Henry Ford 1863-1947
American industrialist and essayist.
One of the most esteemed figures in American industry, Henry Ford is credited with devising and implementing the continuous assembly line, thus making possible the era of mass-production, mass-marketing, and the modern, consumer society. Ford's efforts are additionally thought to have shaped American culture in the early twentieth century, tremendously speeding the process of urbanization by making the automobile available to the middle and working classes. Ford is also popularly regarded as a humanitarian who worked to elevate the economic status of the common man. This near-heroic view of the man, however, has been complicated by the study of Ford's paradoxical and controversial private persona, which contemporary critics have attempted to reconstruct in order to more fully understand this pioneering but enigmatic American.
Ford was born in Springwells Township, an area that is now occupied by Dearborn, Michigan, in 1863. He grew up on his father's farm and attended public school during the winter months between 1871 and 1879. In bis youth Ford displayed an extraordinary mechanical aptitude and excelled in mathematics at school. Though his father hoped that he would continue working on the farm, he left to find work in nearby Detroit in 1879. He undertook a series of apprenticeships in Detroit, working at the Flower Brothers Machine Shop and then the Detroit Drydock Company by day, and augmented his income by repairing watches in the evening. He met his wife, Clara Bryant, in 1886 and married her two years later. The couple lived together on forty acres of land provided by Ford's father on the condition that it be used for farming. Ford instead cleared the land of trees and sold the lumber for industrial purposes. By 1891 the timber was gone and Ford returned to find work in the city, this time as an engineer. He worked for the Edison Illuminating Company between 1893 and 1899, quickly rising through the ranks. During this period, he also designed and constructed his first "horseless carriage," an automobile prototype that Ford called a "quadricycle."
His desire to produce an improved version of the vehicle led to the creation of the Detroit Automobile Company in 1899, with Ford as its chief engineer. The company proved unsuccessful and Ford turned his attention to automobile racing, for which he gained a measure of national notoriety by 1901. He then parlayed his successes into the creation of the Ford Motor Company in 1903. The company grew rapidly, and by 1906 Ford had become its primary shareholder. He then began to make his pronouncement that he would produce a car "so low in price that no man making a good salary will be unable to own one" into a reality with the unveiling of the Model 'T' in October of 1908. The vehicle proved extremely popular, with sales reaching the one million mark in seven years and totaling fifteen million by the late 1920s. Meanwhile, Ford was making a name for himself as a humanitarian. In 1914 he raised employee wages to five dollars per day (more than double the average for factory workers at the time) and initiated an eight hour work day (lowering the number of hours from a standard of ten to twelve). Ford's reputation suffered, however, from his public stance against World War I. His lost bid for a seat in the United States Senate in 1916 also prompted a bitter reaction from Ford, who blamed the defeat on the machinations of international financiers and Jewish political influence. By 1920 Ford, already one of the most wealthy men in the country, had solidified his control of the Ford Motor Company as sole owner and weathered numerous lawsuits. His public anti-Semitism, however, continued to grow, peaking in the early 1920s with the printing of a series of essays attacking Jews. The articles appeared in his Dearborn Independent, a weekly periodical published between 1919 and 1927 in which Ford frequently offered his opinions and insights. After litigation, Ford eventually apologized for the views he had represented. Despite incredible growth in the 1920s, Ford's company began to suffer by the end of the decade, slipping from its position as America's largest automaker to third rank behind General Motors and the Chrysler Corporation by 1936. Disputes over management and labor, particularly his refusal to negotiate with the United Auto Workers union until 1941, damaged both the company and Ford's reputation. Failing health and growing signs of senility forced him into retirement in 1945, allowing his grandson Henry Ford II to take control of the company. Ford died less than two years later at his home in Dearborn, Michigan.
Ford's writings are generally brief essays or statements containing his views on a variety of subjects, ranging from personal observations to his perspective on the world of technology and industry. 365 of Henry Ford's Sayings (1923) is a collection of aphorisms that testifies to Ford's growing popularity as a national hero in the 1920s. Today and Tomorrow (1926) and My Philosophy of Industry (1929) present his vision of America's current and future strengths, while Edison as I Know Him (1930) is a personal reminiscence of a man Ford ardently admired. Perhaps Ford's most wellknown publication is the series of essays entitled The International Jew, which first appeared in the Dearborn Independent in 1922. Violently anti-Semitic, these articles postulate a worldwide Jewish conspiracy at the center of nearly all of the problems of modern civilization and notably accuse Jews of instigating World War I, as well as labelling Judaism as an insidious enemy of Christianity. After considerable bad press and a public suit of libel was brought against Ford, he formally retracted any anti-Semitic statements he may have made in The International Jew.
The impression of Ford during his lifetime has been largely allied with the success of his Ford Motor Company. As his popularity grew, reaching its zenith in the mid-1920s, Ford became one of the world's richest men and an individual of near folk hero status in the minds of many Americans. His anti-Semitic remarks in the 1920s and stubborn opposition to labor unionism in the 1930s, as well as his vocal hostility to the war effort in the early 1940s led to a marked decline in his popularity late in life. Contemporary critics and biographers have since inquired into the nature of Ford's personality and discovered that he was a man of deep-set inconsistencies: at times visionary, charitable, and forward-looking, at others ignorant, bitterly selfish, and reactionary in his views. Such explorations of his personality, however, have done little or nothing to change the estimation of Ford as among the most compelling, innovative, and influential industrialists in world history.
Henry Ford was a genius in many aspects of our everyday life. He changed industry, production, and everybody’s lifestyle. Many people know about him inventing some of the first automobiles, but what came out of it for America was a new encouragement for technology and an easier lifestyle for the average American.
Also Henry Ford has changed the perspective of industries around the world. His invention of the assembly line and his five-dollar a day wage for the average worker brought about a total new change in factories. Ford’s style and ingenuity helped America to be more prosperous and created a large amount of opulence for America in the early 1900’s, all because of one man’s creativity and determination to achieve a dream that would help out the common man and the entire world.
Henry Ford was born on July 30, 1863, on a farm a few miles from Detroit. As a boy Henry was very creative and liked to work with tools. However, he hated doing chores and he always wanted to make things easier to do in life. This would be Henry’s motto in life, always wanted to make things easier to do in life, at home or work. Ford was so creative that in 1893, he built his first engine and in 1896, he completed what he called the quadricycle, which ran for several years and sold it for $200. Ford had his second car finished in 1898 which was lighter and stronger than most cars around then. Soon enough many automobile companies were looking for somebody like Ford to help get their company going.
However, Ford would go into automobile racing and then build his own car company. Ford’s years in automobile racing was his way to improve the car and a chance to test it under competition. Soon though, he would get out of racing by a tough minded and ambitious James Couzens, who developed plans for a car company.
Couzens was able to start out the company with $28,000 in cash, and $21,000 in notes. The Ford Motor Company came out with the model A, the model B, and the model K in their beginning years. However, most of these cars were too expensive for the common man. So Ford decided that he would make a car that was affordable to the ordinary worker. For a few years, Ford and his technicians began building their next and most important car in history. In 1908, Ford brought out for the first time the Model T. It was an ugly car, seven feet high with false doors and a crank. Even though it was ugly and simple, it was modern and affordable.
Actually, it was ahead of it’s time. The car could generate it’s own electricity for ignition and it had a planetary transmission which allowed women and children to drive it. It was easy to operate and had the most efficient gasoline gauge of it’s time. The greatest thing that came out from the Model T, was it’s influence in all of America. Since the Model T was the first affordable car, which reached a low of only $260 in 1925, it allowed the average American to own a car now. One thing the Model T helped in was the improvement of the roads. With more people out on the roads, many roads were now being paved, and highways and bridges were being built for cars. Also farmers saw the Model T effective, soon the rural population was brought into the mainstream of technology. It was such a popular car, that over fifteen million were sold all over the world. However, the most important thing the Model T did, was it’s impact on connecting the people of America.
Bridges, roads, and highways were starting to be built for automobiles. Women were starting to leave the house now more because the Model T was easy to drive. Families could now go on trips and see America. Access to places was easier now, which led to the building of more stores, restaurants, and companies. This car was such a great impact, that the lifestyle we know today was created a lot by one automobile. The Model T, was the most affordable car of it’s time, but how Ford was able to make it so affordable was by his production ingenuity. The one greatest invention in industry is the assembly line. Henry Ford had a theory that if cars were manufactured all alike, they could be turned out in larger numbers at a lesser cost. That is why the Model T came only in black and they were all built the same way. Ford had the whole thing figured out. If they produced cars more inexpensively this would make them available to other people, which would lead to more cars bought. This would require better roads and create more customers which would lead to more cars bought and more reduced prices for cars.
However, Ford had to figure out a way to produce cars more inexpensively and quickly. Ford decided to install the moving belt. This allowed more than one man to try to put together a part for the car. As the belt moved along one man would have a certain job to do for that part, then it would move on to the next person. For example, the magneto would take one man twenty minutes to assemble it, but with the moving belt the process took only five minutes. Their first attempt to assemble an entire car by the assembly line was done by putting the frame on skids and pulling it from one of the building by a rope. As the frame moved along a group of workers walked by installing parts into the frame. Soon the number of man hours was reduced from 15 1/2 to 1 /2 hours. This fascinating process in industry led to the affordability of the Model T and the process in almost every industry, to produce their products quicker and easier. Ford’s ingenuity in industry was greater than just his inventions, but also his business-type approach to the workers. Ford knew that in 1913, there was growing tension from the 13,000 employees at Detroit.
Ford figured out a way to win their affection, he would buy it. On January 5, 1914, Ford announced his five-dollar a day wage for the workers, also he reduced the workday to eight hours. The average worker then in the U.S. made less than two-dollars a day. Many big industrialists thought he was dangerous and crazy. The publisher of the New York Times said ” He’s crazy, isn’t he? Don’t you think he’s crazy?” Ford argued that good pay makes good workers, and well paid workers could buy more cars. Soon millions of men poured into Detroit to try to get a job.
Ford had the most effective way to keep his workers happy and still keep his company prosperous. He showed many industries how to run their company in a new style without losing any profits and the ability of increasing production also. Henry Ford was one of the most creative and determined people in the world. He had an attraction for the common people, to make their life easier and more simple. Ford did all this by the invention of the Model T.
Even tough, this was not the first car, this was the first affordable car. Also, without the assembly line and the five-dollar a day wage, the affordability of the Model T would not be accomplished. Many of Ford’s great accomplishments had changed the whole entire lifestyle of America and made it into what we know today.
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