The Founder: Henry Ford

Early Life and Career
Henry Ford was born on July 30, 1863 on his family’s farm in Wayne Country located near Dearborn, Michigan. As a young boy, Henry was fascinated by machinery. At the age of 16, he left home to become an apprentice for a machinist in Detroit where he would learn to operate and service steam engines, and study bookkeeping.

Henry Ford (1863-1947)

Henry Ford (1863-1947)

In 1888, Henry married Clara Bryant and returned to farming to support his wife and young son, Edsel. Soon, Ford’s natural talents earned him a position as an engineer for the Edison Illuminating Company. In 1893, he was promoted to chief engineer in the company. During this time, Henry developed plans for a horseless carriage, which he called the Ford Quadricycle. His revolutionary plans caught the eye of Thomas Edison, who supported Ford and encouraged him to build a second model (Henry Ford Biography).

The Ford Quadricycle

The Ford Quadricycle

Ford Motor Company
Under the tutelage of Edison’s company and Thomas Edison himself, Ford was able to build a few trial cars. Finally in 1903, he established his own car company, the Ford Motor Company. In October 1908, Ford introduced his company’s first car, the Model T. Throughout his career, Ford introduced the moving assembly line technique of mass production, the $5 workday, and afforded most Americans a chance to buy a car. By 1918, half of all the cars in America were Model Ts (Henry Ford Biography).

Henry Ford poses next to his Model T

Henry Ford poses next to his Model T

Values, Morals, Philosophy, and Philanthropy
Henry Ford placed great emphasis on respectability and did not tolerate any uncouth activities. The company’s “Social Department” monitored employees’ drinking, gambling, and family lives. Henry did not permit any uncivilized behavior to be associated with his company.

In addition, Ford was also an ardent pacifist. He vehemently opposed World War I, and even funded a peace ship to Europe. In 1936, Ford and his family established the Ford Foundation, one of the world’s largest public trusts, dedicated to ongoing grants for research, education, and development. Despite his philanthropic endeavors, Ford was also extremely anti-sematic. He supported the Dearborn Independent, a weekly newspaper, which was also anti-sematic (Henry Ford Biography).

Late Life and Death
Ford died of a cerebral hemorrhage on April 7, 1947 at the age of 83 near his Dearborn estate, Fair Lane. After his death, Ford left behind a tremendous legacy. Henry Ford is remembered as one of America’s foremost industrialists and leading businessmen. He revolutionized assembly-lime production for the automobile industry and helped build the nation’s economy during its most vulnerable years (Henry Ford Biography).