“I will build a car for the great multitude.”- Henry Ford
“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently “- Henry Ford
Henry Ford, the Michigan farmer who became one of the pioneering figures of the industrial age was an American industrialist, inventor, automobile manufacturer, engineer, business magnate and founder of the Ford motor company. Many people believe that it was Ford who invented the automobile, but that isn’t so, he did not even invent the assembly line. But his ideas and innovations revolutionized the automobile industry from the 20th century onwards. He had a vision, to change the way automobiles run, to systematically lower costs, he developed and manufactured the first automobile, basically so that middle class American families could afford it. Known to be one of the richest people on earth, his ideas and vision, his commitment and leadership made the Ford motor company possible, which still remains one of the largest motor companies in the world almost 100 years later. An icon of a self-made man, his vision resulted in many technical and business innovations. One of the greatest inventors in the world of motoring was without a doubt, Henry Ford. Here is everything you need to know about his life.
10. Birth and early childhood
Henry ford was born on July 30, 1863 in Dearborn, Michigan, USA to William ford and Mary Litogot ford, the eldest of the six children. Henry’s mother died during childbirth, he was only 12 years old at the time and his mother’s death had a devastating effect on him. His formal education was not much but he was very handy with machines. He had a difficult relationship with his father, who naturally expected him to take over the family farm, but Henry, ever since he was a young boy, loved to fiddle with and open things up. He wrote one time, “I never had any particular love for the farm—it was the mother on the farm I loved.” And for the rest of his life he tried to follow his mother’s teachings.
9. Young Henry
Henry’s earliest exposure to machines and mechanization came from his father’s farm, where he watched and experienced the earliest and most primitive machines, the saw mills, engines, turbines etc. He started working at an early age; most of his spare time was spent working in his small shop, where he built his first steam engine. When Henry was 15 years old his father gifted him a pocket watch, which he took apart and reassembled. This impressed a lot of his neighbors and friends who brought in timepieces and broken watches for him to fix. He taught himself to fix watches and used the watches as a guide to understand the basics of machinery. From a young age; he displayed the characteristics of a leader, often organizing young boys his age to build rudimentary water wheels and steam engines.
8. Ford, the Innovator
When he was 17 years old, Henry left his home and the family farm to go to Detroit and become an apprentice at the Michigan car company. He later moved on to work as an apprentice at James flower and brothers in Detroit where he worked with another apprentice as a plumber. The man was David Buick, the famous founder of the Buick motor company. After three years, he returned to Dearborn to work on the family farm, where he became adept at servicing portable steam engines, he also studied bookkeeping at the Goldsmith; Bryant & Stratton Business College in Detroit. Since, wages were low, he survived by fixing watches and machines.
7. Marriage and Children
It was during this time, when Henry was staying at his father’s farm that he met his future wife, Clara Bryant, who like Henry, was a foster child. They had one child, Edsel Bryant Ford, who unfortunately died before his father in 1943. Although Ford hated farming, he returned to the family farm after marrying Clara, to support his family. During this time, he alternated his time by working at a Detroit factory and repairing and operating steam engines as well as fixing his father’s farm implements. Ford was a family man who enjoyed dancing with his wife in his free time. He and Clara finally moved back to Detroit in 1891.
6. Birth of the Ford Motor Company
One of the reasons why Henry and his wife moved back to Detroit was because Henry wanted to learn more about electricity. He became an engineer at the Edison illuminating company, where he was quickly promoted to chief engineer two years later. During his irregular hours, he worked to build a gasoline powered horseless carriage, ignited by electricity, or what he called an Automobile. At the age of 32, on June 4, 1896, Henry ford completed his project, the Ford QUADRICYLCE, the first successful horseless carriage. During the same year, he presented his automobile plans to Thomas Edison during a meeting. Edison encouraged him to build a second better model and also encouraged bakers to fund the Detroit motor company. The friendship that lasted for 30 years between Henry ford and Thomas Edison is almost legendary. Ford, encouraged and full of ideas, began looking for investors to establish a company that would manufacture automobiles, but both the companies he founded faltered due to a number of reasons. The investors, who were enthusiastic about putting a car on the market for the masses, kept trying and finally, the ford motor company succeeded. Within a few months of its existence, the ford motor company sold its first car, a model A to a dentist. Ford remained with the company for a few months and left it to devote more time to build and work on his automobile plans.
