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Henry Ford

Henry Ford (July 30, 1863 – April 7, 1947) was an American industrialist, the founder of the Ford Motor Company, and sponsor of the development of the assembly line technique of mass production. His introduction of the Model T automobile revolutionized transportation and American industry. As owner of the Ford Motor Company, he became one of the richest and best-known people in the world. He is credited with "Fordism": mass production of inexpensive goods coupled with high wages for workers. Ford had a global vision, with consumerism as the key to peace. His intense commitment to systematically lowering costs resulted in many technical and business innovations, including a franchise system that put dealerships throughout most of North America and in major cities on six continents. Ford left most of his vast wealth to the Ford Foundation but arranged for his family to control the company permanently.

He was known worldwide especially in the 1920s as a promoter of pacifism and as a publisher of antisemitic texts such as the book The International Jew.

 

Early years

 

Henry Ford in 1888, aged 25.Ford was born July 30, 1863, on a farm in Greenfield Township (near Detroit, Michigan). His father, William Ford (1826–1905), was born in County Cork, Ireland, of a family originally from western England, who were among migrants to Ireland as the English created plantations. His mother, Mary Litogot Ford (1839–1876), was born in Michigan; she was the youngest child of Belgian immigrants; her parents died when Mary was a child and she was adopted by neighbors, the O'Herns. Henry Ford's siblings include Margaret Ford (1867–1938); Jane Ford (c. 1868–1945); William Ford (1871–1917) and Robert Ford (1873–1934).

His father gave him a pocket watch in his early teens. At 15, Ford dismantled and reassembled the timepieces of friends and neighbors dozens of times, gaining the reputation of a watch repairman. At twenty, Ford walked four miles to their Episcopal church every Sunday.

Ford was devastated when his mother died in 1876. His father expected him to eventually take over the family farm, but he despised farm work. He later wrote, "I never had any particular love for the farm—it was the mother on the farm I loved."

In 1879, he left home to work as an apprentice machinist in the city of Detroit, first with James F. Flower & Bros., and later with the Detroit Dry Dock Co. In 1882, he returned to Dearborn to work on the family farm, where he became adept at operating the Westinghouse portable steam engine. He was later hired by Westinghouse company to service their steam engines. During this period Ford also studied bookkeeping at Goldsmith, Bryant & Stratton Business College in Detroit.

 

Marriage and Family

 

Ford married Clara Ala Bryant (1866–1950) in 1888 and supported himself by farming and running a sawmill. They had a single child: Edsel Ford (1893–1943).

 

Career

 

In 1891, Ford became an engineer with the Edison Illuminating Company. After his promotion to Chief Engineer in 1893, he had enough time and money to devote attention to his personal experiments on gasoline engines. These experiments culminated in 1896 with the completion of a self-propelled vehicle which he named the Ford Quadricycle. He test-drove it on June 4. After various test-drives, Ford brainstormed ways to improve the Quadricycle.

Also in 1896, Ford attended a meeting of Edison executives, where he was introduced to Thomas Edison. Edison approved of Ford's automobile experimentation; encouraged by him, Ford designed and built a second vehicle, completing it in 1898. Backed by the capital of Detroit lumber baron William H. Murphy, Ford resigned from Edison and founded the Detroit Automobile Company on August 5, 1899. However, the automobiles produced were of a lower quality and higher price than Ford liked. Ultimately, the company was not successful and was dissolved in January 1901.

With the help of C. Harold Wills, Ford designed, built, and successfully raced a 26-horsepower automobile in October 1901. With this success, Murphy and other stockholders in the Detroit Automobile Company formed the Henry Ford Company on November 30, 1901, with Ford as chief engineer. However, Murphy brought in Henry M. Leland as a consultant and, as a result, Ford left the company bearing his name in 1902. With Ford gone, Murphy renamed the company the Cadillac Automobile Company.

Teaming up with former racing cyclist Tom Cooper, Ford also produced the 80+ horsepower racer "999" which Barney Oldfield was to drive to victory in a race in October 1902. Ford received the backing of an old acquaintance, Alexander Y. Malcomson, a Detroit-area coal dealer. They formed a partnership, "Ford & Malcomson, Ltd." to manufacture automobiles. Ford went to work designing an inexpensive automobile, and the duo leased a factory and contracted with a machine shop owned by John and Horace E. Dodge to supply over $160,000 in parts. Sales were slow, and a crisis arose when the Dodge brothers demanded payment for their first shipment.

 

A Tinkerer In An Emerging Industry

 

By rights, Henry Ford probably should have been a farmer. He was born in 1863 in Dearborn, Michigan, on the farm operated by his father, an Irishman, and his mother, who was from Dutch stock. Even as a boy, young Henry had an aptitude for inventing and used it to make machines that reduced the drudgery of farm chores. At the age of thirteen, he saw a coal-fired steam engine lumbering along a long rural road, a sight that galvanized his fascination with machines. At sixteen, against the wishes of his father, he left the farm for Detroit, where he found work as a mechanic's apprentice. Over the next dozen years he advanced steadily, and became chief engineer at the Edison Illuminating Company.

 

At twenty-four, Ford married Clara Bryant, a friend of his sister's; he called her "The Believer," because she encouraged his plans to build a horseless carriage from their earliest days together. For as Henry Ford oversaw the steam engines and turbines that produced electricity for Detroit Edison, inventors in the U.S. and Europe were adapting such engines to small passenger vehicles. On January 29, 1886, Karl Benz received a patent for a crude gas-fueled car, which he demonstrated later that year on the streets of Mannhelm, Germany. And in 1893, Charles and Frank Duryea, of Springfield, Massachusetts, built the first gas-operated vehicle in the U.S.


In the 1890s, any mechanic with tools, a workbench, and a healthy imagination was a potential titan in the infant industry. Even while continuing his career at Edison, Ford devoted himself to making a working automobile. In 1891, he presented Clara with a design for an internal combustion engine, drawn on the back of a piece of sheet music. Bringing the design to reality was another matter, but on Christmas Eve 1893 he made a successful test of one of his engines, in the kitchen sink.

The engine was merely the heart of the new machine that Ford hoped to build. On weekends and most nights, he could be found in a shed in the back of the family home, building the rest of the car. So great was his obsession that the neighbors called him Crazy Henry. However, at 2:00 A.M. on June 4, 1896, Crazy Henry punched a large hole in the wall of his shed, and emerged at the wheel of an automobile -- his automobile. In the weeks that followed, Ford was often seen driving around the streets of Detroit.

