Henry Ford was a giant in the automobile industry.
He was born in 1863 in Dearborn, Michigan, the son of William and Mary Ford. At age 16 Ford moved to the nearby city of Detroit and found a job as a machinist apprentice. Three years later returned to Dearborn. In 1888 he married Clara Bryant, and ran a sawmill. Later, Ford returned to Detroit with his new wife.
Ford was hired as an engineer for Edison Illuminating Company in Detroit, where Clara gave birth to their first and only child, Edsel Bryant Ford. Since Ford’s job was to keep the electricity on, he was on call for 24 hours a day. During his irregular time off he worked making a horseless, gasoline-powered automobile.
In 1896, Ford invented the Quadricycle, a vehicle with four bicycle wheels and a gasoline engine. He was determined to improve on his new design and continued making more vehicles, getting backing from investors who formed the Detroit Automobile Company.
Ford’s partners were impatient to make the first passenger car and grew frustrated with Ford’s perfectionism. In 1902 Ford left the company. In that some year, Ford started the Ford Motor Company. Where one month later, Ford produce his first car: a two cylinder eight horsepower Model A. In 1908, he the produce the Model T, an efficient and reliable automobile, affordable to everyone.
The Model T, also known as the Tin Lizzie, was a success immediately, and the Ford Company received more orders than they could handle. Ford put into practice mass production which would revolutionize American industry with large production plants, standardized interchangeable parts and a moving assembly line. Eventually turning out one Model T every 24 seconds. Ford also increased the daily wage for nine hours from $2.34 up to $5. Demand for the Tin Lizzie remained high. In 1918, it accounted for half of all American cars.
In 1919, Henry Ford’s son, Edsel, was named President of the company although Ford remained in control of the company. After winning a court battle against some of his Stockholders, Ford bought out all minority shares by 1920.
In 1927 a massive industrial production complex was built on River Rouge in Dearborn, Michigan. It included a glass factory, steel mill, assembly line and other components. The same year Ford stopped making the Model T and introduced a new improved version of the Model A with better horsepower and brakes. However the Model A was a disappointment it was outsold by both Chevrolet and Plymouth and was discontinued in 1931.
In 1936 the company dropped to number three in sales in the automotive industry. Ford had a long battle against unionization of labor despite his progressive policies regarding minimum wage. In 1937 Ford security clashed with the United Automobile Workers in the “Battle of the Overpass.” The National Labor Relation Board ordered Ford to stop interfering with union organization. The Ford Motor Company signed their first contract with the union in 1941, but considered shutting down the company to avoid it.
Over the years, Ford criticized the U.S. for being involved in World War I, and failed in a bid for a U.S. Senate seat in 1918. He then bought the Dearborn Independent local newspaper and published multiple anti-Semitic writings that were collected and published as a four volume set called The International Jew. He later renounced this action and sold the paper.
Edsel Ford died in 1943, and Ford returned as President of Ford Motor Company before giving it to his grandson Henry Ford II in 1945. Ford died in 1947 in Dearborn at the age of 83.