Henry Ford was an inventor, philanthropist and a successful American businessman. He is the founder of the Ford Motor Company, and sponsor of the development of the assembly line technique of mass production.

Henry Ford Early Life

Henry Ford was born July 30, 1863, on a farm in Greenfield Township, Michigan.

Ford’s parents were Irish immigrants and the family lived on a farm, with Henry Ford being the eldest of six children. 

His father gave him a pocket watch in his early teens. At 15, Ford dismantled and reassembled the timepieces of friends and neighbors dozens of times, gaining the reputation of a watch repairman.

Ford was devastated when his mother died in 1876. His father expected him to eventually take over the family farm, but he despised farm work.

He began his career as an apprentice machinist in 1879, then returned to his family farm in 1882 before starting work with the Westinghouse company to service their steam engines. 

Ford married Clara Jane Bryant (1866–1950) on April 11, 1888, and supported himself by farming and running a sawmill. They had one child: Edsel Ford (1893–1943).

Henry Ford Career

Ford then went to work at the Edison Illuminating Company where he became chief engineer in 1893. 

Henry Ford had always enjoyed mechanical things and was always trying to improve or create more useful machinery. 

In 1893, he created his first gasoline driven buggy or Quadricycle that was completely self propelled. 

Henry Ford Company

He then started the Detroit Automobile Company with several other investors to improve on his design, but the company went bankrupt soon after. 

Ford maintained an interest in auto racing from 1901 to 1913 and began his involvement in the sport as both a builder and a driver, later turning the wheel over to hired drivers.

Henry Ford
Henry Ford

He again reincorporated company as the Ford Motor Company on June 16, 1903, with $28,000 capital. 

The Ford Motor Company released the successful Model T car in 1908. 

Henry Ford Success of Model T

The car was very simple to drive, and easy and cheap to repair. It was so cheap that a majority of American drivers had learned to drive on the Model T.

Always on the hunt for more efficiency and lower costs, in 1913 Ford introduced the moving assembly belts into his plants, which enabled an enormous increase in production.

Soon Ford opposed war, which he viewed as a terrible waste, and supported causes that opposed military intervention.

Ford’s philosophy was one of economic independence for the United States. Later 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.

In 1918, half of the total amount of cars in the United States were Model T’s, 15 million cars were sold, and production of the Model T was finally stopped in 1927. 

Henry Ford Political View 

Henry Ford turned the presidency of Ford Motor Company over to his son Edsel Ford in December 1918. He retained final decision authority and sometimes reversed his son decisions.

He paid his workers more money for less working days and made the 5 day – 40 hour working week a normal part of working life. Henry Ford created the Ford Foundation in 1936 to promote human welfare through research grants, educational grants and development. 

In the early 1920s, Ford sponsored a weekly newspaper that published strongly antisemitic views. 

At the same time, Ford had a reputation as one of the few major corporations actively hiring black workers.He also hired women and handicapped men at a time when doing so was uncommon.

Ford was adamantly against labor unions. He believed that union leaders had a perverse incentive to foment perpetual socio-economic crisis as a way to maintain their own power. The Ford Motor Company was the last Detroit automaker to recognize the Union.

He also had interests in politics but was never successful as a politician, and unsuccessfully ran for Senate as a Democrat. He also had strong views on labour and treatment of the workforce. 

Henry Ford Later Life and Death

Ford suffered an initial stroke in 1938, after which he turned over the running of his company to Edsel. 

When Edsel Ford, President of Ford Motor Company, died of cancer in May 1943. The elderly and ailing Henry Ford decided again to become president of company.

In ill health, he ceded the presidency to his grandson, Henry Ford II in September 1945, and went into retirement. 

He died in 1947 of a cerebral haemorrhage at the age of 83 in Fair Lane, his Dearborn estate. His family buried him in the Ford Cemetery in Detroit. 

Funeral services were held in Detroit’s Cathedral Church of St. Paul and he was buried in the Ford Cemetery in Detroit

On the night of his death, the River Rouge had flooded the local power station and had left Ford’s house without electricity. 

Henry Ford died in candlelight in the same atmosphere as he had been born 83 years earlier.

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