Henry Ford and the Rise of the Automobile

On this day, July 30 in the year 1863, the man who is considered as the father of the modern assembly line for mass production was born in Michigan, USA. His name was Henry Ford, the founder of the Ford Motor Company, one of the biggest automotive companies in the world.

Henry Ford
Henry Ford (Credit: britannica.com)

Henry Ford was the son of farmers who emigrated from England. He had other 4 siblings. He attended the Goldsmith, Bryant & Stratton Business College in Detroit. At ten years old, he showed his passion for mechanics when he operated a self-propelled road machine. As a teenager, he tinkered with a watch given to him by his father. He also demonstrated early on his leadership capabilities when he organized other boys to build water wheels and steam engines.

Despising farm work, he found employment as a machinist at the Michigan Railroad Car Company in 1879. In 1891, he was hired as an engineer at the Edison Electric Illuminating Company. In 1896, he completed his first horseless carriage. In 1903, with the backing of several financiers, he incorporated Ford Motor Company.

Henry went on to introduce several innovations. He worked hard to produce new and improved models. He doubled his workers salary to $5 a day which allowed him to attract talented employees and therefore reduced the high employee turnover rate. In his desire to build “cars for the great multitude”, he was relentless in his pursuit of reducing cost which led him to mass produce cars through the assembly line. By the early 1920s, half of the cars sold in the US were made by his company. In 1927, he built what would become the world’s largest automotive factory in Rouge, Michigan, producing almost all the necessary raw materials from steel to glass and other vehicle parts.

Henry was able to amass great wealth although he eschewed audit on his company’s financial standing. During World War II, his company was one of the largest contractors of the US government, supplying not only army vehicles but also airplanes and tanks.

Henry Ford died in 1947 at the age of 83. He had an only son named Edsel with his wife Clara Jane. Edsel died earlier in 1943. According to MSN.com, his estimated net worth in today’s dollar is $200 billion, the 15th richest person of all time.

References
http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Henry_Ford
https://www.thehenryford.org/explore/stories-of-innovation/visionaries/henry-ford/

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