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Ford, Henry

Henry Ford

Born: July 30, 1863
Springwells, Michigan

Died: April 7, 1947
Dearborn, Michigan
Founder, Ford Motor Company

Henry Ford not only founded the Ford Motor Company, he helped give birth to the automobile industry in the United States. With his innovations to the manufacturing process and his commitment to his workers, he became a true American legend of the twentieth century. Although Ford died in 1947, his name continues to be stamped on every car and truck that rolls off a Ford assembly line today.

He Liked to Tinker

Henry Ford was born on a farm in 1863 in Springwells, Michigan (now a part of Dearborn, Michigan). He was the second child of William and Mary Ford, whose first son died as a baby. When Henry was twelve his mother died from complications of childbirth and the Ford household changed forever. To manage his grief and the hard life of farming, Ford took to tinkering. He could fix many things around the homestead, but he especially had a keen interest in the workings of watches.

"Even a mistake may turn out to be the one thing necessary to a worthwhile achievement."

Ford worked as an apprentice at a machinery shop in Detroit in 1879; he fixed watches after hours. The following year, he went to work at the shipyards and helped repair large dock machinery. He also continued to help out at the family farm. In 1885, he met Clara Bryant. The two married in April 1888, and lived in a log cabin built by Ford using a small, motorized sawmill. In his spare time Ford cut and sold lumber and continued to dabble with a variety of motors, both gasoline-powered and steam-driven.

Jacques Nasser: Taking Care of Business

Jacques Nasser was a pivotal part of the Ford Motor Company for over thirty years, working his way up from a trainee in 1968 to his resignation as chief executive officer (CEO) and president in 2001. A shrewd businessman, he was transferred to Ford divisions around the globe where he turned sluggish operations profitable. His "can-do" attitude landed him the top slot at Ford in 1999, where he reigned until a series of unfortunate events, including the failure of Firestone tires on Ford Explorers, led to his departure.

Jacques Albert Nasser was born in Amyoun, Lebanon, in 1947. He moved with his parents to Melbourne, Australia, at age four. Nasser was brought up speaking both Arabic and French, and during his youth enjoyed sports and starting home-based businesses to earn money. After high school he was accepted at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology where he made a decision crucial to his future: he applied to a business training program with the Ford Motor's Australian division in 1968.

After graduating, Nasser continued his employment with Ford. He worked his way up the corporate ladder in the 1970s and 1980s, relocating to Ford offices around the world, including South Africa, America, Argentina, Great Britain, and back to Australia. Wherever Nasser went, improvement followed. His willingness to make harsh or unpopular decisions led him to Ford's American headquarters as vice president for product development in 1994, vice president for overall operations in 1996, president of the automotive division in 1997, and CEO and president in 1999.

Nasser's leadership of Ford, however, did not last. Shortly after he took the top spot, it became known that the Firestone tires on Ford's most popular vehicle, the Explorer, were not just faulty but deadly. Amid terrible accidents and resulting lawsuits, Ford Motor went into a tailspin. In an effort to stop the losses and rejuvenate the company, Nasser was replaced by Ford family member William Clay Ford Jr. in late 2001. Although Nasser's reign at Ford ended rather suddenly, his abilities saw the company through many of its darkest periods.

In 1891, Henry and Clara moved to Detroit where Ford worked his way up to chief engineer at the Edison Illuminating Company founded by inventor Thomas Edison (1847-1941), who became a lifelong friend. The couple's only child, son Edsel, was born in 1893. Ford continued to work on motors, especially those designed to propel vehicles. In 1896, he finally developed a working model. Called the "Quadricycle," it was a motorized bicycle with four wheels, which Ford sold for $200. He then went to work on a more advanced model.

Head of an Empire

By the end of the 1890s, automobiles were no longer the stuff of fantasy, but had become the transportation of the future. In 1903, Ford established the Ford Motor Company, joining hundreds of other inventors around the world who were beginning to open their own car manufacturing businesses. As general manager and chief engineer, Ford was responsible for creating the Model A, which had a two-cylinder engine and cost $850. The success of the Model A led to more sophisticated automobiles like the Model B and Model C, and eventually to the company's most famous vehicle, the Model T in 1908. In mid1927 the last Model T came off the assembly line and a revamped Model A took its place. Over four million new Model As were produced over the next four years.

In 1919, although he was still involved with the company bearing his name, Ford retired and son Edsel (1893-1943) took over. Edsel's sons, Henry II (1917-1987), Benson, and William, were also working in the family business. Henry Ford retired to a spacious home on the banks of the Rouge River in Dearborn, Michigan, which was called Fair Lane. Henry and Clara vacationed often in the South, and eventually bought homes in Ft. Myers, Florida, and Richmond Hill, Georgia.

