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A Biography of Henry Ford

Henry Ford was an American industrialist, best known for


his pioneering
achievements in the automobile industry. From humble beginnings
he was able to
create a company that would rank as one of the giants of
American and World
industry long after his death. There is no doubt that Henry
Ford was a
successful business man. The Ford Motor Company, Henry Ford's
legacy, has left
its mark on every continent in the world. However, Ford didn't
gain his success
solely on his innovation in the automobile industry. He was a
friend to the
middle class public as well as the workers in his factories.
For this he was
rewarded with financial success by the same people he looked out
for. Moreover,
he repeatedly gave back to society through donations,
philanthropic foundations,
and the creation of organizations that would help to educate and
benefit the
people. Henry Ford was a man who gained world-wide business
success through his
innovative ideas, brilliant management skills, and down-to-earth
tactics.

Henry Ford was born on a farm near Dearborn, Michigan, on


July 30, 1863,
and educated in district schools. He became a machinist's
apprentice in Detroit
at the age of 16. From 1888 to 1899 he was a mechanical
engineer, and later
chief engineer, with the Edison Illuminating Company. In 1893,
after
experimenting for several years in his leisure hours, he
completed the
construction of his first gasoline engine. His first automobile
was completed
in 1896. The body was a small crude wooden box, it had a single
seat, a
steering tiller, bicycle wheels, and an electric bell on the
front. In 1903 he
founded the Ford Motor Company.

At first, like his competitors, he made cars that only


the wealthy could
afford. But later he came to believe that every man, no matter
what his income,
should own a car. This resulted in the inexpensive "Model T" in
1908. It
brought great financial success to his company. The Model T was
in production
until 1927 when it was discontinued in favor of a more up-to-
date model. While
in production the company sold over 15 million cars. In 1913
Ford began using
standardized interchangeable parts and assembly-line techniques
in his plant.
Although Ford neither originated nor was the first to employ
such practices, he
was chiefly responsible for their general adoption and for the
consequent great
expansion of American industry and the raising of the American
standard of
living. By early 1914 this innovation, although greatly
increasing productivity,
had resulted in a monthly labor turnover of 40 to 60 percent in
his factory,
largely because of the unpleasant monotony of assembly-line work
and repeated
increases in the production quotas assigned to workers. Ford
met this
difficulty by doubling the daily wage then standard in the
industry, raising it
from about $2.50 to $5. The net result was increased stability
in his labor
force and a substantial reduction in operating costs. These
factors, coupled
with the enormous increase in output made possible by new
technological methods,
led to an increase in company profits from $30 million in 1914
to $60 million in
1916.

Ford believed that most of the profits should be used to


increase the
size of the company's factories. This was an unusual practice
at the time. The
other stockholders wanted to split the profits among themselves
in the form of
dividends. Ford didn't like opposition in his company so he
bought out all the
other stockholders in 1919. Within the ensuing few years,
however, Ford's
preeminence as the largest producer and seller of automobiles in
the nation was
gradually lost to his competitors, largely because he was slow
to adopt the
practice of introducing a new model of automobile each year,
which had become
standard in the industry. During the 1930s Ford adopted the
policy of the yearly
changeover, but his company was unable to regain the position it
had formerly
held.

In the period from 1937 to 1941, the Ford company became


the only major
manufacturer of automobiles in the Detroit area that had not
recognized any
labor union as the collective bargaining representative of
employees. At
hearings before the National Labor Relations Board, Henry Ford
was found guilty
of repeated violations of the National Labor Relations Act. The
findings against
him were upheld on appeal to the federal courts. Ford was
constrained to
negotiate a standard labor contract after a successful strike by
the workers at
his main plant at River Rouge, Michigan, in April 1941.

Early in 1941 Ford was granted government contracts


whereby he was, at
first, to manufacture parts for bombers and, later, the entire
airplane. He
thereupon launched the construction of a huge plant at Willow
Run, Michigan,
where production was begun in May 1942. It was said the plant
could produce a
bomber an hour. Despite certain technical difficulties, by the
end of World War
II (1945) this plant had manufactured more than 8000 B-24
Liberator Bombers and
other military planes.

Ford was active in several other fields besides those of


automobile and
airplane manufacturing. He was nominated for the office of U.S.
senator from
Michigan in 1918 but was defeated in the election. In the
following year he
erected the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit at a cost of $7.5
million. He
established the Greenfield Village which is a group of American
Historical
buildings and landmarks and he created the Henry Ford Museum in
Dearborn which
exhibits man's progress in many fields. Also, he donated large
amounts of money
to the philanthropic Ford Foundation which is currently one of
the world's
largest. In 1919 he became the publisher of the Dearborn
Independent, a weekly
journal, which at first published anti-Semitic material. After
considerable
public protest, Ford directed that publication of such articles
be discontinued
and that a public apology be made to the Jewish people.

Advancing age obliged Ford to retire from the active


direction of his
gigantic enterprises in 1945. He died on April 7, 1947, in
Dearborn, Michigan.
Ford left a personal fortune estimated at $500 to $700 million,
bequeathing the
largest share of his holdings in the Ford Motor Company to the
Ford Foundation.
Ford revolutionized American and consequently World industry
with his pioneering
use of the assembly line production method. He turned a small
local car company
into one of the world's largest industrial companies. Henry
Ford was a great
businessman and a great human being. He proved that success
cannot simply be
attained with a good product. He accomplished what many aspire
to, but few
actually achieve. He was able to combine his technological
know-how, and
innovative ideas with brilliant managerial practices and respect
for his workers
and customers. Adding in his philanthropic tendencies, it is
obvious that Henry
Ford is a perfect model of how to be successful in business and
in life.