Henry Ford (July 30 1863 – April 7 1947) was an American industrialist, the founder of the ford Motor Company, and the sponsor of the development of the assembly line technique of mass production. Although Ford invented neither the automobile nor the assembly line, he developed and manufactured the first automobile that many middle class Americans could afford. In doing so, Ford converted the automobile from an expensive curiosity into a practical conveyance that would profoundly impact the landscape of the 20th century. His introduction of the Model T automobile revolutionized transportation and American industry. As the owner of the Ford Motor Company, he became one of the richest and best-known people in the world. He is credited with “Fordism”: mass production of inexpensive goods coupled with the high wages for workers. Ford had a global vision, with consumerism as key to peace. His intense commitment to systematically lowering costs resulted in many technical and business innovations, including a franchise system that put dealerships throughout most of North America and in major cities on six continents. Ford left most of his vast wealth to the Ford Foundation and arranged for his family to control the company permanently. Ford was also widely known for his pacifism during the first year of World war One, and for promoting antisemitism through his newspaper “The Deadborn Independent and the Book The International Jew”.
Henry Ford was born July 30, 1863, on a farm in Greenfield Township, Michigan. His father, William Ford was born in County Cork, Ireland in 1826, to a family that was originally from the Somerset, England, His mother Mary Ford(nee Litogot), 1839 was born in Michigan as the youngest child of Belgian immigrants, her parents died when she was a child and she was adopted by neighbours, the O’Herns. Henry Ford’s siblings were Margaret Ford (1867-1938); Jane Ford(c. 1868-1945); William Ford (1871-1917) and Robert Ford (1873-1934). At 15, Ford dismantled and reassembled the timepiece of friends and neighbours dozens of times gaining the reputation of a watch repairman. He 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 later wrote “I never had any particular love for farm, it was the mother of the farm I loved” In 1879, Ford left home to work as an apprentice mechanist in Detroit, first with James F. Flower and Bros and later with the Detroit Dry Dock Co. In 1882, he returned to Dearborn to work on the family farm, where he became adept at operating the Westinghouse portable steam engine. He was later hired by Westinghouse to service their steam engines. During this period he also studied bookkeeping at the Goldsmith, Bryant and Stratton Business College in Detroit.
In 1891, Ford became an engineer with the Edison Illuminating Company. After his promotion to Chief Engineer in 1893, he had enough time and money to devote attention to his personal experiments on gasoline engines. These experiments culminated in 1896 with the completion of a self-propelled vehicle which he named “the Ford Quadricycle”. He test drove it on June 4. After various tests drives, Ford brainstormed ways to improve the Quadricycle.
Also in 1896, Ford attended a meeting of Edison executives, where he was introduced to Thomas Edison. Edison approved of his automobile experimentation. Encouraged by Edison, Ford designed and built another vehicle, completing in 1898. Backed by the capital of Detroit lumber baron William H. Murphy, Ford resigned from the Edison company and founded the Detroit Automobile Company on August 5, 1899. However the automobiles produced were of lower quality and higher price than Ford wanted. Ultimately, the company was not successful and was dissolved in January 1901.
With the help of C. Harold Willis, Ford designed, built , and successfully raced 26-horsepower automobile in October 1901. With this success, Murphy and other stockholders in the Detroit Automobile Company formed the Henry Ford Company on November 30, 1901, with Ford as Chief engineer. In 1902, Murphy brought in Henry M. Leland as a consultant; Ford in response, left the company bearing his name. With Ford gone, Murphy renamed the company the “Cadillac Automobile Company” .
Teaming with the former racing cyclist Tom Cooper, Ford also produced the 80+ horsepower racer “999” which Barney Oldfield was to drive to victory in a race in acquaintance, Alexander Y. Malcomson a Detroit-area coal dealer. They formed a partnership, “Ford and Malcomson, Ltd.” to manufacture automobiles. Ford went to work to work designing an expensive automobile, and the duo leased a factory and contracted with a machine shop owned by John and Horace E. Dodge to supply over $160,000 in parts. ales were slow, and a crisis arose when the Dodge brothers demanded payment for their first shipment.
Ford Motor Company
In response, Malcomson brought in another group of investors and convinced the Dodge Brothers to accept a portion of the new company “Ford and Malcomson” was reincorporated as the Ford Motor Company on June 16, 1903, with $28,000 capital. The original investors included Ford and Malcomson, the Dodge brothers, Malcomson’s uncle John S. Gray, Malcomson’s secretary James Couzens, and two of Malcomson’s lawyers, John W. Anderson and Horace Rackham.
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