Gasoline in His Veins:
William Clay Ford Jr.

William "Bill" Clay Ford Jr. is the great-grandson of founder Henry Ford. He was named chairman of Ford Motor Company in 1999 and took on the responsibilities of chief executive officer (CEO) in 2001 at age forty-four. His appointment was an important landmark for the company, which had been run by nonfamily members since Henry II, Bill's uncle, resigned in 1979. Although his leadership qualities were untested, Bill Ford has proven an able guide for one of the world' largest companies.

Bill Ford was born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1957, the son of William Clay Sr. and Martha Firestone and the grandson of Edsel, Henry Ford's only child. As a youth, Ford played hockey and soccer, was a good student, and after his father bought the Detroit Lions football team in 1963, became a devoted football fan. He earned a bachelor of arts degree from Princeton University in 1979 and a master's degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1984.

Ford has often joked about having gasoline in his veins, due to his family's longtime involvement with the design and manufacturing of automobiles. Yet he was never forced into the family business. He chose to join the company in the late 1970s, and worked his way through many departments and divisions until he gained a seat on the board of directors in 1988. In 1998, he was named chairman of the board; he became CEO in 2001.

As an ardent environmentalist, just as his grandfather great-grandfather was, one of Ford's major goals was to make Ford Motor as "Earth-friendly" as possible in the twenty-first century. In addition, he continues his involvement with the Detroit Lions (as vice chairman since 1995) and oversees his great-grandfather's beloved Greenfield Village & Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.

Ford married a fellow Princeton student, Lisa Vanderzee, and they have two daughters and two sons. He says since he was not forced into working in the auto business, he will let his children make their own choices as well regarding their careers. The family lives in Grosse Pointe Farms, an upscale suburb of Detroit, where Ford can be spotted in-line skating through the quiet streets or getting ready for a fly fishing trip. As a nature lover, he likes camping, hiking, and skiing with his family, and also enjoys tae kwon do, hockey, tennis, coaching soccer, and collecting Civil War documents. He has pledged that his job will not detract from his personal life, and has no plans to cut down his involvement with his children. Ford is also a vegetarian who practices alternative healing methods such as acupuncture and herbal remedies, and he does not often drink alcohol.

Retirement did not slow down Henry Ford. He was considered a true American success story, and he was constantly giving interviews to newspapers and magazines. In 1916, he briefly entered politics when he ran for the Senate and lost. Ford was also a best-selling author. His first book, Henry Ford's Own Story: How a Farmer Boy Rose to the Power that Goes with Many Millions, Yet Never Lost Touch with Humanity, was written in 1917 with the help of Rose Wilder Lane, the daughter of famous children's author Laura Ingalls Wilder (1867-1957). Ford went on to publish five more books in the 1920s and 1930s about his life and business beliefs, working with a writer named Samuel Crowther. In 1930, he wrote a memoir about his friend, Thomas Edison, called Edison as I Knew Him.

Leaving It Behind

During his retirement Ford developed a growing interest in collecting artifacts that depicted early American life. This included antique furniture, books, and sometimes buildings. A natural extension of this hobby was building a museum, which he began around the same time he bought and restored an old hotel in Massachusetts called the Wayside Inn. By 1929, Ford's museum had grown into an historic village, which he called the Edison Institute to honor his old friend. The museum and surrounding grounds, located in Dearborn, were opened to visitors in 1933. The complex was eventually named Greenfield Village. It has since become a tourist destination and is overseen by the Ford Foundation, owned by the Ford family.

In the late 1930s, Ford's health was declining, and in 1938 he had a stroke. This was followed by a second, more powerful stroke in 1941. In 1943, more tragedy struck when Edsel died of cancer at the age of forty-nine. Henry and Clara were inconsolable over the loss of their only child. The elder Ford resumed his position as president of Ford Motor Company. The move was temporary, however, as he soon turned leadership over to his oldest grandson, Henry II. Henry II became president in 1945 and Ford, in failing health, retired once again.

For the remainder of his life, Henry Ford devoted his time to collecting artifacts and visiting his homes in the South with wife Clara at his side. On April 7, 1947, Henry died at his Dearborn estate, Fair Lane, at the age of eighty-three. Before his funeral, over 100,000 people viewed his body at Greenfield Village and twenty thousand attended his funeral. He will always be remembered as the founder and driving force behind the Ford Motor Company, one of the world's largest and most respected auto manufacturers.