Later that year, Ford attended a national meeting of Edison employees. Thomas A. Edison had been Ford's idol for years. But at the meeting, it was Edison who asked to meet the young inventor, after word got around that the obscure engineer from Detroit had actually built an automobile. "Young man, you have the right idea," Edison said. "Keep right at it". Ironically, he was adamant that Ford not waste his time trying to make a car run viably on electricity.

Back in Detroit, Ford showed that he was no mere hobbyist: he sold his prototype for $200. For three years, he watched the new field of automaking develop, and he progressed along with it. In 1899, thirty American manufacturers -- most of them based in New England -- produced about 2,500 cars. Still, most Americans in the market for automobiles became accustomed to buying imported ones. In 1898, though, the domestic bicycle industry faced an unusual slump and many manufacturers decided to turn to automaking to keep the factories busy.

Offered a senior position and part ownership of a new company, the Detroit Automobile Co., Ford, thirty-six years old, quit the Edison Illuminating Company. Across town, the firm that would become Oldsmobile was launched at the same time. The Detroit Automobile Co. failed, without producing any cars, and Henry Ford was ousted by angry investors. (The firm survived, emerging from reorganization as the Cadillac Motor Car Company.)

 

Building a Car for the Great Multitude

 

Ford continued to pursue his dream. Early automobile promotion took place largely on the racetrack, where manufacturers sought to prove roadworthiness by putting their cars on public view and pressing them to their very limits. In 1901, Henry Ford poured his expertise into a pair of big race cars, one of which he entered in a ten-mile match race against a car built by Alexander Winton, a leading automaker from Ohio. The race took place in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, and Ford's car won. Because of the victory, the coal merchant Alexander Malcomson agreed to back Ford in a new business venture. In 1903, they formed the Ford Motor Company, in association with about a dozen other investors. Capitalized at $100,000, the company actually started with cash on hand of about $28,000. Some investors contributed other types of capital; for example, the Dodge brothers, John and Horace, agreed to supply engines.
The company purchased most of the major components for its new models, a common practice of the day. Teams of mechanics built cars individually at workstations, gathering parts as needed until a car was complete. In 1903, Ford's 125 workers made 1,700 cars in three different models. The cars were comparatively expensive, and their high profit-margins pleased the stockholders. Malcomson decided to start yet another automobile company. But when it failed, he was forced to sell his other assets, including his shares in Ford. Henry Ford bought enough of them to assume a majority position. The most important stockholder outside of the Ford family was James Couzens, Malcomson's former clerk; as General Manager, then vice president and secretary-treasurer at the Ford Motor Company, he was effectively second-in-command throughout many of the Model T years.

The direction of the company toward even pricier models had bothered Henry Ford. He used his new power to curtail their production, a move that coincided with the Panic of 1907. This case of accidental good timing probably saved the company. Ford, insisting that high prices ultimately slowed market expansion, had decided in 1906 to introduce a new, cheaper model with a lower profit margin: the Model N. Many of his backers disagreed. While the N was only a tepid success, Ford nonetheless pressed forward with the design of the car he really wanted to build. The car that would be the Model T.

"I will build a motorcar for the great multitude," he proclaimed. Such a notion was revolutionary. Until then the automobile had been a status symbol painstakingly manufactured by craftsmen. But Ford set out to make the car a commodity. "Just like one pin is like another pin when it comes from the pin factory, or one match is like another match when it comes from the match factory," he said. This was but the first of several counterintuitive moves that Ford made throughout his unpredictable career. Prickly, brilliant, willfully eccentric, he relied more on instinct than business plans. As the eminent economist John Kenneth Galbraith later said: "If there is any certainty as to what a businessman is, he is assuredly the things Ford was not."

In the winter of 1906, Ford had secretly partitioned a twelve-by fifteen-foot room in his plant, on Piquette Avenue in Detroit. With a few colleagues, he devoted two years to the design and planning of the Model T. Early on, they made an extensive study of materials, the most valuable aspect of which began in an offhand way. During a car race in Florida, Ford examined the wreckage of a French car and noticed that many of its parts were of lighter-than-ordinary steel. The team on Piquette Avenue ascertained that the French steel was a vanadium alloy, but that no one in America knew how to make it. The finest steel alloys then used in American automaking provided 60,000 pounds of tensile strength. Ford learned that vanadium steel, which was much lighter, provided 170,000 pounds of tensile strength. As part of the pre-production for the new model, Ford imported a metallurgist and bankrolled a steel mill. As a result, the only cars in the world to utilize vanadium steel in the next five years would be French luxury cars and the Ford Model T. A Model T might break down every so often, but it would not break.

The car that finally emerged from Ford's secret design section at the factory would change America forever. For $825, a Model T customer could take home a car that was light, at about 1,200 pounds; relatively powerful, with a four-cylinder, twenty horsepower engine, and fairly easy to drive, with a two-speed, foot-controlled "planetary" transmission. Simple, sturdy, and versatile, the little car would excite the public imagination. It certainly fired up its inventor: when Henry Ford brought the prototype out of the factory for its first test drive, he was too excited to drive. An assistant had to take the wheel.

"Well, I guess we've got started," Ford observed at the time. The car went to the first customers on October 1, 1908. In its first year, over ten thousand were sold, a new record for an automobile model. Sales of the "Tin Lizzie," or "flivver," as the T was known, were boosted by promotional activities ranging from a black-tie "Ford Clinic" in New York, where a team of mechanics showcased the car, to Model T rodeos out west, in which cowboys riding in Fords tried to rope calves. In 1909, mining magnate Robert Guggenheim sponsored an auto race from New York to Seattle in which the only survivors were two Model T Fords. "I believe Mr. Ford has the solution of the popular automobile," Guggenheim concluded.

In the early years, Model Ts were produced at Piquette Avenue in much the same way that all other cars were built. Growing demand for the new Ford overwhelmed the old method, though. Ford realized that he not only had to build a new factory, but a new system within that factory.

Throughout his tenure as the head of the company, Henry Ford believed in maintaining enormous cash reserves, a policy that allowed him to plan a new facility for production of the Model T without interference or outside pressure. The new Highland Park factory, which opened in 1910, was designed by the nation's leading industrial architect, Albert Kahn. It was unparalleled in scale, sprawling over sixty-two acres. John D. Rockefeller, whose Standard Oil refineries had always represented state-of-the-art design, called Highland Park "the industrial miracle of the age."

In its first few years, the four-story Highland Park factory was organized from top to bottom. Assembly wound downward, from the fourth floor, where body panels were hammered out, to the third floor, where workers placed tires on wheels and painted auto bodies. After assembly was completed on the second floor, new automobiles descended a final ramp past the first-floor offices. Production increased by approximately 100 percent in each of the first three years, from 19,000 in 1910, to 34,500 in 1911, to a staggering 78,440 in 1912. It was still only a start.

