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Henry Ford Bio

Updated on October 16, 2010

Henry Ford: Born: July 30, 1863 - Death: April 7, 1947

Henry Ford's Achievements:

- Created the Quadricycle in 1896.

- Launched the Ford Motor Company in 1903.

- Developed the Model T Ford automobile in 1908.

- Developed assembly line production of automobiles in 1913. The result of this made vehicles affordable for most families (supply and demand economics) and led to the creation of roads. The wide-ranging impact of this revolutionized the way Americans would live forever.

- Paid employees revolutionary wages at that time and instituted a 40 hour work-week in 1914--another move that revolutionized the way businesses are run and lives are lived today.

Henry Ford's Family Life

Henry Ford was born to father, William Ford (1826-1905) and mother, Mary Litogot (1839-1876) who were immigrants from Ireland that took on the modest farming lifestyle upon immigrating to America. Henry had four siblings that survived infancy named Margaret, Jane, William and Robert.

In 1888, Henry Ford married Clara Bryant, and the two had their only child, Edsel Ford in 1893. Henry Ford was said to be a loyal family man, as he remained married to Clara until his death in 1947. However, Ford’s interests in his business expansion and social issues left him with little time for his family. Ford was not an advocate of drinking or partying. In fact, Ford hired investigators to ensure that his employees also did not take on such a lifestyle.

Henry Ford's Personality

Henry Ford was passionate about expressing his social views, as controversial as many of them may have been. He was generous in respect to his charitable contributions and in his efforts to provide a fair living for his employees. Ford enjoyed having control and power, as he was set in his ways in terms of how he manufactured vehicles, operated the Ford Motor Company, and his hard stance against the institution of unions.

The Model T
The Model T
The Quadricycle: Henry Ford's first automotive invention
The Quadricycle: Henry Ford's first automotive invention

Henry Ford's Career Highlights

Henry did not like school and was not satisfied with farming. Henry enjoyed the challenges of engineering and mechanical work. At the age of sixteen, he moved on from school to pursue his fascination with engineering. As such, after leaving the family farm in 1879, Ford spent the next few years working in a number of machine shops. In 1891, Ford began employment as an engineer at Edison Illuminating Company, eventually being promoted to chief engineer in 1893. Ford’s vast interest in internal combustion engines led to his invention of a twenty five mile-per-hour, self-propelled vehicle called a quadricycle in 1896. By 1899, Ford and Edison Illuminating investors were in search of starting their own business stemming from Ford’s invention of the quadricycle. However, none of Ford’s ventures would be successful until 1903 with the birth of the Ford Motor Company.

Henry Ford’s co-founding of the Ford Motor Company in 1903 changed American lifestyle forever. The development of Ford’s Model T in 1908 made for the most efficient and cost-effective motor vehicle that America had ever seen to that point. Ford’s immense marketing of his product contributed to its huge success. Ford was always in search of improving the Model T and making it cheaper so more people could afford it.

In 1913, Ford Motor Company revolutionized vehicle manufacturing with the development of the first automobile assembly line. The assembly line transcended the automobile industry by mass producing vehicles, allowing Model T’s cost to cut in half over the next few years. Ford’s vision was to make the automobile affordable enough for every family to own one, thus increasing Ford’s profits. Ford took another broad step towards his goal by instituting a $5.00 daily minimum wage (double the previous minimum wage) and a forty hour work week to his employees. Ford believed this could make his cars affordable to anyone who worked for him. Additionally, Ford believed this pay increase would contribute to more loyal workers. Ford fought vehemently to keep unions out of his plants by use of violence and intimidation; however, finally ended up losing the battle in 1941.

In addition to his business ventures, Ford had a great interest in social-issues. During World War I, Ford, a pacifist, funded a trip with efforts to attain peace in Europe. Ford’s great success and ubiquity led to a run for Senate in Michigan. During that time Ford turned Ford Motor Company over to his son Edsel, although Henry still maintained final authority with the company. Ford lost the election to Senate but continued to make his views known. Ford was said to be an advocate of Adolf Hitler and had very controversial Anti-Semitic views which were often disclosed in the Dearborn Independent, a newspaper which Ford had ties to.

