Henry Ford

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). 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 (Collier,
160). In the period of 1937 to 1941, the Ford Company
became the only