Henry Ford is a household name when it comes to talking about automobiles. His genius profoundly impacted the lives of middle-class Americans. Know The Fact brings you the story of one of the greatest pioneers of 20th century America, Henry Ford.
Henry Ford was born on July 30, 1863, and was an American industrialist and business tycoon. Henry Ford famously founded the Ford Motor Company. He also developed the assembly line technique of mass production. Ford famously invented the first automobile that was affordable for middle-class Americans. This transformed the automobile into an economical means of transportation, rather than a luxurious asset only accessible to the rich.
Early Beginnings and Early Creations
At the age of 18, Ford came into contact with the internal-combustion engine for the first time. He started working part-time for the Westinghouse Engine Company. During his spare time, he built a small tractor, which he called a “farm locomotive.” The locomotive used an old mowing machine for its chassis and a homemade steam engine for power. In 1888, Ford became the chief engineer at the main Detroit Edison Company plant. He did not have regular hours and used to be on call 24 hours a day to maintain electric service in the city. This gave him a lot of spare time so he made his first working gasoline engine in 1893. In 1896, he completed his first horseless carriage, which he called the “Quadricycle.” Unlike many inventors, Ford sold his inventions to finance his next invention, and so on and so forth. He created several racing cars between these years, including the “999” racer famously driven by Barney Oldfield. His racing cars set several new speed records.
A Bumpy Road
After years of hard work, in 1903, Ford was finally ready to unveil an automobile for the market. He marketed it under the name of the Ford Motor Company, which was backed by ordinary citizens. The venture was a success. Unfortunately, the company was threatened by the Association of Licensed Automobile Manufacturers with being put out of business. The reason was that Ford was
not a licenced manufacturer, as he had been denied by the association. The association wanted to reserve all the profits for its own members. The power of the association lay in their claim to the Selden patent, which Ford opined was preposterous. Ford fought a court case against the association but lost in 1909. He emerged victorious, In the eyes of the public, Ford was a hero.
Behold the Model T!
In October 1908, Henry Ford announced the public release of the Model T. He announced that he would build a car for the general public. Over the span of 19 years, about 15,500,000 Model Ts were sold in the United States; more than 1,000,000 were sold in Canada, and 250,000 were sold in Great Britain. The Ford Motor Company was responsible for half of the world’s automobile production. In 1914, Ford increased the daily wage for his workers to $5 for an eight-hour shift. This was compared to the $2.34 for a nine-hour daily wage, the average in the industry. The Model T brought about one of the greatest and most rapid historic changes in the lives of the common people. It ended the isolation of farmers on remote farms. Horses disappeared, and it ushered in the agricultural revolution. The automobile became the symbol of the American economy. It led to urbanisation and to the building of the world’s finest highway system.
In the Dodge brothers’ case,
Ford named their son Edsel the president of Ford Motor Company in 1919. However, he maintained total control over the company’s operations. Ford faced a legal battle against his stockholders, which was led by Horace and John Dodge. After the incident, he bought out all minority stockholders by 1920. In 1927, Ford’s massive industrial complex built along the banks of the River Rouge in Michigan included a glass factory, steel mill, assembly line, and all other necessary components of automotive production.
The Model A and the UAW
In December, he stopped the production of the Model T and introduced the new Model A. The Model A was equipped with better horsepower, brakes, and other improvements. Unfortunately, the Model A was not a spectacular success. It was outsold by General Motors’ Chevrolet and Plymouth made by Chrysler. The Model A was discontinued in 1931. Despite the introduction of the V-8 engine in 1932, Ford Motor Company had fallen to third place in automotive sales by 1936. During the Great Depression, Ford dropped the minimum wage from $7 to $4. Ford was against the unionisation of labour and refused to sign a contract with the United Automobile Workers (UAW) even after his competitors did so. Henry Ford even considered shutting down the Ford Motor Company to avoid the contract. The company finally signed its first contract with the UAW in 1941. Henry Ford passed away in 1947, aged 83. He passed the presidency of the company to his grandson Henry Ford II in 1945, as his son Edsel Ford passed away in 1943.