A Car Made of Soybeans

Always the innovator, Henry Ford was intrigued by the idea of creating new materials. This led him to experiment with soybeans. Ford researchers used soybeans to develop plastic car parts and car paint. According to the Ford Motor Web site, nearly two bushels of soybeans were used to make a single Ford automobile in 1935. Henry Ford was so devoted to the plant that he even had a suit made out of fabric processed from the soybean.

For More Information

Books

Brough, James. The Ford Dynasty: An American Story. New York: Double day, 1977.

Bryan, Ford R. Beyond the Model T. The Other Ventures of Henry Ford. Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press, 1997.

Cahill, Marie. A History of Ford Motor Company. London: Bison Group, 1992.

Collier, Peter, and David Horowitz. The Fords: An American Epic. San Francisco, CA: Summit, 2001.

Kent, Zachary. The Story of Henry Ford and the Automobile. Chicago: Children's Press, 1990.

McCarthy, Pat. Henry Ford: Building Cars for Everyone. Berkeley Heights., NJ: Enslow, 2002.

Middleton, Haydn. Henry Ford: The People's Carmaker. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Nevins, Allan, and F. E. Hill. Ford: The Times, the Man, the Company. New York: Scribners, 1954.

Weitzman, David L. Model T. How Henry Ford Built a Legend. New York: Crown, 2002.

Periodicals

McElroy, John. "Six Lessons for Ford: How Could So Many Things Unravel Under Nasser's Watch?" Ward's Auto World (December 1, 2001): p. 17.

Naughton, Keith. "Hit the Road, Jacques." Newsweek (November 12, 2001): p. 44.

Phelan, Mark. "SUVs Reach Their Peak." Automotive Industries (October 1997): p. 89.

Smith, David C., and Greg Gardner. "Nasser: Savior or Slasher? Why This Man Has Ford on Edge." Ward's Auto World (February 1997): p. 27.

Whalen, Christopher. "A Ford in Ford's Uncertain Future." Insight on the News (December 17, 2001): p. 22.

Web Sites

Ford Motor Company. [On-line] http://www.ford.com (accessed on August 15, 2002).

Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village. [On-line] http://www.hfngv.org (accessed on August 15, 2002).

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Ford, Henry

Henry Ford

Born: July 30, 1863
Dearborn, Michigan
Died: April 7, 1947
Dearborn, Michigan

American automobile pioneer and industrialist

After founding the Ford Motor Company, the American industrialist Henry Ford developed a system of mass production based on the assembly line and the conveyor belt which produced low-priced cars that were affordable to middleclass Americans.

Ford's early years

The oldest of six children, Henry Ford was born on July 30, 1863, on a prosperous farm near Dearborn, Michigan. He attended school until the age of fifteen, at which time he developed a dislike of farm life and a fascination for machinery. He had little interest in school and was a poor student. He never learned to spell or to read well. Ford would write using only the simplest of sentences. He instead preferred to work with mechanical objects, particularly watches. He repaired his first watch when he was thirteen years old, and would continue to repair watches for enjoyment throughout his life. Although he did not like working on the farm, he did learn that there was great value in working hard and being responsible.

In 1879 Ford left for Detroit, Michigan, to become an apprentice (a person who works for another to learn a specific skill or trade) at a machine shop. He then moved to the Detroit Drydock Company. During his apprenticeship he received $2.50 a week, but room and board cost $3.50 so he labored nights repairing clocks and watches. He later worked for Westinghouse, locating and repairing road engines.

Ford's father wanted him to be a farmer and offered him forty acres of timberland, provided he give up machinery. Ford accepted the proposal, then built a first-class machinist's workshop on the property. His father was disappointed, but Ford did use the two years on the farm to win a bride, Clara Bryant.

Ford's first car

Ford began to spend more and more time in Detroit working for the Edison Illuminating Company, which later became the Detroit Edison Company. By 1891 he had left the farm permanently. Four years later he became chief engineer. While at the Edison Illuminating Company he met Thomas A. Edison (18471931), who eventually became one of his closest friends.

Ford devoted his spare time to building an automobile with an internal combustion engine, a type of engine in which a combination of fuel and air is burned inside of the engine to produce mechanical energy to perform useful work. His first car, finished in 1896, followed the attempts, some successful, of many other innovators. His was a small car driven by a two-cylinder, four-cycle motor and by far the lightest (500 pounds) of the early American vehicles. The car was mounted on bicycle wheels and had no reverse gear.

In 1899 the Detroit Edison Company forced Ford to choose between automobiles and his job. Ford chose cars and that year formed the Detroit Automobile Company, which collapsed after he disagreed with his financial backers. His next venture was the unsuccessful Henry Ford Automobile Company. Ford did gain some status through the building of racing cars, which resulted in the "999," driven by the famous Barney Oldfield (18781946).

