Henry Ford was born near Dearborn, Michigan, on July 30, 1863. His mother died while he was 12 years old. As an early teenager he helped on the family farm in summer and in winter he attended a one-room school. Watches and clocks fascinated Ford. He went around the countryside doing repair work without pay, doing it just to have the chance to fiddle around with machinery. At the age of 16 Ford walked to Detroit and became a mechanic’s apprentice. He worked hard, and made $2.50 cents a week. His board was $3.50, so he worked four hours every night for a watchmaker for two dollars a week. In 1884 he took charge of a farm his father gave to him. From 1888 to 1889 he was a mechanical engineer, and later chief engineer, with the Edison Illuminating Company. Automobiles were his thing, and good things were awaiting Ford.
In 1896, after experimenting for years in his leisure hours, he completed the construction of his first automobile, the Quadri cycle. He built it in a little shed behind his home. It had a two-cylinder engine over the rear axle that developed four horsepowers, a single seat fitted in a boxlike body, an electric bell for a horn, and steering lever instead of a wheel.
In 1899 Ford helped organize the Detroit Automobile Company, which built cars to order. Henry’s goal was to build in quantity at a price within the reach of many. His partners objected, and Ford quit. He kept studying cars then he hit it big time.
In 1903 Henry Ford organized the Ford Motor Company with only $28,00 raised in cash. This money came from 11 other stockbrokers. Fords company was a huge success. In 1908 the Ford company initiated production of the Model T. The Model T was a Hit. One of the Eleven stockbrokers decided in 1919 that he wanted out of the company. He put in $2,500 into the company to start it up, and when he got out he received more than $35,000,000 dollars. Over 15 million cars were sold until it was discontinued in 1927. It was known as the “universal car.”
New and better things were upcoming for Ford. He put out a new more favored up to date model to meet growing competition called the Model A. Early automobile manufacturers merely bought automobile parts and assembled the cars. He acquired iron and coal mines, forests, mills, and factories, to produce and shape his steel alloys, his fuel, wood, glass, and leather. He built railroad and steamship lines and an airplane freight service in order to transport his products.
In 1913 Ford began using standardized interchangeable parts and assembly line techniques in his plant. Mass production was Ford’s main idea, and he replaced men with machines wherever possible. Each task, which he did repeatedly until it became automatic. Conveyors brought the job to the man instead of having the man waste time going to the job. To cut shipping costs, parts were shipped from the main plants in the Detroit area and assembled into cars at branch plants. He is known for creating the idea of the “assembly line.” Less work and quicker production of each car.
Within in the upcoming years, Ford’s dominance over the other automobile manufacturers declined. He was slow to adopt the practice of introducing a new model of an automobile each year, which became standard in the industry. During the 1930’s Ford adopted the idea of the yearly changeover, but his company was unable to regain the position of which it had.
In 1937 to 1941 the Ford company encountered problems because it was the only major manufacturer of automobiles in the Detroit area that had not recognized any labor unions as the collective bargaining agreement necessary for employees. At hearings before the National Labor Relations Board Ford was found guilty of repeated violations of the National Labor Relations Act. Ford was forced to negotiate a standard labor contract after a successful strike by the workers at his main plant at River Rogue, Michigan, In April 1941. This forcing Ford to make changes that he didn’t want to make.