5. The Model T
The Ford model T heralded a new era in the American society, it led to the construction of highways, the growth of suburbia and the idea that anyone could travel anywhere, anytime. One surprising fact was that ford was fired from the ford motor company for moonlighting, but he went on to found the Cadillac automobile company, where he made the famed model T. So the first Cadillac was basically a Ford. Henry designed the model T specifically to appeal to the masses, it was quick light, fast and strong. Initially it took over 14 hours to assemble a Model T, but Ford managed to narrow it down to 1 hr. 33 minutes with the help of improved methods of mass production. All the Model T’s were painted black because that was the only color that dried the fastest. Ford wrote in his autobiography, “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black”. Seeing the growth and popularity of the model T, Henry installed a motorized assembly line in his plants which revolutionized manufacturing. Ford lowered the prices off the Model T, producing and manufacturing from 1908 to 1927, selling almost 15 billion cars in the US alone.
4. Philosophy and Philanthropy
Henry ford was very well known to be a philanthropist. During his working years, ford was known to give away more than 80% of his income. Even after becoming one of the richest men in America, he continued to advocate for the masses. He paid his employers five dollars a day, which was double the amount of what the other manufacturers paid. He cut the working hours from nine to eight hours to convert the factory to a three shift workday. This helped improved the quality and his workers were able to produce cars 24 hours a day. He also hired women, handicapped people and blacks, although this was quite uncommon at that time. Ford witnessed a number of mechanized changes during his lifetime, all the while still longing for the agrarian lifestyle of his youth. A few years before his death, he sponsored the restoration of a rural town called Greenfield village. He had his own foundation, whose mission is to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and Advance Human achievement.
3. Controversial Views
Although ford envisioned, revolutionized manufacturing and changed the way we live, his views were less than popular. He was anti- Semitic. His empathy towards the cause of German nationalism during World War II left him with the reputation of being an anti-Semitic. He wrote on May 22, 1920: “If fans wish to know the trouble with American baseball they have it in three words—too much Jew.” Ford was a strong supporter and admirer of the German Nazi party, and Adolf Hitler is said to have kept his portrait on his desk. Hitler’s own writings were influenced by ford’s anti- Semitic views and he is the only America to have been mentioned in the Mein Kampf. Ford’s own newspaper, the Dearborn independent published a number of anti-Semitic articles.
2. Interesting facts
Henry ford was not only an industrialist and machinist but also an extraordinary man. He created plastic bags from soy beans and developed charcoals under his name, he was also a scientist, he acquired 161 unique patents under his name. He used to dress up as Santa Claus and gave sleigh rides to children at Christmas, he also ran for the US senate and he almost won. Ford was also a very enthusiastic race car driver during his early years. He also saved Edison’s last breath in a test tube, which is available for viewing at the Henry ford museum. When he started building cars, he was being sued for copyright infringement, he must’ve been really passionate about cars and the rest we know is history.
1. Death and Legacy
Ford spent his last years working from Greenfield village, a small town he created, as a homage and tribute to his childhood home. Ford suffered a series of strokes in the late 1930s and although his memory was fading, he took control of the company. On April 7, 1947, Henry ford at the age of 83 died of cerebral hemorrhage. Over 100,000 people came to pay their respects and all traffic stopped in Detroit for a minute, as a sign of respect to ford. He was buried in ford cemetery in Detroit, Thus bringing an end to the life of one of America’s greatest inventors, but his legacy, continued and continues to live on.