Henry Ford was one of the first American industrialists. He is best known for his revolutionary achievements in the automobile industry. His love for automobiles started at the age of sixteen. But before that, he was just another small-town farmer.
The Ford farm was located near Dearborn, Michigan. It was here Henry Ford was born, on July 20,1863. He went to local district schools like the rest of the children from his town.
In 1880 Henry became a machinist’s apprentice in Detroit, where he learned the basics. Then only two years later Ford became a certified machinist, but returned to the family farm. 1888 to 1899 he was a mechanical engineer, and later chief engineer, with the Edison Illuminating Company. Ford married in 1891 and he and his bride, Clara Bryant, left the farm in Michigan and moved to Detroit.
His life prospered in Detroit and with the birth of his daughter Edsel, in 1893, many people believed he should get a job that was more stable than trying to build cars. Most believed they were simple toys and would never replace the horse-drawn carriage.
Then on the morning of June 4, 1896 Henry finished his first ever car, which became known as the Quadricycle. He took it for a drive around his block as many people stared. It was only big enough for him, even though his wife was excited about taking a ride in the horseless carriage. Soon she would get the experience, when he made the seat bigger and took to car out to his parents home.
Finally having his work taken seriously, Henry formed the Ford Motor Company in 1903. Before his first year was up of owning the company the first Model A appeared on the market in Detroit. This would lead to many publicity events and even a law suit with the ALAM over the Selden Patent, which he eventually won. Then in 1908 he brought out the extremely popular the Model T.
By 1912 Ford had many new ideas on ways In 1913 Ford began using the same parts and assembly-line techniques in his plant. Even though Ford did not come up with the idea or was the first to us assembly-line ideas, he was mainly responsible for their general adoption and for the following great development of American industry and the raising of the American standard of living. Around early 1914 this improvement, even though it greatly increased production, had resulted in a monthly labor earnings of 40 to 60 percent in his factory, mostly because of the unpleasant dullness of assembly-line work and repeated increases in the production quotas assigned to workers. Ford met this trouble by increasing his workers pay from what the normal manual laborer was making, $2.50, to $5. This increased stability in his labor force and a large decrease in operating costs. These factors, along with the huge increase in output made possible by new hi-tech methods, led to a doubling in company profits in two years. They went from $30 million in 1914 to $60 million in 1916.
In 1927 the Model T was discontinued for a newer up-to-date version of the Model A. The company ended up selling almost 15 million cars. But in the next few years Ford’s leadership of the American car industry (as the largest producer and seller) dropped with his trouble of introducing a new car every year which had now become normal in the car business. During the 1930s Ford adopted the policy of the yearly changeover, but his company was unable to regain the position it had held before.
From 1937 to 1941, the Ford company was the only major manufacturer of automobiles in the Detroit area that did not have any labor union as the collective bargaining spokesperson of employees. There were hearings in front of the National Labor Relations Board Ford in which Ford was found guilty of repeated violations of the National Labor Relations Act. The findings against him were upheld on appeal to the federal courts. Ford was forced to make a standard labor contract after a successful strike by the workers at his main plant at River Rouge, Michigan, in April 1941.
In early 1941 the government granted Ford contracts which stated he was, at first, to manufacture parts for bombers and at one point an entire airplane. He then started the construction of a large plant at Willow Run, Michigan. His plant was a success, as it manufactured more than 8000 planes by the end of WW1.
Henry Ford had many other accomplishments other than just that of cars. He went on peace ship to try to help stop WW1, was nominated for U.S. senator from Michigan, but he was defeated. In the next year he built the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit which cost nearly 7.5 million. In 1919 he became the publisher of a weekly journal called the Dearborn Independent.
Ford was forced to retire from the active work of his many enterprises in 1945. He died two years later on April 7,1947 of stroke. Most of Ford’s fortune, estimated to have been between $500 to $700 million, went to the Ford Motor Company and started the nonprofit organization called the Ford Foundation.
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