Samuelson's inscription (spelling correction):
"Henry Ford ranks right up there with God. The invention of the mass produced auto was one of the most significant advances of the time (1920's). Ford had the common touch as his factories produced cars for the everyday man. But few appreciated what Ford had accomplished until after his death."
|Ford, Henry||1863 -- 1947|
When he was 28 Ford took a job with Thomas Edison's Detroit Illuminating Company, where he became chief engineer. In his spare time he began to build his first car, the Quadricycle. It resembled two bicycles positioned side by side with spindly bicycle-like wheels, a bicycle seat, and a barely visible engine frame. Some said it bore a resemblance to a baby carriage with a two-cylinder engine. In June 1896, Ford took an historic ride in his first automobile that was observed by many curious Detroit on-lookers. The Quadricycle broke down in a humiliating scene.
By 1899 Ford created a more proper-looking motorcar with the help of wealthy businessman William Murphy. It had high wheels, a padded double bench, brass lamps, mud guards, and a "racy" look. In the same year Ford founded the Detroit Automobile Company. Within 3 years Ford had built an improved, more reliable Quadricycle, using a four-cylinder, 36 horsepower-racing engine. In 1901 his car beat what was then the world's fastest automobile in a race before a crowd of eight thousand people in Grosse Pointe, Michigan.
The publicity he received for this victory allowed Ford to finance a practical laboratory for refining his auto ideas. In 1903 Ford launched his own car company, The Ford Motor Car Company, and by January 1904 he had sold 658 vehicles. By 1908 he built the famous Model T, a car that was affordable to the middle class. The automobile was no longer the toy of the rich. Sales of the Model T increased to 720,000 by 1916.
Ford was able to make a reliable and inexpensive automobile primarily because of his introduction of the innovative moving assembly line into the process of industrial manufacturing. The assembly line is a system for carrying an item that is being manufactured past a series of stationary workers who each assemble a particular portion of the finished product. The assembly line was undoubtedly Ford's greatest contribution to industry. It revolutionized manufacturing and made it possible to make uniform products quickly and affordably.
Ford personally controlled most aspects of his company operations. He shocked the industrial world in 1914 by paying his workers the very high wage of $5 a day. In exchange for this high wage Ford demanded of his employees regular attendance at work, as well as a serious and sober private life. He required all immigrant laborers learn English and become citizens of the United States.
Ford was intrigued by the ideas of Frederick Taylor (1856-1915), author of The Principles of Scientific Management. Scientific management was a philosophy of standardizing the behavior of workers to increase efficiency and production. Ford designed his factories to fit human performance, but then demanded his workers perform according to the factory design. He was one of the first to introduce time clocks into his business operations to monitor the exact minute a worker arrived at his job, took his lunch, and when he left his job. Ford began treating the worker like a living machine, and he attracted heavy criticism for this.
Ford was criticized for more than his totalitarian business practices. It was shocking for most people in the United States to read of Henry Ford's anti-Semitism, which he published weekly for two years in unsigned articles in his own newspaper, The Dearborn Independent. Oddly, many of his best friends were Jewish. An example is Albert Kahn, the great architect who designed Ford's factory in Highland Park, Michigan. Despite his controversial and at times publicly unpleasant views, some people thought enough of Ford to encourage him to run for president in 1922. They quickly retracted their support when they discovered Adolf Hitler had a picture of Ford on his wall and often cited Ford as an inspiration. Ford was the only U.S. citizen mentioned in Hitler's Mein Kampf.
Driven by his childhood sense of duty and obligation, Ford was also an active philanthropist throughout his life. He built a hospital for his employees in Detroit, and in 1936 established the Ford Foundation for the purposes of "advancing human welfare." Since its founding the Ford Foundation has issued more than $8 billion in grants worldwide.
Ford died at his estate, Fairlane, in Dearborn, Michigan in 1947 at the age of 84.