"I'm going to democratize the automobile," Henry Ford had said in 1909. "When I'm through, everybody will be able to afford one, and about everybody will have one." The means to this end was a continuous reduction in price. When it sold for $575 in 1912, the Model T for the first time cost less than the prevailing average annual wage in the United States. Ignoring conventional wisdom, Ford continually sacrificed profit margins to increase sales. In fact, profits per car did fall as he slashed prices from $220 in 1909 to $99 in 1914. But sales exploded, rising to 248,000 in 1913. Moreover, Ford demonstrated that a strategic, systematic lowering of prices could boost profits, as net income rose from $3 million in 1909 to $25 million in 1914. As Ford's U.S. market share rose from a respectable 9.4 percent in 1908 to a formidable 48 percent in 1914, the Model T dominated the world's leading market.

At Highland Park, Ford began to implement factory automation in 1910. But experimentation would continue every single day for the next seventeen years, under one of Ford's maxims: "Everything can always be done better than it is being done." Ford and his efficiency experts examined every aspect of assembly and tested new methods to increase productivity. The boss himself claimed to have found the inspiration for the greatest breakthrough of all, the moving assembly line, on a trip to Chicago: "The idea came in a general way from the overhead trolley that the Chicago packers use in dressing beef," Ford said. At the stockyards, butchers removed certain cuts as each carcass passed by, until nothing was left. Ford reversed the process. His use of the moving assembly line was complicated by the fact that parts, often made on sub-assembly lines, had to feed smoothly into the process. Timing was crucial: a clog along a smaller line would slow work farther along. The first moving line was tested with assembly of the flywheel magneto, showing a saving of six minutes, fifty seconds over the old method. As similar lines were implemented throughout Highland Park, the assembly time for a Model T chassis dropped from twelve hours, thirty minutes to five hours, fifty minutes.

The pace only accelerated, as Ford's production engineers experimented with work slides, rollways, conveyor belts, and hundreds of other ideas. The first and most effective assembly line in the automobile industry was continually upgraded. Those most affected were, of course, the workers. As early as January 1914, Ford developed an "endless chain-driven" conveyor to move the chassis from one workstation to another; workers remained stationary. Three months later, the company created a "man high" line -- with all the parts and belts at waist level, so that workers could repeat their assigned tasks without having to move their feet.

In 1914, 13,000 workers at Ford made 260,720 cars. By comparison, in the rest of the industry, it took 66,350 workers to make 286,770. Critics charged that the division of the assembly process into mindless, repetitive tasks turned most of Ford's employees into unthinking automatons, and that manipulation of the pace of the line was tantamount to slave driving by remote control. The men who made cars no longer had to be mechanically inclined, as in the earlier days; they were just day laborers. Ford chose to see the bigger picture of the employment he offered. "I have heard it said, in fact, I believe it's quite a current thought, that we have taken skill out of work," he said. "We have not. We have put a higher skill into planning, management, and tool building, and the results of that skill are enjoyed by the man who is not skilled."

But the unskilled workers, many of them foreign born, didn't enjoy their work, earning a mediocre $2.38 for a nine-hour day. Indeed, the simplification of the jobs created a treacherous backlash: high turnover. Over the course of 1913, the company had to hire 963 workers for every 100 it needed to maintain on the payroll. To keep a workforce of 13,600 employees in the factory, Ford continually spent money on short-term training. Even though the company introduced a program of bonuses and generous benefits, including a medical clinic, athletic fields, and playgrounds for the families of workers, the problem persisted. The rest of the industry reluctantly accepted high turnover as part of the assembly-line system and passed the increasing labor costs into the prices of their cars. Henry Ford, however, did not want anything in the price of a Model T except good value. His solution was a bold stroke that reverberated through the entire nation.

On January 5, 1914, Henry Ford announced a new minimum wage of five dollars per eight-hour day, in addition to a profit-sharing plan. It was the talk of towns across the country; Ford was hailed as the friend of the worker, as an outright socialist, or as a madman bent on bankrupting his company. Many businessmen -- including most of the remaining stockholders in the Ford Motor Company -- regarded his solution as reckless. But he shrugged off all the criticism: "Well, you know when you pay men well you can talk to them," he said. Recognizing the human element in mass production, Ford knew that retaining more employees would lower costs, and that a happier work force would inevitably lead to greater productivity. The numbers bore him out. Between 1914 and 1916, the company's profits doubled from $30 million to $60 million. "The payment of five dollars a day for an eight-hour day was one of the finest cost-cutting moves we ever made," he later said.

There were other ramifications, as well. A budding effort to unionize the Ford factory dissolved in the face of the Five-Dollar Day. Most cunning of all, Ford's new wage scale turned autoworkers into auto customers. The purchases they made returned at least some of those five dollars to Henry Ford, and helped raise production, which invariably helped to lower per-car costs.

The central role that the Model T had come to play in America's cultural, social and economic life elevated Henry Ford into a full-fledged folk hero. But Ford wasn't satisfied. Fancying himself a political pundit and all-around sage, he allowed himself to be drawn into national and even world affairs. Before the United States entered World War I, he despaired with many others over the horrors of the fighting; late in 1915, he chartered a "Peace Ship" and sailed with a private delegation of radicals for France in a native attempt to end the war. In 1918, he lost a campaign for a U.S. Senate seat. The following year, he purchased a newspaper, the Dearborn Independent, which was to become the vehicle for his notorious anti-Semitism. The newspaper railed against the International Jew, and reported scurrilous conspiracy theories such as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

In 1915, James Couzens resigned from the Ford Motor Company, recognizing that it Henry's company, and that no one else's opinion would ever matter as much. In 1916, Ford antagonized the other shareholders by declaring a paltry dividend, even in the face of record profits. In response, the shareholders sued, and in 1919 the Michigan Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that it was unreasonable to withhold fair dividends under the circumstances. The Ford Motor Company was forced to distribute $19 million in dividend payments. In his own response to the escalating feud, Henry threatened publicly to leave the company and form a new one. He even made plans and discussed the next car he would produce.