Ford Motor Company

By this time Ford had conceived the idea of a low-priced car for the masses, but this notion flew in the face of popular thought, which considered cars as only for the rich. After the "999" victories, Alex Y. Malcomson, a Detroit coal dealer, offered to aid Ford in a new company. The result was the Ford Motor Company, founded in 1903, with its small, $28,000 financing supplied mostly by Malcomson. However, exchanges of stock were made to obtain a small plant, motors, and transmissions. Ford's stock was in return for his services. Much of the firm's success can be credited to Ford's assistantsJames S. Couzens, C. H. Wills, and John and Horace Dodge.

By 1903 over fifteen hundred firms had attempted to enter the new and struggling automobile industry, but only a few, such as Ransom Eli Olds (18641950), had become firmly established. Ford began production of a Model A, which imitated the Oldsmobile, and followed with other models, to the letter S. The public responded, and the company flourished. By 1907 profits exceeded $1,100,000, and the net worth of the company stood at $1,038,822.

Ford also defeated the Selden patent (the legal rights given to a company or person for the sole use, sale, or production of an item for a limited period of time), which had been granted on a "road engine" in 1895. Rather than challenge the patent's legal soundness, manufacturers secured a license to produce engines. When Ford was denied such a license, he fought back; after eight years of legal action, the courts decided the patent was valid but not violated. The case gave the Ford Company valuable publicity, with Ford cast as the underdog, but by the time the issue was settled, the situation had been reversed.

New principles

In 1909 Ford made the important decision to manufacture only one type of carthe Model T, or the "Tin Lizzie." By now he firmly controlled the company, having bought out Malcomson. The Model T was durable, easy to operate, and economical; it sold for $850 and came in one colorblack. Within four years Ford was producing over forty thousand cars per year.

During this rapid expansion Ford held firmly to two principles: cutting costs by increasing productivity and paying high wages to his employees. In production methods Ford believed the work should be brought by a conveyor belt to the worker at waist-high level. This assembly-line technique required seven years to perfect. In 1914 he startled the industrial world by raising the minimum wage to five dollars a day, almost double the company's average wage. In addition, the "Tin Lizzie" had dropped in price to $600; it later went down to $360.

World War I

Ford was now an internationally known figure, but his public activities were less successful than his industrial ones. In 1915 his peace ship, the Oskar II, sailed to Europe to seek an end to World War I (191418; a war fought between the German-led Central powers and the Allies: England, the United States, Italy, and other nations). His suit against the Chicago Tribune for calling him an anarchist (a person who desires to change the existing government) received unfortunate publicity. In 1918 his race for the U.S. Senate as a Democrat met a narrow defeat. Ford's worst mistake was his approval of an anti-Semitic (anti-Jewish) campaign waged by the Ford-owned newspaper, the Dearborn Independent.

When the United States entered World War I, Ford's output of military equipment and his promise to give back all profits on war production (which he never did) silenced the critics. By the end of the conflict his giant River Rouge plant, the world's largest industrial facility, was near completion. Ford gained total control of the company by buying the outstanding stock.

In the early 1920s the company continued its rapid growth, at one point producing 60 percent of the total United States output. But problems began to arise. Ford was an inflexible man and continued to rely on the Model T, even as public tastes shifted. By the middle of the decade Ford had lost his dominant position to the General Motors (GM) company. He finally saw his error and in 1927 stopped production of the Model T. However, since the new Model A was not produced for eighteen months, there was a good deal of unemployment among Ford workers. The new car still did not permanently overtake the GM competition, Chevrolet, and Ford remained second.

Final years

Ford's last years were frustrating. He never accepted the changes brought about by the Great Depression (a period in the 1930s marked by severe economic hardship) and the 1930s New Deal, President Franklin D. Roosevelt's (18821945) plan to help the United States recover from the Great Depression. He fell under the spell of Harry Bennett, a notorious figure with connections to organized crime, who, as head of Ford's security department, influenced every phase of company operations and created friction between Ford and his son Edsel. For various reasons Ford, alone in his industry, refused to cooperate with the National Recovery Administration, a 1930s government agency that prepared and oversaw codes of fair competition for businesses and industries. He did not like labor unions, refused to recognize the United Automobile Workers (UAW), and brutally restricted their attempts to organize the workers of his company.

Ford engaged in some philanthropic or charitable activity, such as the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. The original purpose of the Ford Foundation, established in 1936 and now one of the world's largest foundations, was to avoid estate taxes. Ford's greatest philanthropic accomplishment was the Ford Museum and Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan.

