Henry Ford offers an insightful look at the beginning of the American auto industry and the long history of struggles between labor and management. Henry Ford was born on a farm to William and Mary Ford in Springwells Township, Michigan, located just outside of Detroit on July 30, 1863.
Fact 1: Henry Ford left his family farm in December 1879, to follow his interest in machinery in Detroit. He first worked at the Flowers Brothers Machine Shop, for a salary of $2.50 a week; he shaped brass valves on a milling machine.
Fact 2: Ford spent two years working on refining his engine in a small shed out back of his house, and in the basement room at Edison Illuminating, he completed his first automobile on June 4, 1896. He called it the “Quadricylce,” and drove it through the streets of Detroit.
Fact 3: Ford entered a 10-mile race in Grosse Pointe with one of his cars in October 1901, he won the race and his victory made him the talk of the automotive circle. Soon after, he built a newer, more powerful racer, called the 999, it set an American speed record of five miles in five minutes 28 seconds.
Fact 4: In the fall of 1913, Ford’s Highland Park factory began operating the first moving automobile assembly line. Highland Park employed about 13,000 men by the end of the year.
Fact 5: After Ford watched an outside movie company film a news reel inside his factory, he was intrigued by the potential for publicity. He established his own moving picture department. The two-man staff quickly grew to be a full service production company of over 25 men; it had its own fleet of modern 35mm cameras and a film processing/editing lab at the Highland Park. Their first film, How Henry Ford Makes 1000 Cars a Day, would be released in the summer of 1914.
Fact 6: In November 1915, Ford called a press conference to discuss his plan to end World War I. It was known as Ford’s “Peace Ship” expedition, the plan included chartering an ocean liner and sailing to Europe to convince the warring nations to stop fighting. His plan was ultimately a failure.
Fact 7: John and Horace Dodge, two of Ford’s original investors filed a lawsuit against the directors of Ford Motor Company in November, 1916. The lawsuit said the company violated the interests of its stockholders; Ford received an injunction forbidding him from using company funds to build his new plant.
Fact 8: Henry Ford resigned from the presidency of the Ford Motor Company in December 30, 1918. His son Edsel, was 25 years old and elected to the role. He assumed presidency on New Year’s Day, 1919.
Fact 9: In 1920, Ford owned a controversial newspaper, called The Dearborn Independent, the paper published anti-Jewish articles and it offended many people and tarnished his name.
Fact 10: Ford built Village Industries, smaller factories in rural Michigan, people could work and farm during the different season, it bridged the urban and rural experience. He tried to find different ways to use agricultural products in industrial production. He used soybean-based plastic automobile components, like the experimental automobile trunk.
Fact 11: Ford purchased land in Brazil to establish a rubber plantation; it would become known as Fordlandia in 1927.
Fact 12: In 1929 Ford introduced the $7 day in an effort to help his workers and fend off the impacts of the Depression. He wasn’t successful and had to lay off nearly half of his workforce between 1929 and 1932.