Henry Ford

Burial Location Visited
Detroit, Michigan April 18, 2010


St. Martha's Episcopal Church in Detroit. Just                               The stone slabs that mark where Ford and
a few yards away from this sign are the final                               his wife are buried are protected by a
resting places of industrialist Henry Ford and                               metal cage. My father climbed up a nearby
his wife, Clara.                                                                         tree to take this photograph.


Henry Ford is well-known for his development                             In 1929, Ford established the Henry Ford
of the assembly line. His net worth today is                                 Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. It houses
close to $200 billion, making him one of the                                items of significance related to technology
richest people in history.                                                           and the history of the United States.

                                        *** Interesting Facts ***

* The first child of an Irish immigrant and his wife, Henry Ford was born near Dearborn, Michigan on July 30, 1863. Ford grew up there in Dearborn on the family farm. However, he never took kindly to farm work, and became emotionally disconnected with his home when his mother passed on in 1876. Three years later, at the age of sixteen, he left home to become an apprentice machinist in Detroit. After laboring in the big city for several years, Ford returned home in 1882. Ford continued to tinker with machines at home, and became very adept at using the Westinghouse portable steam engine. So much so, that Westinghouse later hired him to repair some of their machines. In 1888, Henry Ford married Clara Jane Bryant, and was given forty acres by his father on which to live.

* In 1891, Ford was hired by the Edison Illuminating Company as an engineer. Within a few years, the young man was promoted to chief engineer. This proved to be an important moment in Ford's life, as he now had the time, capital, and resources to work on some of his own experiments on machines. His first major breakthrough came in 1896, when he test ran a vehicle called "the Quadricycle". The tiny car was composed of a toolbox seat, four bicycle wheels, a chassis, and was steered by a tiller rather than a steering wheel. The Quadricycle was not the first gasoline-run "horseless carriage" ever to be constructed, but it was this experiment that literally started the wheels turning for Henry Ford.

* Naturally, Ford's work on the Quadricycle caught the attention of the head of the Edison Illuminating Company, Thomas Edison. In a meeting between the two in 1896, Edison praised Ford for deciding to use a gasoline tank for his vehicle, as it was not that heavy and made the car "self-contained". In his autobiography, the Michigander stated that this was the first time that anyone had given him encouragement in his pursuits, and that the exchange was inspirational for him. Three years later, with the help of a financial backer, Ford established the Detroit Automobile Company. However, the business struggled, as Ford did not have a way to produce enough cars to make a profit and sustain the company. In 1903, he opened a new business, calling it the Ford Motor Company. The business sold its first car, a Model A, to a Chicago dentist that July. By the following year, 500 Model A's had found new homes. Coming out with several new designs over the course of a few years, Henry Ford released what he considered the "ideal" automobile in 1908: the Model T.

* Efficient, cheap, and a success, Ford's Model T was the vehicle that led to the boom in the popularity of autos. While this was good for the Ford Motor Company in one way, it was bad in another: there were so many orders coming in that it was deemed impossible to fill them all. At least, it was impossible to do with the method the business was using. It was then that Henry Ford and his engineers came up with the idea of a moving assembly line. By hiring thousands of employees to work on constructing specific parts of the vehicles rather than the whole thing, the Model T's manufacturing time decreased immensely. It had taken over twelve hours to construct a Model T before, but that time was cut in half by the Ford Motor Company's assembly line method. Before the year was out, it took just 93 minutes for a vehicle to be built. Ford also cut the price of its vehicles by hundreds of dollars, making them more affordable to the American public and making sales skyrocket. Ford's company was helping to stimulate the economy and was providing jobs for thousands of Americans. Many of these Americans were tempted to join the FMC because Ford reduced the work day to eight hours (making for three shifts a day), and the fact that employees earned $5 a day, which was more than twice the going rate.

* Though he opposed World War I, Ford opened up his company to the government. Model T's were used occasionally as ambulances overseas during the conflict's final stretch. Afterward, Ford also dabbled in flight, though his main interest was still automobiles. Feeling that they were holding his company back, Ford bought out all of the FMC's stockholders in 1919, becoming the sole owner of the business. In 1929, Ford opened the Edison Institute, now known as the Henry Ford Museum, as a lasting tribute to the history of America and American innovation. It was dedicated on October 21st, the fiftieth anniversary of Ford's friend Thomas Edison's light bulb. However, the innovator's genius ideas soon became tainted by his political views. Ford proved to be anti-semitic, and his negative thoughts about the Jewish population were published in his private newspaper, The Dearborn Independent. Ford later apologized and stated that the comments were published without his knowledge, but was awarded the Grand Cross of the German Eagle, the highest award the Nazis could give to a foreigner. After suffering several strokes during the 1930's, Henry Ford's mental capacity began to diminish. Most of his responsibilities were handed over to his son, Edsel, the president of the company. When Edsel died of stomach cancer in 1943, his elderly and senile father took back the reigns of the company, only to retire again in 1945, by which time the FMC was losing money. The pioneer's death two years later was the result of a cerebral hemorrhage.

Spouse: Clara Jane Bryant Ford (1866-1950)

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