A stroke in 1938 slowed Ford, but he did not trust Edsel and so continued to exercise control of his company. During World War II (193945; a war fought between the Axis: Germany, Italy, and Japanand the Allies: England, France, the Soviet Union, and the United States), Ford at first made pacifist, or peace-minded, statements, but changed his mind and contributed greatly to the war effort. Ford's grandson, Henry Ford II, took over the company after the war. Henry Ford died on April 7, 1947, in Dearborn.

For More Information

Brough, James. The Ford Dynasty: An American Story. New York: Doubleday, 1977.

Collier, Peter, and David Horowitz. The Fords: An American Epic. San Francisco: Summit, 2001.

Kent, Zachary. The Story of Henry Ford and the Automobile. Chicago: Children's Press, 1990.

McCarthy, Pat. Henry Ford: Building Cars for Everyone. Berkeley Hts., NJ: Enslow, 2002.

Middleton, Haydn. Henry Ford: The People's Carmaker. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Weitzman, David L. Model T: How Henry Ford Built a Legend. New York: Crown, 2002.

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Henry Ford

Henry Ford

After founding the Ford Motor Company, the American industrialist Henry Ford (1863-1947) developed a system of mass production based on the assembly line and the conveyor belt which produced a low-priced car within reach of middle-class Americans.

The oldest of six children, Henry Ford was born on July 30, 1863, on a prosperous farm near Dearborn, Mich. He attended school until the age of 15, meanwhile developing a dislike of farm life and a fascination for machinery. In 1879 Ford left for Detroit. He became an apprentice in a machine shop and then moved to the Detroit Drydock Company. During his apprenticeship he received $2.50 a week, but room and board cost $3.50 so he labored nights repairing clocks and watches. He later worked for Westinghouse, locating and repairing road engines.

His father wanted Henry to be a farmer and offered him 40 acres of timberland, provided he give up machinery. Henry accepted the proposition, then built a first-class machinist's workshop on the property. His father was disappointed, but Henry did use the 2 years on the farm to win a bride, Clara Bryant.

Ford's First Car

Ford began to spend more and more time in Detroit working for the Edison Illuminating Company, which later became the Detroit Edison Company. By 1891 he had left the farm permanently. Four years later he became chief engineer; he met Thomas A. Edison, who eventually became one of his closest friends.

Ford devoted his spare time to building an automobile with an internal combustion engine. His first car, finished in 1896, followed the attempts, some successful, of many other innovators. His was a small car driven by a two-cylinder, four-cycle motor and by far the lightest (500 pounds) of the early American vehicles. The car was mounted on bicycle wheels and had no reverse gear.

In 1899 the Detroit Edison Company forced Ford to choose between automobiles and his job. Ford chose cars and that year formed the Detroit Automobile Company, which collapsed after he disagreed with his financial backers. His next venture was the unsuccessful Henry Ford Automobile Company. Ford did gain some status through the building of racing cars, which culminated in the "999," driven by the famous Barney Oldfield.

Ford Motor Company

By this time Ford had conceived the idea of a low-priced car for the masses, but this notion flew in the face of popular thought, which considered cars as only for the rich. After the "999" victories Alex Y. Malcomson, a Detroit coal dealer, offered to aid Ford in a new company. The result was the Ford Motor Company, founded in 1903, its small, $28,000 capitalization supplied mostly by Malcomson. However, exchanges of stock were made to obtain a small plant, motors, and transmissions. Ford's stock was in return for his services. Much of the firm's success can be credited to Ford's assistants—James S. Couzens, C. H. Wills, and John and Horace Dodge.

By 1903 over 1,500 firms had attempted to enter the fledgling automobile industry, but only a few, such as Ransom Olds, had become firmly established. Ford began production of a Model A, which imitated the Oldsmobile, and followed with other models, to the letter S. The public responded, and the company flourished. By 1907 profits exceeded $1,100,000, and the net worth of the company stood at $1,038,822.

Ford also defeated the Selden patent, which had been granted on a "road engine" in 1895. Rather than challenge the patent's validity, manufacturers secured a license to produce engines. When Ford was denied such a license, he fought back; after 8 years of litigation, the courts decided the patent was valid but not infringed. The case gave the Ford Company valuable publicity, with Ford cast as the underdog, but by the time the issue was settled, the situations had been reversed.

New Principles

In 1909 Ford made the momentous decision to manufacture only one type of car—the Model T, or the "Tin Lizzie." By now he firmly controlled the company, having bought out Malcomson. The Model T was durable, easy to operate, and economical; it sold for $850 and came in one color—black. Within 4 years Ford was producing over 40,000 cars per year.