Fearing that the worth of Ford stock would plummet, the minority shareholders suddenly became eager to sell; agents working surreptitiously for Henry Ford quietly bought up lot after lot of shares. The sellers did not receive all that the shares were worth, because of the rumors, but they each emerged with a fortune. James Couzens, the most wily of the lot, received the highest price per share, and turned to a career in the U.S. Senate (he won his race, unlike the old boss) with $30 million in the bank. Ford gained complete control of the company at a cost of $125 million -- $106 million of the stock, plus $19 million for the court-ordered dividend -- a fantastic outlay that he financed with a $75 million loan from two eastern banks. On July 11, 1919, when he signed the last stock transfer agreement, the fifty-five-year-old mogul was so enthused that he danced a jig. The stock was divided up and placed in the names of Henry, Clara, and Edsel Ford.

In 1921, the Model T Ford held 60 percent of the new-car market. Plants around the world turned out flivvers as though they were subway tokens, and Henry Ford's only problem, as he often stated it, was figuring out how to make enough of them. As a concession to diversification, he purchased the Lincoln Motor Car Company in 1921. Company plans seemed to be in place for a long, predictable future and Ford was free to embark on a great new project: the design and construction of the world's largest and most efficient automobile factory at River Rouge, near Detroit. Arrayed over 2,000 acres, it would include 90 miles of railroad track and enough space for 75,000 employees to produce finished cars from raw material in the span of just forty-one hours. River Rouge had its own power plant, iron forges, and fabricating facilities. No detail was overlooked: wastepaper would be recycled into cardboard at the factory's own paper mill. River Rouge was built to produce Model T Fords for decades to come, by the time it was capable of full production later in the decade, a factory a tenth its size could have handled the demand for Model Ts.

 

Ford Motor Company

In response, Malcomson brought in another group of investors and convinced the Dodge Brothers to accept a portion of the new company. Henry Ford with Thomas Edison and Harvey Firestone. Ft. Myers, Florida, February 11, 1929.Ford & Malcomson was reincorporated as the Ford Motor Company on June 16, 1903, with $28,000 capital. The original investors included Ford and Malcomson, the Dodge brothers, Malcomson's uncle John S. Gray, James Couzens, and two of Malcomson's lawyers, John W. Anderson and Horace Rackham. In a newly designed car, Ford gave an exhibition on the ice of Lake St. Clair, driving 1 mile (1.6 km) in 39.4 seconds, setting a new land speed record at 91.3 miles per hour (147.0 km/h). Convinced by this success, the race driver Barney Oldfield, who named this new Ford model "999" in honor of a racing locomotive of the day, took the car around the country, making the Ford brand known throughout the United States. Ford also was one of the early backers of the Indianapolis 500.

Model T

Ford Assembly Line, 1913The Model T was introduced on October 1, 1908. It had the steering wheel on the left, which every other company soon copied. The entire engine and transmission were enclosed; the four cylinders were cast in a solid block; the suspension used two semi-elliptic springs. The car was very simple to drive, and easy and cheap to repair. It was so cheap at $825 in 1908 ($21,340 today) (the price fell every year) that by the 1920s, a majority of American drivers had learned to drive on the Model T.

Ford created a massive publicity machine in Detroit to ensure every newspaper carried stories and ads about the new product. Ford's network of local dealers made the car ubiquitous in virtually every city in North America. As independent dealers, the franchises grew rich and publicized not just the Ford but the very concept of automobiling; local motor clubs sprang up to help new drivers and to encourage exploring the countryside. Ford was always eager to sell to farmers, who looked on the vehicle as a commercial device to help their business. Sales skyrocketed—several years posted 100% gains on the previous year. Always on the hunt for more efficiency and lower costs, in 1913 Ford introduced the moving assembly belts into his plants, which enabled an enormous increase in production. Although Ford is often credited with the idea, contemporary sources indicate that the concept and its development came from employees Clarence Avery, Peter E. Martin, Charles E. Sorensen, and C. Harold Wills.

Sales passed 250,000 in 1914. By 1916, as the price dropped to $360 for the basic touring car, sales reached 472,000. (Using the consumer price index, this price was equivalent to $7,020 in 2008 dollars.)

1925 Model T TourerBy 1918, half of all cars in America were Model T's. However, it was a monolithic black; as Ford wrote in his autobiography, "Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black". Until the development of the assembly line, which mandated black because of its quicker drying time, Model T's were available in other colors, including red. The design was fervently promoted and defended by Ford, and production continued as late as 1927; the final total production was 15,007,034. This record stood for the next 45 years. This record was achieved in just 19 years from the introduction of the first Model T (1908).

President Woodrow Wilson asked Ford to run as a Democrat for the United States Senate from Michigan in 1918. Although the nation was at war, Ford ran as a peace candidate and a strong supporter of the proposed League of Nations.

Henry Ford turned the presidency of Ford Motor Company over to his son Edsel Ford in December 1918. Henry, however, retained final decision authority and sometimes reversed his son. Henry started another company, Henry Ford and Son, and made a show of taking himself and his best employees to the new company; the goal was to scare the remaining holdout stockholders of the Ford Motor Company to sell their stakes to him before they lost most of their value. (He was determined to have full control over strategic decisions.) The ruse worked, and Henry and Edsel purchased all remaining stock from the other investors, thus giving the family sole ownership of the company.

By the mid-1920s, sales of the Model T began to decline due to rising competition. Other auto makers offered payment plans through which consumers could buy their cars, which usually included more modern mechanical features and styling not available with the Model T. Despite urgings from Edsel, Henry steadfastly refused to incorporate new features into the Model T or to form a customer credit plan.

Model A and Ford's later career

By 1926, flagging sales of the Model T finally convinced Henry to make a new model. He pursued the project with a great deal of technical expertise in design of the engine, chassis, and other mechanical necessities, while leaving the body design to his son. Edsel also managed to prevail over his father's initial objections in the inclusion of a sliding-shift transmission.

The result was the successful Ford Model A, introduced in December 1927 and produced through 1931, with a total output of more than 4 million. Subsequently, the Ford company adopted an annual model change system similar to that recently pioneered by its competitor General Motors (and still in use by automakers today). Not until the 1930s did Ford overcome his objection to finance companies, and the Ford-owned Universal Credit Corporation became a major car-financing operation.

Ford did not believe in accountants; he amassed one of the world's largest fortunes without ever having his company audited under his administration.

Labor philosophy

The five-dollar workday

Time Magazine, January 14, 1935.Ford was a pioneer of "welfare capitalism", designed to improve the lot of his workers and especially to reduce the heavy turnover that had many departments hiring 300 men per year to fill 100 slots. Efficiency meant hiring and keeping the best workers.

