Henry Ford's Greatest Invention

The Quadricycle

Henry Ford was born on the family farm on July 30, 1863. By all reports Ford was happy on the farm, indulging his technological inclination by repairing farm equipment for his father. However, when Henry was 16 years old he decided to move off the farm and secured a job in a machine shop in Detroit. By 1893, Ford had married Clara Bryant and welcomed the birth of his only child, Edsel Bryant Ford. 

Henry was captivated by the invention and development of the horseless carriage. Working by day as an engineer with the Edison Illuminating Company to support his family, he tinkered endlessly at night in his home workshop to design and build his own automobile.

In 1893, Ford completed his first automobile. The Quadricycle was a metal frame supported by four bicycle tires. It was a rear-wheel drive and had a two speed transmission without a reverse gear. The driver steered with a tiller and sat on a seat under which rested a 3 gallon gas tank full of pure ethanol. The vehicle was chain driven and powered by a two-cylinder 4-horsepower engine.

Ford had devoted over two years to the development of the Quadricycle and after successfully driving it through the streets of Detroit, was seized with a greater zeal than ever before to develop a practical family automobile.

Henry was 32 years old, with a wife and 6-year-old son, when he finished the Quadricycle and within a few short years quit his job at Edison to work full time on the development of his design of an automobile.

The Quadricycle was more of a curiosity than a practical method of transportation. Yet, it was the victory that inspired Ford to devote the remainder of his life to his true passion of developing automobiles.

In the years that followed, the man who spent the first part of his life on the farm metamorphosed into a brilliant and ruthless businessman and entrepreneur who constantly utilized his inventive mind to improve the design of the automobile as well as the methods of producing it. Along the way, he changed the course of the world and became one of its richest inhabitants.

Henry Ford's Ideal Worker

Working for Ford-1915

In previous blogs, I discussed very briefly the worker program introduced by Henry Ford that enabled his company to produce millions of quality automobiles. I want to give a broader view of the average Ford employee of the period. In 1915, while many regions of the country had one foot in the rural economy and the other barely set into the industrial age, economic conditions were harsh and many lived a poverty level existence.

As the industrial age blossomed in the Northern United States, thousands of workers literally fled the south to find work, security and stability by employment with huge manufacturing companies. The Ford Motor Company was a primary destination.

Ford hired these refugees who were in many cases uneducated and lacking in the skills necessary to perform technical work. Also, the average Southern farm worker was not accustomed to the iron discipline and strict regimen Henry Ford exercised over his employees. They experienced difficulty in adapting and were either fired or quit in hopes of finding a better job. Indeed, many departments of the company hired 300 workers per year to staff 100 positions.

Ford introduced a revolutionary worker program to solve the turnover problem. He his employees $5 per day—double their usual wage—and dividing the workday into eight hour shifts, which dramatically cut the number of hours employees had been working. Additionally, employees got Sunday off, absolutely unheard of up until this point.

Another benefit to employees was that the higher wage put a $300 Ford Model T within their reach, making the dream of owning an automobile a reality.

Every day, hundreds of men lined up outside the employment office of the Ford plant in anticipation of one Ford employee quitting, getting fired or dying; anything to create just one opening they could fill.

The Ford plant became a Mecca for hungry workers and over time Ford ended up with the very best of them.

However, in addition to the discipline and strict regimen, Ford demanded a tremendous amount of diligence and hard work from his employees. The assembly line moved quickly and employees had to adjust to getting their jobs done as the pace increased as automobile grew exponentially. Mistakes caused through inability to keep up with the assembly line or mistakes in judgment resulted in quick dismissal. After all, there was no shortage of workers literally fighting each other to get on the Ford payroll.

Ford was a self righteous man who believed others should be shaped into his own mold. Therefore, he organized classes after work—particularly for recent immigrants to the U.S.—that were designed to instill his idea of American qualities into them. At these classes, anti-Semitism was preached, as well as Henry’s political views and other ideas regarding society’s behavior.

These classes were not conducted simply as an exercise; employees were expected to follow the teachings expressed at them at work and at home. Language, customs and conduct were monitored and deviation from Henry’s ideal mold was dealt with by dismissal from the company.


Henry Ford the Man

Ford Had What it Took to Change the World

There is no doubt that if Henry Ford had not stepped up to develop the automobile industry in the United States, someone else would have. Ford was such a unique character, seemingly endowed with every trait necessary to revolutionize the world as no one else had up until the 20th century. The man was obsessive, dictatorial, abusive and utterly without conscience. He was 100 per cent certain of his superiority, infallibility and righteousness of purpose. He was a king and made a King’s arbitrary decisions without even thinking of the effect on others, much less considering their opinions or feelings.

Thank the heavens! From what deep well is the nation fortunate enough to draw these men, when the moment in history is ripe for them to step forward and change the course of our lives for the better?

