Henry Ford and Mass Production
Henry Ford was born in 1863 on a farm in Dearborn, Michigan. At the age of 16, he left for Detroit to learn to be a machinist. He married Clara Bryant, a neighbor. For the first few years he ran a sawmill. In 1891, he went back to Detroit and took a job with the Edison Illuminating Company. Soon he became a chief engineer.
During his free time, he worked on his plan to develop a horseless carriage powered by gasoline. He sold this vehicle called a 'quadricycle', a frame with four bicycle wheels and a gasoline-powered engine. He kept working on other types of horseless vehicles. In 1903, he started Ford Motor Company.
A month later, the first Ford car was built in Detroit. It was called a Model A Ford. Only a few cars could be made each day by three to four workers. They had to order parts from other places. Henry wanted very much to be able to make cars more quickly so that the cost would be less for the buyer. In October, 1908, a Model T car was finished. It was called a 'Tin Lizzie.' A horse is often called a 'Lizzie.'
In the production, Henry Ford made use of interchangeable parts, and an assembly line to turn out cars more quickly. Eli Whitney had introduced the concept of mass production of muskets years before. In the use of an assembly line, a worker added one part to the car as it moved along. Workers didn't need to have any skills. Ford's improvements on the concept of mass production allowed cars to be made more cheaply. He chose to pay his workers $5.00 per hour for 8 hours work, much higher than the normal $2.34 for nine hours. This raised the level of wages for the industry.
By 1918, almost one-half of all cars purchased in the United States were Model T Fords. He made his son Edsel President of Ford Motor Company. By 1925 the Ford Motor Company was making one car in two hours and thirty seconds. The cost of a Model T was $290. Since the auto industry needed parts, new factories were built to make the parts. More workers were needed. Millions of dollars were spent on highway construction. These projects required workers. The idea of mass production carried over to other industries. All of these improvements made life easier for Americans, and they began to have more leisure time.
In 1927, Henry built a new mammoth complex for automobile production in Dearborn, Michigan. He stopped making Model T's and produced a Model A with better brakes and more horsepower. The company had made 15 million Model T's. Ford was the largest automobile manufacturer in the world with plants in many countries.
In 1932, Ford introduced the first V-8 engine. General Motors made a car called a Chevrolet, and Chrysler made a Plymouth. These both were beginning to outsell the Model A, and, by 1936, Ford fell to third place in car manufacturing. Even though Henry Ford was very forward-thinking in his approach to wages, he didn't want his employees to join the UAW, United Auto Workers union. The National Labor Relations Board ordered Ford to stop fighting the union, so, in 1941, Ford signed a contract with the UAW. He had even thought about shutting down his factory instead of signing because he was so against the idea of a union. A union is a group of employees who join together to ask management for better wages or working conditions.
Edsel Ford, Henry's son, died in 1943, and Henry took over the company for two years. In 1945, he made his grandson, Henry Ford III, President. Henry Ford died in Dearborn in 1947.
To link to this Henry Ford and Mass Production page, copy the following code to your site: