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Henry Ford

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Early years

Ford was born on July 30, 1863 in a farm next to a rural town west of Detroit, (the area is now part of Dearborn, Michigan). His parents were from distant English descent but had lived in County Cork, Ireland. His siblings include: Margaret Ford (1867-1868); Jane Ford (c1868-1945);

William Ford (1871-1917) and Robert Ford (1873-1934).

Henry took this passion about mechanics into his home. His father had given him a pocket watch in his early teens. At fifteen, he had a reputation as a watch repairman, having dismantled and reassembled timepieces of friends and neighbors dozens of times.[1]

His mother died in 1876. It was a blow that devastated young Henry. His father expected Henry to eventually take over the family farm, but Henry despised farm work.[citation needed] And with his mother dead, Henry Ford, 1888 little remained to keep him on the farm. He later said, "I never had any particular love for the farm. It was the mother on the farm I loved."[2]

In 1879, he left home for the nearby city of Detroit to work as an apprentice machinist, 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 and became adept at operating the Westinghouse portable steam engine. This led to his being hired by Westinghouse company to service their steam engines.

Upon his marriage to Clara Bryant in 1888, Ford supported himself by farming and running a saw mill. They had a single child: Edsel Bryant Ford (1893-1943).

In 1891, Ford became an engineer with the Edison Illuminating Company, and 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 his own self-propelled vehicle named the Quadricycle, which he test-drove on June 4 of that year. After various test-drives, Henry Ford brainstormed ways to improve the Quadricycle.[1]

In 1894, Ford also became a Freemason, joining Palestine Lodge #357 in Detroit.[2]

Detroit Automobile Company and The Henry Ford Company

After this initial success, Ford came to Edison Illuminating in 1899 with other investors, and they formed the Detroit Automobile Company. The Company soon went bankrupt because Ford continued to improve the design, instead of selling cars. He raced his car against those of other manufacturers to show the superiority of his designs. With his interest in race cars, he formed the Henry Ford Company.

During this period, he personally drove one of his cars to victory in a race against Alexander Winton on October 10, 1901. In 1902, Ford continued to work on his race car to the dismay of the investors. They wanted a high-end production model and brought in Henry M. Leland to do it. Ford resigned over this usurpation of his authority. He said later that "I resigned, determined never again to put myself under orders."[3] The company was reorganized as the Cadillac Automobile Company.

Ford Motor Company

Ford, with 11 other investors and $28,000 in capital, incorporated the Ford Motor Company in 1903. In a newly-designed car, Ford drove an exhibition in which the car covered the distance of a mile on the ice of Lake St. Clair in 39.4 seconds, which was a new land speed record. Convinced by this success, the famous 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 and thereby made the Ford brand known throughout the United States. Ford was also one of the early backers of the Indianapolis 500.

Ford astonished the world in 1914 by offering a $5 a day wage that more than doubled the rate of most of his workers. The move proved extremely profitable. Instead of constant turnover of employees, the best mechanics in Detroit flocked to Ford, bringing in their human capital and expertise, raising productivity, and lowering training costs. Ford called it "wage motive." The company's use of vertical integration also proved successful, as Ford built a gigantic factory that shipped in raw materials and shipped out finished automobiles.

The Model T

The Model T was introduced on October 01, 1908. It had many important innovationsÐ'--such as the steering wheel on the left, which every other company soon copied. The entire engine and transmission were enclosed; the 4 cylinders were cast in a solid block; the suspension used two semi-elliptic springs.

The car was very simple to drive, andÐ'--more importantÐ'--easy and cheap to repair. It was so cheap at $825 in 1908 (the price fell every year) that by the 1920s a majority of American drivers learned to drive on the Model T, leaving fond memories for millions. 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 explore the countryside. Ford was always eager to sell to farmers, who looked on the vehicle as a commercial device to help their business. Sales skyrocketedÐ'-- 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. Sales passed 250,000 in 1914. Although Henry 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.H. Wills. (See Piquette Plant) By 1916, as the price dropped to $360 for the basic touring car, sales reached 472,000.[4]

By 1918, half of all cars in America were Model T's. As Ford wrote in his autobiography, "Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black".[5] Until the development of the assembly line which mandated black because of its quicker drying time, Model Ts were available in other colors including red. The design was fervently promoted and defended by Henry Ford, and production continued as late as 1927; the final total production was 15,007,034. This was a record which stood for the next 45 years.

In 1918



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