During this rapid expansion Ford adhered to two principles: cutting costs by increasing efficiency and paying high wages to his employees. In production methods Ford believed the work should be brought by conveyor belt to the worker at waist-high level. This assembly-line technique required 7 years to perfect. In 1914 he startled the industrial world by raising the minimum wage to $5 a day, almost double the company's average wage. In addition, the "Tin Lizzie" had dropped in price to $600; it later went down to $360.

World War I

Ford was now an internationally known figure, but his public activities were less successful than his industrial ones. In 1915 his peace ship, the Oskar II, sailed to Europe to seek an end to World War I. His suit against the Chicago Tribune for calling him an anarchist received unfortunate publicity. In 1918 his race for the U.S. Senate as a Democrat met a narrow defeat. Ford's saddest mistake was his approval of an anti-Semitic campaign waged by the Ford-owned newspaper, the Dearborn Independent.

When the United States entered World War I, Ford's output of military equipment and his promise to rebate all profits on war production (he never did) silenced critics. By the end of the conflict his giant River Rouge plant, the world's largest industrial facility, was nearing completion. Ford gained total control of the company by buying the outstanding stock.

In the early 1920s the company continued its rapid growth, at one point producing 60 percent of the total United States output. But clouds stirred on the horizon. Ford was an inflexible man and continued to rely on the Model T, even as public tastes shifted. By the middle of the decade Ford had lost his dominant position to the General Motors Company. He finally saw his error and in 1927 stopped production of the Model T. However, since the new Model A was not produced for 18 months, there was a good deal of unemployment among Ford workers. The new car still did not permanently overtake the GM competition, Chevrolet; and Ford remained second.

Final Years

Ford's last years were frustrating. He never accepted the changes brought about by the Depression and the 1930s New Deal. He fell under the spell of Harry Bennett, a notorious figure with underworld connections, who, as head of Ford's security department, influenced every phase of company operations and created friction between Ford and his son Edsel. For various reasons Ford alone in his industry refused to cooperate with the National Recovery Administration. He did not like labor unions, refused to recognize the United Automobile Workers, and brutally repressed their attempts to organize the workers of his company.

Ford engaged in some philanthropic activity, such as the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. The original purpose of the Ford Foundation, established in 1936 and now one of the world's largest foundations, was to avoid estate taxes. Ford's greatest philanthropic accomplishment was the Ford Museum and Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Mich.

A stroke in 1938 slowed Ford, but he did not trust Edsel and so continued to exercise control of his company. During World War II Ford at first made pacifist statements but did retool and contribute greatly to the war effort. Ford's grandson Henry Ford II took over the company after the war. Henry Ford died on April 7, 1947.

Further Reading

Ford's own books, written in collaboration with Samuel Crowther, provide useful information: My Life and Work (1922), Today and Tomorrow (1926), and Moving Forward (1930). The writings on Ford are voluminous. The most authoritative on the man and the company are by Allan Nevins and Frank E. Hill, Ford: The Times, the Man, the Company (1954), Ford: Expansion and Challenge, 1915-1933 (1957), and Ford: Decline and Rebirth, 1933-1962 (1963). The best short studies are Keith Theodore Sward, The Legend of Henry Ford (1948), and Roger Burlingame, Henry Ford: A Great Life in Brief (1955). More recent works are Booton Herndon, Ford: An Unconventional Biography of the Men and Their Times (1969), and John B. Rae, Henry Ford (1969). Of the books by men who worked with Ford, Charles E. Sorensen, My Forty Years with Ford (1956), is worth reading. See also William Adams Simonds, Henry Ford: His Life, His Work, His Genius (1943), and William C. Richards, The Last Billionaire: Henry Ford (1948). □

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Ford, Henry

Henry Ford, 1863–1947, American industrialist, pioneer automobile manufacturer, b. Dearborn, Mich.

The Inception of the Ford Motor Company

Ford showed mechanical aptitude at an early age and left (1879) his father's farm to work as an apprentice in a Detroit machine shop. He soon returned to his home, but after considerable experimentation with power-driven vehicles, he went (1890) to Detroit again and worked as a machinist and engineer with the Edison Company. Ford continued working in his spare time as well, and in 1896 he completed his first automobile. Resigning (1899) from the Edison Company he launched the Detroit Automobile Company.

A disagreement with his associates led Ford to organize (1903) the Ford Motor Company in partnership with Alexander Malcomson, James Couzens (who devised and oversaw the company's successful early business and accounting procedures), the Dodge brothers, and others. In 1907 he purchased the stock owned by most of his associates, and thereafter the Ford family remained in control of the company. In 1908 he guided his chief engineer Harold Wills in the design of the Model T. By cutting the costs of production, by adapting the conveyor belt and assembly line to automobile production, and by featuring an inexpensive, standardized car, Ford was soon able to outdistance all his competitors and become the largest automobile producer in the world. He came to be regarded as the apostle of mass production, and more than 15 million cars were produced before the Model T was discontinued (1927). Highly publicized for paying wages considerably above the average, Ford began in 1914—the year he created a sensation by announcing that in future his workers would receive $5 for an 8-hr day—a profit-sharing plan that would distribute up to $30 million annually among his employees.

