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Henry Ford

Updated on August 19, 2009

Henry Ford (1863-1947) was an American industrialist and motor-car manufacturer, born at Dearborn, Mich., U.S.A. At 16 he entered a machine-shop in Detroit, and later turned his attention to engines. He experimented with a steam-tractor, and built a sawmill. He joined the Edison Company of Detroit (1887). He built a 2-cylinder petrol-driven motor (1892), and in 1899 he set up the Detroit Automobile Company. The other directors being committed to a policy of restricting output, he resigned in 1902. He then designed a 4-cylinder car, which won all the races for which it was entered, and, on the strength of its reputation, founded the Ford Motor Company in 1903 with a capital of $100,000. He perfected the standard T-model Ford Car (1909) of which 15 million were sold, before it was superseded by the A-model (1927). He introduced a system of intense mechanization and mass-production (q.v.).

In 1919 Ford and his son, Edsel, bought out the other stockholders for $70 millions. He introduced profit-sharing in his works (1919) and advocated a policy of short hours and high wages, the benefits of which were counteracted by the prevalence of short-time work as his factories increased in proficiency. He opposed trade union combination and almsgiving. By 1926, the company had assets of $1,000 millions, and employed 200,000 men directly and indirectly. Ford also established many factories in other countries, e.g. at Dagenham, England, and Geelong, Vic.

In 1915 he went to Europe in an attempt to stop the war. He waged a long feud with Wall Street. Considerable labor disturbances and a struggle against Roosevelt's N.R.A. policy marked 1932-33. Ford capitulated under pressure, but obeyed only the letter, not the spirit, of the recovery code. In 1945 his grandson, Henry Ford II succeeded him as president of the company.

Henry Ford in 1919
Henry Ford in 1919

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