This paper will go into detail about the young life, career and adult life of Henry Ford. Henry ford’s young life, in this paper will consist of his childhood. The paper will then describe all of his education and early jobs. Finally, this paper will conclude with Henry Ford’s adult life and home life (what he did when he wasn’t working), his career’s work and the impact Henry had on American History. This paper should help the reader better understand the life of Henry Ford: Who he was? Who he is? And why he was so vital to our American History.
Henry Ford, born July 30, 1863, was the first of William and Mary Ford’s six children. He grew up on a prosperous family farm in what is today Dearborn, Michigan. Henry enjoyed a childhood typical of the rural nineteenth century, spending days in a one-room school and doing farm chores. At an early age he showed an interest in mechanical things and a dislike for farm work. He instead preferred to work with mechanical objects, particularly watches. He repaired his first watch when he was thirteen. Fixing watches was something he continues to do as sort of a hobby for the rest of his life.
Being a farm boy and working on a farm for most of his childhood taught Ford that working hard and being responsible was of great value. Henry attended school until the age of fifteen. He had little interest in school and had poor grades as a child. He never learned to spell or read well, so when he wrote he used extremely simple words in his sentences. At the age of sixteen, Henry left home for the nearby city of Detroit to work as an apprentice machinist, although he did sometimes return to do work on the family farm. Ford eventually went back to apprentice and stayed that way for 3 years until he returned to Dearborn.
As an apprentice he received 2. 50 a week. He later worked for Westinghouse, locating and repairing road engines. Henry’s dad was persistent that his son should be a farmer and offered him forty acres of timberland, provided he would give up machinery. Henry accepted his dad’s offer, but didn’t use the acres for farming. He built a first-class machinist’s workshop on the property. His father was disappointed, but Ford did use the two years on the farm to win a bride, Clara Bryant. They had one child: Edsel Ford (1893–1943). Ford began to work for the Edison Illuminating Company in Detroit.
In 1891 he was gone and had left the farm for good. 1n 1893, he became chief engineer at Detroit Edison Company, where he met Thomas Edison who eventually became one of Henry’s closest friends. Ford used all of his money, from the promotion to chief engineer, and spare time in experimenting on an internal combustion engine. This engine was a type of engine where a combination of fuel and air is burned inside of the engine to produce mechanical energy to perform useful work. Ford completed his first car in 1896. It was a small car driven by a two-cylinder, four-cycle motor and by far the lightest made at the time weighing only 500 ponds.
His first car was mounted on bicycle wheels and had no reverse gear. In 1899 Henry Ford was forced with the decision of choosing between his job and automobiles by the Detroit Edison Company. Without hesitation Ford chose cars and in that same year Ford formed the Detroit Automobile Company, which collapsed after he had a disagreement with his financial helpers. After the collapse of the Detroit Automobile Company, Ford tried again in the unsuccessful Henry Ford Automobile Company. Ford only had none successful car venture and that was through his racing cars, about 999 were sold one driven by the famous Barney Oldfield.
After two unsuccessful attempts to establish a company to manufacture automobiles, Henry incorporated the Henry Ford Company in 1903 with himself as Vice President and Chief Engineer. At the start of the company it only produces a few cars a day. Groups of men, about two or three per group, were to work on each car one at a time. Henry Ford then realized the future of transportation was his dream and destiny. He later introduced the Model T, a reliable, easy to maintain vehicle that could handle off roads and immediately became a huge success.
By 1918 half of the cars in America were Model T’s. The amount of cars being sold was so high that he had to build another factory in Michigan in 1910, to supply enough Model T’s to the customers. In Michigan is where Henry Ford combines precision manufacturing, standardized and interchangeable parts, a division of labor and, in 1913 a continuous moving assembly line. The assembly line was an essential part in revolutionizing American history. The assembly line was a way of manufacturing multiple cars all at once without having groups of men working on one car all at once.
Workers remained in place, adding one component to each automobile as it moved past them on the line. Delivery of parts by conveyer belt to the workers was carefully timed to keep the assembly line moving smoothly and efficiently. The assembly line significantly reduced assembly time per vehicle, thus lowering costs. Ford’s production of Model T’s made his company the largest automobile manufacturer in the world. The company began construction of the world’s largest industrial complex along the banks of the Rouge River in Dearborn, Michigan, during the late 1910s and early 1920s.