Later Years

In 1915, in an effort to end World War I, he headed a privately sponsored peace expedition to Europe that failed dismally, but after the American entry into the war he was a leading producer of ambulances, airplanes, munitions, tanks, and submarine chasers. In 1918 he ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate on the Democratic ticket. After weathering a severe financial crisis in 1921, he began producing high-priced motor cars along with other vehicles and founded branch firms in England and in other European countries. Faced with increasing competition and lost sales, Ford nonetheless long resisted introducing a new model. A new design to replace the Model T—the Model A—was advocated by his son Edsel and finally produced beginning in 1928 in a variety of styles; it marked the beginning of the Ford Motor Company's regular development of new models and styles. Strongly opposed to trade unionism, Ford—who incurred considerable antagonism because of his paternalistic attitude toward his employees and his statements on political and social questions—stubbornly resisted union organization in his factories by the United Automobile Workers until 1941. A staunch isolationist before World War II, Ford again converted his factories to the production of war material after 1941. In 1945 he retired.

Other Accomplishments and Controversies

His numerous philanthropies, in addition to the Ford Foundation, included $7.5 million for the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit and $5 million for a museum in Dearborn, where in 1933 he established Greenfield Village—a reproduction of an early American village. Ford also wrote, in collaboration with Samuel Crowther, My Life and Work (1923), Today and Tomorrow (1926), Moving Forward (1931), and Edison as I Knew Him (1930).

Ford's international reputation made him a natural target for journalists. His libel suit against the Chicago Tribune in 1919 led to an examination by the Tribune attorney, intended to show Ford's lack of education. Anti-Semitic articles in Ford's Dearborn Independent brought further legal controversy; he was forced to apologize for the articles. In the 1930s, Ford was widely attacked for employing Harry Bennett, a former boxer who established a squad of thugs to spy, beat up, and otherwise intimidate union organizers.

Ford was also a poor manager who failed to capitalize on his company's early success. In the 1920s he failed to respond to consumer tastes by introducing new models and the company fell far behind General Motors. By the time of his retirement, the company's accounting procedures were so primitive that Ford's managers were unable to accurately tell how much it cost to manufacture a car and the company was losing $9.5 million a month.

Later Generations

Henry Ford's son, Edsel Bryant Ford, 1893–1943, b. Detroit, shared in the control of the vast Ford industrial interests. He was president of the Ford Motor Company from 1919 until his death, when his father once more became (1943) president of the company. The eldest Ford soon retired again when his grandson, Henry Ford 2d, 1917–87, b. Detroit, succeeded him in 1945. The younger Henry Ford moved quickly to restructure and modernize the company, which had slipped from the world's largest automobile manufacturer in 1920 to number three in the U.S. market in 1945. He removed a number of long-time Ford executives, such as Bennett, and for the first time in company history, recruited outsiders for positions of responsibility. The company spent $1 billion between 1945 and 1955 to expand its operations, introduced successful new models, and raised $690 million in capital by offering stock to the public (1956). Although Ford modernized and revitalized the company, his tenure also saw the introduction of the Edsel, which lost the company $250 million, and Ford's autocratic management style forced a number of top executives, such as Lee Iacocca, to quit. In 1960, Ford became chief executive officer and chairman of the corporation, offices he held until retiring as CEO in 1979 and as chairman in 1980.

Although family shareholders continued to have voting control of the company, nonfamily members headed Ford until 1999, when Bill Ford (William Clay Ford, Jr.), 1957–, became chairman. Working at Ford Motor Company from 1979, Bill Ford became vice president of the commercial truck vehicle center in 1994, chairman of the finance committee in 1995, and chairman of the board in 1999. In 2001 he also became chief executive officer of Ford, but the company's difficulties led him to resign that post in 2006.

Bibliography

See biographies by A. Nevins and F. E. Hill (3 vol., 1954–62), B. Herndon (1969), R. Lacey (1986), and S. Watts (2005); R. M. Wik, Henry Ford and Grass-Roots America (1970); P. Collier and D. Horowitz, The Fords (1987); N. Baldwin, Henry Ford and the Jews (2001); D. Brinkley, Wheels for the World (2003).

