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Henry Ford    

Henry Ford, he wasn't the first to invent the automobile but he did invent some of the best cars of his time. He made good use of assembly line methods and mass production techniques. Ford was an American automobile manufacturer and was an industrialist who took a great idea and developed it.

Henry was born on July 30, 1863 in Wayne County, Michigan. He lived on a farm with his father, William Ford, his mother, Mary Ford and seven siblings. When Henry was very little he was more interested in machinery than in farming and he often earned pocket money by fixing neighbor's watches. He was sixteen when he left the farm and went to Detroit to find work in its machine shops. There, Ford became a mechanist's apprentice. After a few years he went back to the farm and worked part time for the Westinghouse Engine Company. He spend his spare moments tinkered in a machine shop he had set up. Henry married Clara Bryant and moved back to Detroit nine years later. He called his wife 'The Believer' because she encouraged his plans to build a horseless carriage. Ford became an engineer with the Edison Illuminating Company. Being promoted to Chief Engineer in 1893 gave him enough time and money to give attention to his personal experiments.

In 1891, he shared his idea of a design for an internal combustion engine with Clara. In 1893, on Christmas Eve, he made a successful test of his engines, in the kitchen sink. His obsession of building a car was so great that neighbors called him 'Crazy Henry'. His first car was called the 'Quadricycle'. It was a four-horsepowered vehicle with a buggy frame mounted on four bicycle wheels. The steering was with a tiller and it only had two forward speeds with no reverse.

The Quadricycle

In 1903, Ford set up his own business. Five years later, he introduced his most famous car of all, the Ford Model T or the Tin Lizzie. This car was like no other car of the day. Before the Model T, cars had been built for the rich that could afford it. By 1918, half of all the cars in America were Model Ts. This was because of the low price that Ford managed to lower from $850 to $260. He did this by making use of assembly line and mass production. All the Model Ts were black because other colors wouldn't dry fast enough to keep pace with the speed of the assembly line. The lowering of the price was partly due to because he kept the design of the car unchanged to.

The Model T.

" It is strange," Ford wrote in1926," how, just as soon as an article becomes successful, somebody starts to think that it would be more successful if only it were different. There is a tendency to keep monkeying with styles and to spoil a good thing by changing it."

One character trait that made Henry Ford quite different from other industrialist was that he was very concerned about his workers. In 1914, the Ford Motor Company announced that the working day would be eight hours instead of nine and the employees would be paid $5 as opposed to $2.34. Ford became a worldwide celebrity overnight. He had good reason to take these steps. Henry knew that higher wages for autoworkers would stimulate higher wages in other industries. This would mean greater buying power for American workers and that would mean that he could sell more of his automobiles.

"The payment of $5 a day for an eight hour day was one of the finest cost-cutting moves we ever made." Ford wrote.

Henry ford had a complex personality. Away from his business life he showed a variety of enthusiasm and prejudice, and from time to time startling ignorance. He was a man who baffled even those who had the opportunity to observe him close at hand, all except James Couzens, Ford's business manager from the founding of the company, until his resignation in 1915, who always said, "You cannot analyze genius and Ford is a genius.

Henry was a pacifist and philanthropist. Ford and his son, Edsel, established the Ford Foundation to which they donated large amounts of money. It had been set up in 1936, which gave money to organizations concerned with proverty, human rights and justice, education, culture, international affairs, and population issues.

Although Ford was not the first to build a 'horseless carriage', he was, however, one of several automotive pioneers who helped the U.S. become a nation of motorists. Through their efforts and ideas, the lives of all Americans changed. They propelled the United States into the 20th century as a leading industrial power.

For More Information

Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village - Pictures of the types of automobiles Ford invented.

Henry Ford. - What he did in his lfie.

Henry Ford. - Information on Ford's childhood.

Henry Ford. - Information oh his life.

Henry Ford.

"Henry Ford." Britannica Encyclopedia. Vol. 19. 1992

"FORD, Henry" Children's Britannica. Vol. 7. 1988

Zelinski/Waters. The United States. An economic perspective. Canada: Graham Draper, 1990.