This massive plant included all the elements necessary to produce automobiles: a steel mill, glass factory, and the famous automobile assembly line. By 1926, flagging sales of the Model T finally convinced Henry to make a new model. He pursued the project with a great deal of technical expertise in design of the engine, chassis, and other mechanical necessities, while leaving the body design to his son. Edsel also managed to prevail over his father’s initial objections in the inclusion of a sliding-shift transmission.
The result was the successful Ford Model A, introduced in December 1927 and produced through 1931, with a total output of more than 4 million. Subsequently, the Ford Company adopted an annual model change system similar to that recently pioneered by its competitor General Motors (and still in use by automakers today). Ford, like other automobile companies, entered the aviation business during World War I, building Liberty engines. After the war, it returned to auto manufacturing until 1925, when Ford acquired the Stout Metal Airplane Company.
Ford’s most successful aircraft was the Ford 4AT Trimotor, often called the “Tin Goose” because of its corrugated metal construction. It used a new alloy called Alclad that combined the corrosion resistance of aluminum with the strength of duralumin. Ford was a pioneer of “welfare capitalism”, designed to improve the lot of his workers and especially to reduce the heavy turnover that had many departments hiring 300 men per year to fill 100 slots. Efficiency meant hiring and keeping the best workers. Ford astonished the world in 1914 by offering a $5 per day wage ($120 today), which more than doubled the rate of most of his workers.
The move proved extremely profitable; instead of constant turnover of employees, the best mechanics in Detroit flocked to Ford, bringing their human capital and expertise, raising productivity, and lowering training costs. Ford had opposed America’s entry into World War II and continued to believe that international business could generate the prosperity that would head off wars. Ford “insisted that war was the product of greedy financiers who sought profit in human destruction”; in 1939 he went so far as to claim that the torpedoing of U.
S. merchant ships by German submarines was the result of conspiratorial activities undertaken by financier war-makers. The financier to whom he was referring was Ford’s code for Jews; he had also accused Jews of fomenting the First World War. Following a series of strokes in the late 1930s he became increasingly debilitated and was more of a figurehead; other people made the decisions in his name.  After Edsel Ford’s premature death, Henry Ford nominally resumed control of the company in 1943, but his mental ability was fading.
In reality the company was controlled by a handful of senior executives led by Charles Sorensen, an important engineer and production executive at Ford, and Harry Bennett, the chief of Ford’s Service Unit, Ford’s paramilitary force that spied, and enforced discipline, on employees. As Ford became increasingly sidelined, he grew jealous of the publicity Sorensen received; Ford forced Sorensen out in 1944. Ford’s philosophy was one of economic independence for the United States. His River Rouge Plant became the world’s largest industrial complex, pursuing vertical integration to such an extent that it could produce its own steel.
Ford’s goal was to produce a vehicle from scratch without reliance on foreign trade. He believed in the global expansion of his company. He believed that international trade and cooperation led to international peace, and he used the assembly line process and production of the Model T to demonstrate it. In ill health, Ford ceded the presidency to his grandson Henry Ford II in September 1945 and went into retirement. He died in 1947 of a cerebral hemorrhage at age 83 in Fair Lane, his Dearborn estate. A public viewing was held at Greenfield Village where up to 5,000 people per hour filed past the casket.
Funeral services were held in Detroit’s Cathedral Church of St. Paul and he was buried in the Ford Cemetery in Detroit. Henry Ford had at least three major impacts on society. First, he introduced the assembly line. By breaking down production into very simple tasks, he lowered the skill level needed to work in a factory (any factory not just automobiles). This allowed huge amounts of products to be created at lower prices. Second, just as importantly, he introduced the living wage concept. Before Ford, most large companies based their pay structure on immediate cost needs.
They paid their employees the bare minimum they could to get workers and control costs. Third, an unpleasant impact was that he reinvigorated anti-Semitism in America. Ford deeply disliked Jews. Before WWII, Hitler actually gave Ford a medal and celebrated Ford’s birthday. Until America entered the war, Ford refused to produce or sell to the British war effort. His bigotry was oddly contradictory in that he was a great patron of Detroit’s black community. Still, Ford was the most high-profile anti-Semite in the country.
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