Ford astonished the world in 1914 by offering a $5 per day wage ($120 today), which more than doubled the rate of most of his workers. A Cleveland, Ohio newspaper editorialized that the announcement "shot like a blinding rocket through the dark clouds of the present industrial depression." The move proved extremely profitable; instead of constant turnover of employees, the best mechanics in Detroit flocked to Ford, bringing their human capital and expertise, raising productivity, and lowering training costs. Ford announced his $5-per-day program on January 5, 1914, raising the minimum daily pay from $2.34 to $5 for qualifying workers. It also set a new, reduced workweek, although the details vary in different accounts. Ford and Crowther in 1922 described it as six 8-hour days, giving a 48-hour week, while in 1926 they described it as five 8-hour days, giving a 40-hour week. (Apparently the program started with Saturdays as workdays and sometime later it was changed to a day off.)

Detroit was already a high-wage city, but competitors were forced to raise wages or lose their best workers. Ford's policy proved, however, that paying people more would enable Ford workers to afford the cars they were producing and be good for the economy. Ford explained the policy as profit-sharing rather than wages. It may have been Couzens who convinced Ford to adopt the $5 day.

The profit-sharing was offered to employees who had worked at the company for six months or more, and, importantly, conducted their lives in a manner of which Ford's "Social Department" approved. They frowned on heavy drinking, gambling, and what might today be called "deadbeat dads". The Social Department used 50 investigators, plus support staff, to maintain employee standards; a large percentage of workers were able to qualify for this "profit-sharing."

Ford's incursion into his employees' private lives was highly controversial, and he soon backed off from the most intrusive aspects. By the time he wrote his 1922 memoir, he spoke of the Social Department and of the private conditions for profit-sharing in the past tense, and admitted that "paternalism has no place in industry. Welfare work that consists in prying into employees' private concerns is out of date. Men need counsel and men need help, oftentimes special help; and all this ought to be rendered for decency's sake. But the broad workable plan of investment and participation will do more to solidify industry and strengthen organization than will any social work on the outside. Without changing the principle we have changed the method of payment."

Labor unions

Henry FordFord was adamantly against labor unions. He explained his views on unions in Chapter 18 of My Life and Work. He thought they were too heavily influenced by some leaders who, despite their ostensible good motives, would end up doing more harm than good for workers. Most wanted to restrict productivity as a means to foster employment, but Ford saw this as self-defeating because, in his view, productivity was necessary for any economic prosperity to exist.

He believed that productivity gains that obviated certain jobs would nevertheless stimulate the larger economy and thus grow new jobs elsewhere, whether within the same corporation or in others. Ford also believed that union leaders (particularly Leninist-leaning ones) had a perverse incentive to foment perpetual socio-economic crisis as a way to maintain their own power. Meanwhile, he believed that smart managers had an incentive to do right by their workers, because doing so would maximize their own profits. (Ford did acknowledge, however, that many managers were basically too bad at managing to understand this fact.) But Ford believed that eventually, if good managers such as he could fend off the attacks of misguided people from both left and right (i.e., both socialists and bad-manager reactionaries), the good managers would create a socio-economic system wherein neither bad management nor bad unions could find enough support to continue existing.

To forestall union activity, Ford promoted Harry Bennett, a former Navy boxer, to head the Service Department. Bennett employed various intimidation tactics to squash union organizing. The most famous incident, in 1937, was a bloody brawl between company security men and organizers that became known as The Battle of the Overpass.

In the late 1930s and early 1940s, Edsel (who was president of the company) thought Ford had to come to some sort of collective bargaining agreement with the unions, because the violence, work disruptions, and bitter stalemates could not go on forever. But Henry (who still had the final veto in the company on a de facto basis even if not an official one) refused to cooperate. For several years, he kept Bennett in charge of talking to the unions that were trying to organize the Ford company. Sorensen's memoir makes clear that Henry's purpose in putting Bennett in charge was to make sure no agreements were ever reached.

The Ford company was the last Detroit automaker to recognize the United Auto Workers union (UAW). A sit-down strike by the UAW union in April 1941 closed the River Rouge Plant. Sorensen recounted that a distraught Henry Ford was very close to following through with a threat to break up the company rather than cooperate but that his wife Clara told him she would leave him if he destroyed the family business. She wanted to see their son and grandsons lead it into the future. Henry complied with his wife's ultimatum. Overnight, the Ford Motor Co. went from the most stubborn holdout among automakers to the one with the most favorable UAW contract terms. The contract was signed in June 1941.

Ford Airplane Company

Ford 4-AT-F (EC-RRA) de L.A.P.E.Ford, like other automobile companies, entered the aviation business during World War I, building Liberty engines. After the war, it returned to auto manufacturing until 1925, when Ford acquired the Stout Metal Airplane Company.

Ford's most successful aircraft was the Ford 4AT Trimotor, often called the "Tin Goose" because of its corrugated metal construction. It used a new alloy called Alclad that combined the corrosion resistance of aluminum with the strength of duralumin. The plane was similar to Fokker's V.VII-3m, and some say that Ford's engineers surreptitiously measured the Fokker plane and then copied it. The Trimotor first flew on June 11, 1926, and was the first successful U.S. passenger airliner, accommodating about 12 passengers in a rather uncomfortable fashion. Several variants were also used by the U.S. Army. Ford has been honored by the Smithsonian Institution for changing the aviation industry. 199 Trimotors were built before it was discontinued in 1933, when the Ford Airplane Division shut down because of poor sales during the Great Depression.

Willow Run

President Franklin D. Roosevelt referred to Detroit as the "Arsenal of Democracy". The Ford Motor Company played a pivotal role in the Allied victory during World War I and World War II. With Europe under siege, the Ford company's genius turned to mass production for the war effort. Specifically, Ford developed mass production for the B-24 Liberator bomber, still the most-produced Allied bomber in history. When the planes started being used in the war zones, the balance of power shifted to the Allies.

Before Ford, and under optimal conditions, the aviation industry could produce one Consolidated Aircraft B-24 Bomber a day at an aircraft plant. Ford showed the world how to produce one B-24 an hour at a peak of 600 per month in 24-hour shifts. Ford's Willow Run factory broke ground in April 1941. At the time, it was the largest assembly plant in the world, with over 3,500,000 square feet (330,000 m).

Mass production of the B-24, led by Charles Sorensen and later Mead Bricker, began by August 1943. Many pilots slept on cots waiting for takeoff as the B-24s rolled off the assembly line at Ford's Willow Run facility.

Peace and war

World War I era

Ford opposed war, which he thought was a terrible waste. Ford became highly critical of those who he felt financed war, and he tried to stop them. In 1915, the pacifist Rosika Schwimmer gained favor with Ford, who agreed to fund a peace ship to Europe, where World War I was raging. He and about 170 other prominent peace leaders traveled there. Ford's Episcopalian pastor, Reverend Samuel S. Marquis, accompanied him on the mission. Marquis headed Ford's Sociology Department from 1913 to 1921. Ford talked to President Wilson about the mission but had no government support. His group went to neutral Sweden and the Netherlands to meet with peace activists. A target of much ridicule, Ford left the ship as soon as it reached Sweden.

Ford plants in Britain produced tractors to increase the British food supply, as well as trucks and aircraft engines. When the U.S. entered the war in 1917 the company became a major supplier of weapons, especially the Liberty engine for airplanes, and anti-submarine boats.

In 1918, with the war on and the League of Nations a growing issue in global politics, President Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat, encouraged Ford to run for a Michigan seat in the U.S. Senate. Wilson believed that Ford could tip the scales in Congress in favor of Wilson's proposed League. "You are the only man in Michigan who can be elected and help bring about the peace you so desire," the president wrote Ford. Ford wrote back: "If they want to elect me let them do so, but I won't make a penny's investment." Ford did run, however, and came within 4,500 votes of winning, out of more than 400,000 cast statewide.

Mental collapse and World War II

Ford had long opposed war and continued to believe that international business could generate the prosperity that would head off wars; when World War II erupted in 1939 he said the people of the world had been duped. Like many other businessmen of the Great Depression era, he never liked or entirely trusted the Franklin Roosevelt Administration. He was not, however, active in the isolationist movement of 1939–41, and he supported the American war effort and realized the need to support Britain with weapons to fight the Nazis. However, when Rolls-Royce sought a US manufacturer as an alternative source for the Merlin engine (as fitted to the Spitfire and Hurricane), Ford first agreed to do so and then reneged. He "lined up behind the war effort" when the U.S. entered in late 1941, and the company became a major component of the "Arsenal of Democracy." Following a series of strokes in the late 1930s he became increasingly senile and was more of a figurehead; other people made the decisions in his name. After Edsel Ford's death, Henry Ford nominally resumed control of the company in 1943, but his mental strength was fading fast. In reality the company was controlled by a handful of senior executives led by Charles Sorensen and Harry Bennett; Sorensen was forced out in 1944. Ford's incompetence led to discussions in Washington about how to restore the company, whether by wartime government fiat or by instigating some sort of coup among executives and directors. Nothing happened until 1945, with bankruptcy a serious risk, Edsel's widow led an ouster and installed her son, Henry Ford II, as president; the young man fired Bennett and took full control.

The Dearborn Independent - Antisemitism

Edsel Ford, Charles Lindbergh, and Henry Ford pose in the Ford hangar during Lindbergh's August 1927 visit.Ford in the early 1920s sponsored a weekly newspaper that published (among many non-controversial articles) strongly anti-semitic views. At the same time Ford had a reputation as one of the few major corporations actively hiring black workers; he was not accused of discrimination against Jewish workers or suppliers.

In 1918, Ford's closest aide and private secretary, Ernest G. Liebold, purchased an obscure weekly newspaper for Ford, The Dearborn Independent. The Independent ran for eight years, from 1920 until 1927, during which Liebold was editor. Every Ford franchise nation-wide had to carry the paper and distribute it to its customers.

The newspaper published The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which was discredited by The Times of London as a forgery during the Independent's publishing run. The American Jewish Historical Society described the ideas presented in the magazine as "anti-immigrant, anti-labor, anti-liquor, and anti-Semitic." In February 1921, the New York World published an interview with Ford, in which he said: "The only statement I care to make about the Protocols is that they fit in with what is going on." During this period, Ford emerged as "a respected spokesman for right-wing extremism and religious prejudice," reaching around 700,000 readers through his newspaper. The 2010 documentary film Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story (written by Pulitzer Prize winner Ira Berkow) noted that Ford wrote on May 22, 1920: “If fans wish to know the trouble with American baseball they have it in three words—too much Jew.”

In Germany, Ford's anti-Jewish articles from The Dearborn Independent were issued in four volumes, cumulatively titled The International Jew, the World's Foremost Problem published by Theodor Fritsch, founder of several anti-semitic parties and a member of the Reichstag. In a letter from 1924, Heinrich Himmler described Ford as "one of our most valuable, important, and witty fighters." Ford is the only American mentioned in Mein Kampf. Speaking in 1931 to a Detroit News reporter, Hitler said he regarded Ford as his "inspiration", explaining his reason for keeping Ford's life-size portrait next to his desk. Steven Watts wrote that Hitler "revered" Ford, proclaiming that "I shall do my best to put his theories into practice in Germany," and modeling the Volkswagen, the people's car, on the model T.

Henry Ford in Germany; September 1930On February 1, 1924, Ford received Kurt Ludecke, a representative of Hitler, at his home. Ludecke was introduced to Ford by Siegfried Wagner (son of the famous composer Richard Wagner) and his wife Winifred, both Nazi sympathizers and anti-Semites. Ludecke asked Ford for a contribution to the Nazi cause, but was apparently refused.

While Ford's articles were denounced by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the articles explicitly condemned pogroms and violence against Jews (Volume 4, Chapter 80), but blamed the Jews for provoking incidents of mass violence. None of this work was written by Ford, but he allowed his name to be used as author. According to trial testimony, he wrote almost nothing. Friends and business associates have said they warned Ford about the contents of the Independent and that he probably never read the articles. (He claimed he only read the headlines.) But, court testimony in a libel suit, brought by one of the targets of the newspaper, alleged that Ford did know about the contents of the Independent in advance of publication.

A libel lawsuit brought by San Francisco lawyer and Jewish farm cooperative organizer Aaron Sapiro in response to anti-Semitic remarks led Ford to close the Independent in December 1927. News reports at the time quoted him as saying he was shocked by the content and unaware of its nature. During the trial, the editor of Ford's "Own Page," William Cameron, testified that Ford had nothing to do with the editorials even though they were under his byline. Cameron testified at the libel trial that he never discussed the content of the pages or sent them to Ford for his approval. Investigative journalist Max Wallace noted that "whatever credibility this absurd claim may have had was soon undermined when James M. Miller, a former Dearborn Independent employee, swore under oath that Ford had told him he intended to expose Sapiro."

Michael Barkun observed,

That Cameron would have continued to publish such controversial material without Ford's explicit instructions seemed unthinkable to those who knew both men. Mrs. Stanley Ruddiman, a Ford family intimate, remarked that 'I don't think Mr. Cameron ever wrote anything for publication without Mr. Ford's approval.'

