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Henry Ford - Founder of the Ford motor company and famous American business leader from the 20th century.
Henry Ford was the founder of the Form Motor Company with his first production car called the Model T Ford selling more than 15 million cars and revolutionizing automobile transportation. Henry Ford was born on the 30^th of July, 1863 on a farm to parents William and Mary Ford, along with his 4 other siblings Robert, Margaret, William and Jane. In 1873 Henry saw his first engine driven machine, a steam engine mounted on wheels. Over the following year Henry learned how to work the engine and gained a passion for mechanics. Henry was devastated in 1876 when his mother died, and so with little interest in farm work he left home in 1879 to work as an apprentice machinist in Detroit.
1882 saw Ford return to the family farm and becoming so skilled at using the Westinghouse portable steam engine that the Westinghouse Company employed him to service their engines. Ford married Clara Bryant in 1888 and had a child Edsel Bryant Ford. 1891 saw Ford move on to become an engineer with Edison Illuminating Company, gaining a promotion to chief engineer in just 2 years which gave him enough time and finances to experiment on gasoline engines. In 1896 he had finished his self designed gasoline engine propelled vehicle called the Quadricycle.
Ford went about finding investors to form a company called the Detroit Automobile Company which soon went bankrupt due to ford continually improving his cars design and racing it against other manufactures cars while forgetting to actually sell cars. The companies investors wanted a production model released so they hired Henry M Leland to get the job done. Ford soon resigned and the company became the Cadillac Automobile Company.
Ford found 11 more investors and with $28,000 started the Ford Motor Company in 1903. With a newly designed car Ford showed its potential by recording a new land speed record of 39.4 seconds over a mile. A famous race driver called Barney Oldfield decided to race the car around America, making the Ford car well known throughout the country. Ford was also an early sponsor of the Indianapolis 500. By 1908 Ford had a new model ready for sale called the Model T. With features such as the steering wheel on the left side, the engine and transmission fully enclosed, easy and cheap to repair and a low purchase price the Model T became a huge success.
The Model T Ford became so popular and cheap that by the 1920s most Americans had learned to drive in one. Ford created a franchise of car dealerships which made the car available in nearly every city in North America and brought not only the car but the idea of automobiling to the public. Ford posted 100%+ profits on each previous year and in 1913 introduced belt driven moving assembly lines into his plants, which further increased production and profits. The Model T price started out at $825 which dropped each year as production improved, and by 1916 the price dropped as low as $360 for the basic touring car. By 1916 sales reached 472,000 vehicles and by 1918 half of all cars in America were Model T Fords. Production continued until 1927 by which time sales were falling fast as competition grew, but by that time Henry ford had sold $15,007,034 Model T’s and held that record for the next 45 years.
In 1926 Henry finally decided to design a newer more modern car which resulted in the also very popular Model A Ford. The car went on sale in 1927 after a great deal of technical design and innovation and finished production in 1931 after over 4 million vehicles were sold. After this new model the company developed an annual model change and Henry also finally agreed to start a credit company for people to gain finance. 1932 saw Ford producing a third of the world’s total vehicles.
Ford started racing cars in 1901 in stripped down Model T Fords, and in 1909 he won an ocean to ocean race across America only to be disqualified. In 1913 he was also stopped from racing a Model T at the Indianapolis 500 due to being 1,000 pounds to light, so Ford dropped out of racing permanently due to the racing rules and little free time. Henry Ford was inducted into the American Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1996.
Henry was an advocate and pioneer of “welfare capitalism” with the idea of improving employee’s lives and reducing employee turnover. Hiring and keeping the best employee’s meant lower cost and increased efficiency by undertaking a program that involved a 5 day work week, a reduction from 9 to an 8 hour work day and an increase in minimum daily pay from $2.34 to $5. Workers had to live according to Fords “Sociological Departments” requirements, which meant no heavy drinking, gambling or bad behavior for them to keep the higher pay rate. Ford was also adamantly against labor unions and was the last automaker to accept the United Auto Workers Union. In 1937 in an attempt to stop union organizers Ford’s security clashed in a bloody brawl famously known as the Battle of the Overpass.
During World War 1 in 1915 Henry Paid for a ship to sail to war ravaged Europe with about 170 peace leaders, to talk with other peace activists in an attempt to make a difference but failed. 1918 saw Ford’s secretary Ernest G. Liebold purchase a weekly newspaper, called the Dearborn Independent so Henry could share his personal views. 1920-1928 saw Ford become so anti-Semitic that he started an anti-Jewish crusade within the newspaper.
Also during World War 1 the company temporarily went into manufacturing Liberty airplane engines, which lead to Ford buying the Stout Metal Airplane Company in 1925. The most successful aircraft Ford built was the Ford 4AT Trimotor. It was the first successful U.S passenger airliner, which seated 12 passengers. 200 planes were built before the great depression forced the closure of the Ford plane division.
Henry Ford survived a stroke in 1938 when he turned over the business to his son Edsel, but when his son died in 1943 Henry took over once again. 1945 saw him retire again with health problems, and handing over presidency to his grandson Henry Ford II. Henry died in 1947 of a cerebral hemorrhage at age 83 in Fair Lane, and was buried in the Ford Cemetery in Detroit.
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