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Henry Ford (1863-1947)

I will build a car for the great multitude

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Henry Ford

Henry Ford

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Automobile manufacturer Henry Ford was born July 30, 1863, on his family's farm in Dearborn, Michigan. From the time he was a young boy, Ford enjoyed tinkering with machines. Farm work and a job in a Detroit machine shop afforded him ample opportunities to experiment. He later worked as a part-time employee for the Westinghouse Engine Company. By 1896, Ford had constructed his first horseless carriage which he sold in order to finance work on an improved model.

Ford incorporated the Ford Motor Company in 1903, proclaiming, "I will build a car for the great multitude." In October 1908, he did so, offering the Model T for $950. In the Model T's nineteen years of production, its price dipped as low as $280. Nearly 15,500,000 were sold in the United States alone. The Model T heralds the beginning of the Motor Age; the car evolved from luxury item for the well-to-do to essential transportation for the ordinary man.

Ford revolutionized manufacturing. By 1914, his Highland Park, Michigan plant, using innovative production techniques, could turn out a complete chassis every 93 minutes. This was a stunning improvement over the earlier production time of 728 minutes. Using a constantly-moving assembly line, subdivision of labor, and careful coordination of operations, Ford realized huge gains in productivity.

In 1914, Ford began paying his employees five dollars a day, nearly doubling the wages offered by other manufacturers. He cut the workday from nine to eight hours in order to convert the factory to a three-shift workday. Ford's mass-production techniques would eventually allow for the manufacture of a Model T every 24 seconds. His innovations made him an international celebrity.

Ford's affordable Model T irrevocably altered American society. As more Americans owned cars, urbanization patterns changed. The United States saw the growth of suburbia, the creation of a national highway system, and a population entranced with the possibility of going anywhere anytime. Ford witnessed many of these changes during his lifetime, all the while personally longing for the agrarian lifestyle of his youth. In the years prior to his death on April 7, 1947, Ford sponsored the restoration of an idyllic rural town called Greenfield Village.

Henry Ford Trivia

On January 12, 1900, the Detroit Automobile Company released its first commercial automobile - a delivery wagon - designed by Henry Ford. This was Ford's second car design - his first design was the quadricycle built in 1896.

On May 27, 1927, production ended for the Ford Model T - 15,007,033 units had been manufactured.

On January 13, 1942, Henry Ford patented a plastic-bodied automobile - a car 30 percent lighter than metal cars.

In 1932, Henry Ford introduced his last engineering triumph: his "en block", or one piece, V-8 engine.

The T in Model T

Henry Ford and his engineers used the first 19 letters of the alphabet to name their automobiles, although some of the cars were never sold to public.
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