According to Spencer Blakeslee,

The ADL mobilized prominent Jews and non-Jews to publicly oppose Ford's message. They formed a coalition of Jewish groups for the same purpose and raised constant objections in the Detroit press. Before leaving his presidency early in 1921, Woodrow Wilson joined other leading Americans in a statement that rebuked Ford and others for their antisemitic campaign. A boycott against Ford products by Jews and liberal Christians also had an impact, and Ford shut down the paper in 1927, recanting his views in a public letter to Sigmund Livingston, ADL.

Ford's 1927 apology was well received. "Four-Fifths of the hundreds of letters addressed to Ford in July 1927 were from Jews, and almost without exception they praised the Industrialist." In January 1937, a Ford statement to the Detroit Jewish Chronicle disavowed "any connection whatsoever with the publication in Germany of a book known as the International Jew."

In July 1938, prior to the outbreak of war, the German consul at Cleveland gave Ford, on his 75th birthday, the award of the Grand Cross of the German Eagle, the highest medal Nazi Germany could bestow on a foreigner. James D. Mooney, vice-president of overseas operations for General Motors, received a similar medal, the Merit Cross of the German Eagle, First Class.

Distribution of International Jew was halted in 1942 through legal action by Ford, despite complications from a lack of copyright. It is still banned in Germany. Extremist groups often recycle the material; it still appears on antisemitic and neo-Nazi websites.

One Jewish public figure who was said to have been friendly with Ford was Detroit Judge Harry Keidan. When asked about this connection, Ford replied that Keidan was only half-Jewish. A close collaborator of Ford during World War II reported that Ford, at the time over 80 years old, was shown a movie of the Nazi concentration camps and was ill stricken by the atrocities.

The damage, however, had been done. Testifying at Nuremberg, convicted Hitler Youth leader Baldur von Schirach who, in his role as military governor of Vienna deported 65,000 Jews to camps in Poland, stated,

The decisive anti-Semitic book I was reading and the book that influenced my comrades was [...] that book by Henry Ford, "The International Jew." I read it and became anti-Semitic. The book made a great influence on myself and my friends because we saw in Henry Ford the representative of success and also the representative of a progressive social policy.

International business

Ford's philosophy was one of economic independence for the United States. His River Rouge Plant became the world's largest industrial complex, pursuing vertical integration to such an extent that it could produce its own steel. Ford's goal was to produce a vehicle from scratch without reliance on foreign trade. He believed in the global expansion of his company. He believed that international trade and cooperation led to international peace, and he used the assembly line process and production of the Model T to demonstrate it.

He opened Ford assembly plants in Britain and Canada in 1911, and soon became the biggest automotive producer in those countries. In 1912, Ford cooperated with Giovanni Agnelli of Fiat to launch the first Italian automotive assembly plants. The first plants in Germany were built in the 1920s with the encouragement of Herbert Hoover and the Commerce Department, which agreed with Ford's theory that international trade was essential to world peace. In the 1920s, Ford also opened plants in Australia, India, and France, and by 1929, he had successful dealerships on six continents. Ford experimented with a commercial rubber plantation in the Amazon jungle called Fordlândia; it was one of his few failures. In 1929, Ford accepted Joseph Stalin's invitation to build a model plant (NNAZ, today GAZ) at Gorky, a city now known under its historical name Nizhny Novgorod. He sent American engineers and technicians to the Soviet Union to help set it up, including future labor leader Walter Reuther.

The Ford Motor Company had the policy of doing business in any nation where the United States had diplomatic relations. It set up numerous subsidiaries that sold cars and trucks and sometimes assembled them:

  • Ford of Australia
  • Ford of Britain
  • Ford of Argentina
  • Ford of Brazil
  • Ford of Canada
  • Ford of Europe
  • Ford India
  • Ford South Africa
  • Ford Mexico
  • Ford Philippines

By 1932, Ford was manufacturing one third of all the world’s automobiles. Ford's image transfixed Europeans, especially the Germans, arousing the "fear of some, the infatuation of others, and the fascination among all". Germans who discussed "Fordism" often believed that it represented something quintessentially American. They saw the size, tempo, standardization, and philosophy of production demonstrated at the Ford Works as a national service—an "American thing" that represented the culture of United States. Both supporters and critics insisted that Fordism epitomized American capitalist development, and that the auto industry was the key to understanding economic and social relations in the United States. As one German explained, "Automobiles have so completely changed the American's mode of life that today one can hardly imagine being without a car. It is difficult to remember what life was like before Mr. Ford began preaching his doctrine of salvation". For many Germans, Ford embodied the essence of successful Americanism.

In My Life and Work, Ford predicted that if greed, racism, and short-sightedness could be overcome, then economic and technological development throughout the world would progress to the point that international trade would no longer be based on (what today would be called) colonial or neocolonial models and would truly benefit all peoples. His ideas in this passage were vague, but they were idealistic.

Racing

Ford maintained an interest in auto racing from 1901 to 1913 and began his involvement in the sport as both a builder and a driver, later turning the wheel over to hired drivers. He Ford (standing) launched Barney Oldfield's career in 1902. The 999 racer pictured.entered stripped-down Model Ts in races, finishing first (although later disqualified) in an "ocean-to-ocean" (across the United States) race in 1909, and setting a one-mile (1.6 km) oval speed record at Detroit Fairgrounds in 1911 with driver Frank Kulick. In 1913, Ford attempted to enter a reworked Model T in the Indianapolis 500 but was told rules required the addition of another 1,000 pounds (450 kg) to the car before it could qualify. Ford dropped out of the race and soon thereafter dropped out of racing permanently, citing dissatisfaction with the sport's rules, demands on his time by the booming production of the Model Ts, and his low opinion of racing as a worthwhile activity.

Berna Eli "Barney" Oldfield (June 3, 1878 – October 4, 1946) was an American automobile racer and pioneer. He was the first man to drive a car at 60 miles per hour (96 km/h) on an oval.[1] His accomplishments led to the expression "Who do you think you are? Barney Oldfield?". Oldfield was lent a gasoline-powered bicycle to race at Salt Lake City, which led to a meeting with Henry Ford. Ford had readied two automobiles for racing, and he asked Oldfield if he would like to test one at Ford's Grosse Pointe track. Oldfield agreed and traveled to Michigan for the trial, but neither car would start. In spite of the fact that Oldfield had still never driven an automobile, he and fellow racing cyclist Tom Cooper purchased both test vehicles when Ford offered to sell them for $800. One of those first vehicles was the famous "No. 999" which debuted in October, 1902 at the Manufacturer's Challenge Cup. The car can be found today at the Henry Ford Museum in Greenfield Village.