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Ford, Henry

FORD, HENRY


Henry Ford (18631947) launched the era of the mass-produced automobile. He provided tools such as the moving assembly line to enable the fast mass-production of cars and other consumer goods. Ford founded the Ford Motor Car Company, which remained the second largest car and truck manufacturer in the world through the 1990s. He is regarded as one of the great industrialists and automobile innovators of the twentieth century. Ford was also a generous philanthropist.

Henry Ford was born in Dearborn, Michigan, into a farming family. The first child of William and Mary Ford, he was taught largely by his mother, who instilled in him a strong sense of responsibility, duty, and self-reliance. As a young man he became an excellent self-taught mechanic and machinist. At age 16 he left the farm and went to nearby Detroit, a city that was process of becoming an industrial giant. There he worked as an apprentice at a machine shop. Months later he began to work with steam engines at the Detroit Dry Dock Co., where he first saw the internal combustion engine, the kind of engine he would later use to make his automobiles.

When he was 28 Ford took a job with Thomas Edison's (18471931) Detroit Illuminating Company, where he became chief engineer. In his spare time he began to build his first car, the Quadricycle. It resembled 2 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 (18561915), the founder of Scientific Management. It 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. The most enduring indictment of Ford's totalitarian business style was created by Aldous Huxley (18941963) in his classic novel Brave New World.

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 2 years in unsigned articles in his own newspaper, The Dearborn Independent. Oddly, many of his best friends were Jewish. An example is Albert Kahn (18691942), 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 Adolph Hitler (18891945) 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.

This complex farmer's son from Michigan, who made automobiles affordable to the masses, died at his estate, Fairlane, in Dearborn, Michigan in 1947 at the age of 84.

See also: Assembly Line, Automobile, Automobile Industry, Ford Motor Company, Frederick Winslow Taylor


FURTHER READING

Bryan, Ford R. Beyond the Model T: The Other Ventures of Henry Ford. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1990.

Lasey, Robert. Ford: The Men and the Machine. Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1986.

Lee, Albert. Henry Ford and the Jews. New York: Stein and Day, 1980.

Nevins, Allan and F. E. Hill. Ford: The Times, the Man, the Company. New York: Scribners., 1954.

Wik, Reynold M. Henry Ford and Grass-roots America. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1972.

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Ford, Henry

Ford, Henry (1863–1947), industrialist and isolationist.Born on a Michigan farm, Ford used his skill as a machinist to develop an automobile, founding the Ford Motor Company in Detroit in 1903. Cutting production costs through an assembly line, Ford produced an inexpensive, standardized car, selling over 15 million autos between 1908 and 1928, and becoming a multimillionaire.

In 1914–15, Ford spoke out against World War I and arms races, blaming them on financiers and the military men. He personally financed an effort by pacifists to end the war through mediation by neutral nations. The “Ford Peace Ship” took a contingent of American pacifists to neutral Sweden in December 1915, and the dramatic gesture broke the previous suppression of peace news in the warring nations. Nevertheless, many newspapers derided the effort as naive, especially when Ford proclaimed that he hoped to end the war by Christmas. The Ford Neutral Conference, composed of unofficial delegations of men and women from six neutral nations, met in Stockholm in February 1916. Although Sweden and Denmark were interested in calling a conference of neutral governments, they were blocked by the belligerents.

When the United States entered World War I in 1917, Ford became a leading producer for the military, supplying airplane engines, ambulances, munitions, tanks, trucks, and submarine chasers. In the 1930s, he was a staunch supporter of isolationism, but Ford again converted his factories to production of war material after 1941. He retired in 1945.

Bibliography

Allan Nevins and and Frank E. Hill , Ford, 3 vols., 1954–62.
Barbara S. Kraft , The Peace Ship: Henry Ford's Pacifist Adventure in the First World War, 1978.

John Whiteclay Chambers II

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John Whiteclay Chambers II. "Ford, Henry." The Oxford Companion to American Military History. 2000. Encyclopedia.com. 28 Sep. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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John Whiteclay Chambers II. "Ford, Henry." The Oxford Companion to American Military History. 2000. Retrieved September 28, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O126-FordHenry.html

Ford, Henry

Ford, Henry (1863–1947) US industrialist. He developed a gas-engined car in 1892, and founded Ford Motors in 1903. In 1908 Ford designed the Model T. His introduction of an assembly line (1913) revolutionized industrial mass production. In 1914, Ford raised the minimum wage to $5 a day and reduced the workday to eight hours. He refused, however, to allow union organization in his factories until 1941. In 1945, with the company losing c.$9 million per month, he handed control of the company to his grandson, Henry Ford II (1917–87).

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Ford, Henry, 2d

Henry Ford, 2d: see under Ford, Henry.

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