in Detroit. A group
of two or three men would work on one car from components made to order
by other companies (Lewis 99 – 100)
Ford realized his dream of producing an
automobile that was reasonable priced, reliable and efficient with the
introduction of the Model T in 1908. This vehicle iniated a new era in
personal transportation. It was easy to operate, maintain, and could handle
rough roads. It was also very reasonably priced at 850 dollars. The cars
sold fast and for the first time, the middle class could afford a car.
By 1920, about 4 million Model T’s were sold (Lewis, 103 – 105).
The model T revolutionized America in many
different ways. For example, while the Model T was in production, the assembly
line was used on a large scale. The assembly line was a powered chain that
brought the chassis of the car to each of its parts. The parts were then
attached to the chassis of the car and moved on to the next station. It
usually took fourteen hours to build one Model T, and with the assembly
line it only took six. Henry built a huge factory based on the assembly
line. The assembly line added more jobs and significantly lowered the cost
of production (Nevins, 65 – 67).
Since the assembly line, Ford was able
to produce many more cars than usual, therefore increasing profits. Since
the profits were increased, Henry was able to raise the workers’ salaries
from $2.50 an hour to $5.00 an hour. He also cut the workday to only eight
hours a day, making the workers very happy. People from all over the nation
tried to get a job working at the Ford Motor Company because the wages
were so good. Also since the assembly line increased profits, Henry was
able to sell Model T’s for a cheaper price. In 1915, the price of the Model
T’s went down to $490 (Lacey, 27 -29).
Fords assembly lines didn’t always manufacture
cars. In early 1941 the Ford was granted government contracts whereby he
was to manufacture parts for bombers and later, the entire airplane. He
then launched the construction of a huge plant at Willow Run, Michigan.
By the end of the War, the plant had manufactured more than 8000 planes
In the period of 1937 to 1941, the Ford
Company became the only major manufacturers of automobiles in the Detroit
area that had not recognized any labor unions as the collective bargaining
representative of employees. The company was later found guilty of repeated
violation of the national Labor Relations Act (Nevins, 69 -70).
Henry Ford was active in many other fields
besides those of automobile and airplane manufacturing. In 1915, he had
world peace on his mind. He chartered a peace ship, which carried him and
a number of like-minded individuals to Europe, where they attempted without
success to persuade the close-minded to end WWI (Lacey, 33).
While still working at his company, Henry
was also nominated for the U.S. Senate for the state of Michigan in 1918,
though he was defeated. In 1919 Ford laid out 7.5 million of his own money
to erect the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit (Head, 27 – 28).
As Ford was getting older, he retired from
the active direction of his gigantic enterprise in 1945. Two years later,
on April 7 1947, Ford died in Dearborn, Michigan. Ford left behind a personal
fortune estimated between 500 and 700 million (Lacey, 20-21).
In conclusion, Henry Ford was a very important
part of our society. He was responsible for many inventions, including
the Model T. His biggest contribution was revolutionizing and perfecting
the assembly line.