Ford expanded by opening up many facilities, including the World’s largest industrial facility at the time called the River Rouge Plant in Michigan in 1917. Ford also believed in global expansion and trade opening up plants in other countries. Ford had the belief that global trade and expansion was vital for maintaining world peace.

By the mid-20’s, Henry Ford’s lack of education may have caught up with him, as Ford was stubborn about modifying the Model T to meet the new standards set forth by competitors. Ford Motor Co. was losing steam as competitors expanded on the idea of the Model T by producing more advanced vehicles and offering price plans for their customers. Eventually, the company’s losses caused Ford to temporarily shut down his plants and produce a more modern car.

Author's Perspective

I view Henry Ford to be a true pioneer and innovator. Ford was not the first to build an automobile, but his contributions to the growth of America were immeasurable through his innovation of the Model T and institution of assembly line automobile manufacturing--an evolution which led to affordable vehicles. This resulted in most families having transportation and the need to create roads and thus more jobs. Furthermore, the wage increases and 40 hour work-week instituted by Ford provided employees with a decent living and became a model that America still follows today. Ultimately, I believe the domino effect of these innovations led to industrialization and the emergence of a middle-class in society. I do not hold Ford’s anti-semitic views and approval of Hitler against him to the point that would dismiss his other accomplishments because he has a right to his own beliefs and was otherwise a very charitable figure. The wide-ranging impact of Henry Ford and his innovations paved the way for the conveniences and better lives we are able to live today.


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    • profile image

      King John VI 

      4 years ago

      Yes you can learn tons of things about the great Henry Ford. I approve of this site for everybody.

    • theautoparts profile image

      theautoparts 

      6 years ago from NewYork

      Nice hub !! interesting bio...has everything you need to know about the great Henry Ford....

    • NetBlots profile image

      NetBlots 

      6 years ago from Melbourne

      Brilliant bio!

      I've heard more stories about him, but I'd have to say my favourite is the invention of the V8 engine!

      Put simply a case of "Engineer dudes - go make me a v8, and don't come back until you have finished."

      It took them a while to get the don't come back until its done part though, haha

      Thanks!

    • tsadjatko profile image

      7 years ago from now on

      Very nice BIO! But you left out one important event.

      Ever hear of the The Goldberg Brothers? The Inventors of the Automobile Air Conditioner

      Here's a little factoid for automotive buffs or just to dazzle your friends.

      The four Goldberg brothers, Lowell, Norman, Hiram and Max, invented and developed the first automobile air-conditioner.

      On July 17, 1946, the temperature in Detroit was 97 degrees. The four brothers walked into old man Henry Ford's office and sweet-talked his secretary into telling him that four gentlemen were there with the most exciting innovation in the auto industry since the electric starter.

      Henry was curious and invited them into his office. They refused and instead asked that he come out to the parking lot to their car.

      They persuaded him to get into the car, which was about 130 degrees, turned on the air conditioner, and cooled the car off immediately.

      The old man got very excited and invited them back to the office, where he offered them $3 million for the patent.

      The brothers refused, saying they would settle for $2 million, but they wanted the recognition by having a label, 'The Goldberg Air-Conditioner,' on the dashboard of each car in which it was installed.

      Now old man Ford was more than just a little anti-Semitic, and there was no way he was going to put the Goldberg's name on two million Fords.

      They haggled back and forth for about two hours and finally agreed on $4 million and that just their first names would be shown.

      And so to this day, all Ford air conditioners show --

      Lo, Norm, Hi, and Max -- on the controls.

      I can hear your groans from here. Control yourself!!!

      Just pass it on

    • agvulpes profile image

      Peter 

      7 years ago from Australia

      Ford Motor Company has a great history here in Australia and I enjoyed very much reading your Bio on Henry Ford.

    • Kyle246 profile image

      Kyle246 

      8 years ago from United States

      That is a great bio. I enjoyed reading it. Henry Ford is amazing!

    • clearblue99 profile image

      clearblue99 

      8 years ago from Clear Blue Sky

      great hub enjoyed it !

    • prettydarkhorse profile image

      prettydarkhorse 

      8 years ago from US

      A businessman with a heart, Nice bio!

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