April 5-15, 2012

Character Bio: Henry Ford

  Henry Ford  

 Born on July 30, 1863, Henry Ford grew up on a prosperous family farm in Dearborn, Michigan.  He attended a one room schoolhouse and when Ford was not at school, he was doing farm work and other chores around the house. Far more interested in mechanical things, Ford disliked farm life.

In 1879, at age sixteen, Ford went to Detroit and worked as an apprentice machinist for three years. During that time, Ford also continued to help out with the family farm. In 1888, Ford married Clara Bryant and supported both himself and his wife by running a sawmill. Three years later, Ford got a job as an engineer at Edison Illuminating Company. By 1893, he was the chief engineer at the company. With this newly secured position, Ford now had the time and resources to experiment on internal combustion engines. In 1896, Ford created a gasoline engine, self-propelled quadricycle. Following his experiments, Ford established Ford Motor Company in 1903. Five yeasrs later, Ford invented the Model T (follow link to interactive Model T road trip). Ford’s Model T quickly became a hot commodity and was in high demand. In order to have the supply match the growing demand, Ford created the assembly line. The video below highlights the making of Model Ts with the utilization of the assembly line.

Ford utilized this process at his Highland Park Factory (pictured right). Ford’s factory employed more than 2000 workers. Highland Park was also unique because due to the vast number of  immigrants, Ford had a sociology department which taught English classes. Furthermore, the department also “visited”employees’ homes to make sure they lived a proper lifestyle. Henry Ford was interested in “Americanizing” his immigrant employees and honored by the Nazi regime for his deployment of his beliefs.

Some other unique features of Ford’s Highland Plant were a hospital to treat on the-job injuries, a film plant to record the manufacturing process, and a tunnel that ran underneath Manchester Street to the bank across the street. The tunnel facilitated the movement of tens of thousands of dollars in cash every day.

After the success of the Model T, Ford continued developing automobiles into the 20th century, producing the Model A around 1930. The following video is a 1928 promotion of the Model A:


During the time of the Model A, Ford also showed support for Republican Presidential candidate Herbert Hoover. During Hoover’s campaign, Ford made a short radio broadcast to show his support (see clip below):