Henry Ford (1863-1947)

Henry Ford

1863 On the 30th of July, in Dearborn, Michigan, USA, Henry Ford was born. He was one of those who boosted the birth of automotive industry and of consumption society. He was that who made for the first time vehicles in large quantities and founded a company which produced cars, vans and trucks for the entire world. Born within the family of a prosperous farmer, an Irish one, Ford gave up to school when he was 16. Good at cars and machines, he joined as apprentice to a car workshop, near Detroit. After three years when he tried a lot of jobs, he came back to his father’s farm. He continued to work different machines and he built a locomotive for the farm and worked part-time to Westinghouse Engine Company.

1891 He moved again to Detroit together with his young wife, Clara Bryant, and began to work as an engineer for Edison Light Company. His task was to supervise city’s electricity system so he could attend mechanical drawing, accountancy and business courses to the local university.

1893 He made a gasoline engine.

1896 He built his first car, Quadricycle. The car impressed so much his friend’s father, W.C. Maybury, Detroit’s mayor, that he sponsored the manufacture of a second copy and encouraged his supporters to found an automotive company in Detroit. The company went into bankrupt after less than one year.

1903 The same proponents founded a new company, Henry Ford, for which Ford built many racing cars which were very successful. The company was recalled Cadillac Automobile, continuing to produce cars designed by Ford, but using other engines – so, the first Cadillac was, in fact, a Ford.

By the help of local investors in Detroit, Ford established Ford Motor Company. He was decided to produce in series cheap cars and not toys for the rich ones.

1908 He started the production in series of Ford T. Model, declaring: “I will build a car for the majority”.

1912 Ford revolutionized auto industry paying huge salaries – he introduced a minimum salary of 5 dollar a day and decreased the daily work time to eight hours, but, in the same time, he was fiercely against unions. There were 7000 dealers all over the USA. Then gas stations appeared and the road networks were improved and a lot of neighbourhoods were built in the outskirts of the cities. Ford’s car radically transformed the American life style.

1914 Although he was not the most successful regarding automated production, in his factory in Highland Park, in Michigan, the first mobile assembly line was inaugurated. The first Automatic Conveyor in the world could produce a car every 93 minutes, a much shorter process than the 728 minutes necessary of manual assemble. Then, the development of lot production reduced to only 24 seconds the necessary time to produce a T Model Ford, fact that led to a significant decrease of the cost of each vehicle.

1917 He opened a new factory in River Rouge. At that time, River Rouge was a giant factory which produced everything, from the steel and wood floors of cars to Wheel Loader. The same characteristic inflexibility stopped him to launch a new model until 1927, a delay which would cost very much the company within something that had become a very competitive market.

1918 Using his position like industrialists’ leader, Ford led a peace mission during World War I. After the war he took part in the elections for Senate, but unsuccessfully. Except cars manufacture, Ford also bought a railway, built planes, owned coal mines and built a hospital in Detroit.

1927 The demand decreased but Ford had already sold 15 million automotive. The profit also decreased determining Ford to send to Court the initial shareholders and to oblige them to sell the shares to him in order to have the possibility to lead the company alone. Except being an innovative manufacturer, Ford was also a marketing pioneer. He invented the distribution system through franchising for his automotives’ sale and service.

1941 The trials and a rebellion at the factory in River Rouge finally forced him to admit unions.

1947 On the 7th of April, Henry Ford died in Dearborn, Michigan, USA, leaving a big part of his shares within Ford Motor Company to Ford Foundation. Ford is also known for his famous slogan: “You can chose whatever colours you want, as long as it is about black”.[1]



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