In My Life and Work Ford speaks (briefly) of racing in a rather dismissive tone, as something that is not at all a good measure of automobiles in general. He describes himself as someone who raced only because in the 1890s through 1910s, one had to race because prevailing ignorance held that racing was the way to prove the worth of an automobile. Ford did not agree. But he was determined that as long as this was the definition of success (flawed though the definition was), then his cars would be the best that there were at racing. Throughout the book, he continually returns to ideals such as transportation, production efficiency, affordability, reliability, fuel efficiency, economic prosperity, and the automation of drudgery in farming and industry, but rarely mentions, and rather belittles, the idea of merely going fast from point A to point B.

Nevertheless, Ford did make quite an impact on auto racing during his racing years, and he was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 1996.

Later career

When Edsel, president of Ford Motor Company, died of cancer in May 1943, the elderly and ailing Henry Ford decided to assume the presidency. By this point in his life, he had had several cardiovascular events (variously cited as heart attack or stroke) and was mentally inconsistent, suspicious, and generally no longer fit for such a job.

Most of the directors did not want to see him as president. But for the previous 20 years, though he had long been without any official executive title, he had always had de facto control over the company; the board and the management had never seriously defied him, and this moment was not different. The directors elected him, and he served until the end of the war. During this period the company began to decline, losing more than $10 million a month ($134,310,000 a month today). The administration of President Franklin Roosevelt had been considering a government takeover of the company in order to ensure continued war production, but the idea never progressed.

Death

In ill health, Ford ceded the presidency to his grandson Henry Ford II in September 1945 and went into retirement. He died in 1947 of a cerebral hemorrhage at age 83 in Fair Lane, his Dearborn estate. A public viewing was held at Greenfield Village where up to 5,000 people per hour filed past the casket. Funeral services were held in Detroit's Cathedral Church of St. Paul and he was buried in the Ford Cemetery in Detroit.

Interesting Facts

Interest in materials science and engineering

Henry Ford long had an interest in materials science and engineering. He enthusiastically described his company's adoption of vanadium steel alloys and subsequent metallurgic R&D work.

Ford long had an interest in plastics developed from agricultural products, especially soybeans. He cultivated a relationship with George Washington Carver for this purpose. Soybean-based plastics were used in Ford automobiles throughout the 1930s in plastic parts such as car horns, in paint, etc. This project culminated in 1942, when Ford patented an automobile made almost entirely of plastic, attached to a tubular welded frame. It weighed 30% less than a steel car and was said to be able to withstand blows ten times greater than could steel. Furthermore, it ran on grain alcohol (ethanol) instead of gasoline. The design never caught on.

Ford was interested in engineered woods ("Better wood can be made than is grown") (at this time plywood and particle board were little more than experimental ideas); corn as a fuel source, via both corn oil and ethanol; and the potential uses of cotton. Ford was instrumental in developing charcoal briquets, under the brand name "Kingsford". His brother in law, E.G. Kingsford, used wood scraps from the Ford factory to make the briquets.

Ford was a prolific inventor and was awarded 161 U.S. patents.

Georgia residence and community

Ford maintained a vacation residence (known as the "Ford Plantation") in Richmond Hill, Georgia. He contributed substantially to the community, building a chapel and schoolhouse and employing numerous local residents.

Preserving Americana

Ford had an interest in "Americana". In the 1920s, Ford began work to turn Sudbury, Massachusetts, into a themed historical village. He moved the schoolhouse supposedly referred to in the nursery rhyme, "Mary had a little lamb", from Sterling, Massachusetts, and purchased the historic Wayside Inn. This plan never saw fruition. Ford repeated the concept of collecting historic structures with the creation of Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan. It may have inspired the creation of Old Sturbridge Village as well. About the same time, he began collecting materials for his museum, which had a theme of practical technology. It was opened in 1929 as the Edison Institute. Although greatly modernized, the museum continues today.

On the idea that he invented the automobile

Henry Ford did not invent the automobile, as is occasionally believed. Indeed, he began as a race driver of other people's cars. As Ford himself noted, by the 1870s, the notion of a "horseless carriage was a common idea". Many people worked toward the idea, as the history of steam road vehicles and of automobiles shows. Ford was, however, more influential than any other single person in changing the paradigm of the automobile from a very expensive, heavy, hand-built toy for rich people into a lightweight, reliable, affordable, mass-produced mode of transportation for working-class people.

On the idea that he invented the assembly line

Both Ford and Ransom E. Olds are sometimes credited with the invention of the assembly line, although (as is the case with many inventions) the assembly line's development included many inventors. It combined the idea of interchangeable parts (another gradual technological development that is often mistakenly attributed to one individual or another). After 5 years of empirical development, Ford's first moving assembly line (employing conveyor belts) began mass production on or around April 1, 1913. The concept was first applied to subassemblies, and shortly after to the entire chassis. Although it is inaccurate to say that Ford personally invented the assembly line, his sponsorship of its development and use was central to its explosive success in the 20th century.

Miscellaneous

Ford was the winner of the award of Car Entrepreneur of the Century in 1999.

Ford published a book, circulated to youth in 1914, called "The Case Against the Little White Slaver" which documented many dangers of cigarette smoking attested to by many researchers and luminaries.

Ford dressed up as Santa Claus and gave sleigh rides to children at Christmas time on his estate.

A compendium of short biographies of famous Freemasons, published by a Freemason lodge, lists Ford as a member.

Ford was especially fond of Thomas Edison, and on Edison's deathbed, he demanded Edison's son catch his final breath in a test tube. The test tube can still be found today in Henry Ford Museum.

In 1923, Ford's pastor, and head of his sociology department, Episcopal minister Samuel S. Marquis, claimed that Ford believed, or "once believed" in reincarnation. Though it is unclear whether or how long Ford kept such a belief, the San Francisco Examiner from August 26, 1928, published a quote which described Ford's beliefs:

I adopted the theory of Reincarnation when I was twenty six. Religion offered nothing to the point. Even work could not give me complete satisfaction. Work is futile if we cannot utilise the experience we collect in one life in the next. When I discovered Reincarnation it was as if I had found a universal plan I realised that there was a chance to work out my ideas. Time was no longer limited. I was no longer a slave to the hands of the clock. Genius is experience. Some seem to think that it is a gift or talent, but it is the fruit of long experience in many lives. Some are older souls than others, and so they know more. The discovery of Reincarnation put my mind at ease. If you preserve a record of this conversation, write it so that it puts men’s minds at ease. I would like to communicate to others the calmness that the long view of life gives to us.