Ford was born in 1863 on a family farm. In 1863, steam engines ran the railroads and factories. The internal combustion engine was still decades away from serious development. How did this kid, raised in such a technologically deprived life identify the potential of the internal combustion engine, envision the possibilities and put a whole country on wheels?

Purity of character in the rough and tumble days of the 19th and 20th centuries was not a prerequisite for building an empire. The railroad and steel tycoons, as well as the automobile tycoons did not do what they did for altruistic purposes lift up the impoverished masses. They didn’t even do it for money. They did it because that’s what they were wired to do, and despite the pain they caused along the way, the country is better off for their efforts.

Ford's Pinto Travesty

Arrogance and Disaster

The heir to the automobile empire, Henry Ford 11 was at the helm of the company when perhaps the most devastating design flaw in automotive history was allowed to go into production. This design flaw was actually visible to the naked eye, although its limits were also tested extensively at Ford’s Testing Facility.

An aluminum gas tank hung down between the rear wheels of the Pinto like a giant set of testicles. These “testicles” were fully exposed. Imagine getting kicked in the balls and instead of simply being driven to your knees, you burst into flame. Well, that’s what happens when a pinto is struck in the gas tank by another car driven at more than 31 miles per hour; the tank breaks apart, floods the passenger cabin with fumes and the ruptured aluminum tank is ignited by friction with the car’s steel under-frame, causing it to go up like a firebomb. And, oh yeah, the car doors immediately jam.

By many estimates more than 500 people died agonized deaths trapped in these burning cars.

Lee Ioccoca, Vice-President and Head of Production set the design parameters for a new sub-compact car to compete with Volkswagen and other car manufacturers. “Lee’s car” as it became known inside the Ford Plant had what boiled down to three design parameters:

  1. Total weight: Not 1 ounce over 2000 lbs.
  2. Total Retail:  Not 1 cent over $2000
  3. Amenities:    The exact same as every other competitor

In other words—Give me the best and charge me the least. Obviously, shortcuts have to be taken to deliver on that mandate.

To add another confounding and contributing issue to this formula for disaster, the engineers were told the car—from the first day of design to the first day of production—had to be finished in a shorter period of time than any car in automotive history; in one-half the time of a standard ford automobile. The overseas compact car manufacturers were eating too deeply into Ford automobile sales to wait any longer.

Once the Pinto was in production and people began dying while bathed in flames, Ford tested numerous fixes and alterations but discarded them all because the cost might add several dollars to a car or diminish the appeal of the amenities, such as creating a smaller trunk in favor of a stronger gas tank.

Sure, Ford was sued well and soundly, but with untold riches in their coffers to pay off lawsuits, they stayed true to the Pinto’s original design even after setting another record; the largest recall in history up until 1978 of one and one-half million cars.

Henry Ford: Anti-Semitic?

Henry Ford: Megalomaniac?

There are many accounts of the type of person Henry Ford was and how he lived his life. Most of what I’ve read is very similar in content. All agree that Ford was a man with an obsessive idea to build a practical automobile that was affordable to everybody.

Everyone also agrees that Ford and his obsession emerged at the right time and place in history. America was ready for the automobile, the steel and coal industry were ready to produce the steel to build them and the railroads were extensive enough to transport raw steel to the automobile plants and finished automobiles to the country at large. Add to the mix the availability of cheap, readily available labor, and couple it with the business genius of Henry Ford to complete a formula that would dramatically change the world and the life of everyone in it, forever.

By most accounts Ford was a reclusive man who was taciturn and abrupt with everyone around him. He allowed no argument and little to no discussion of any decision he made.

Henry Ford—by the accounts I’ve read was a megalomaniac, who believed himself superior to the rest of the world and was entitled to do whatever he wanted, when he wanted and how he wanted.

Ford experienced dramatic success after tremendously hard work and sacrifice. At this point in history, the public revered industrial giants. These factors when combined with Ford’s own personality made him an easy candidate for Megalomania. He did not hesitate to use premeditative violence where he felt it was expedient, such as with his battles with unions and his own employees.

While Ford changed the world with his production of the automobile, he not only resisted, be fought against the societal changes occurring in the world around him. These included everything from movies and music to new styles in dress as well as government regulation of business.

Early on in his rise to greatness, from 1910 to 1918, Henry became voracious in his open hatred of immigration, liquor and the labor movement. Henry also was prolific in his condemnation of Jews and his anti-Semitism was destined to negatively affect him in the near future.

Ford was insulated—at his own insistence—from the rest of the world and never gave a thought to the actions he took. Believing the rest of the world wanted and needed his views on current events, he hired a staff to write a weekly column entitled “Mr. Ford’s Page”.

In this weekly column, Henry asserted that the Jews were involved in a conspiracy to take control of the world. Additionally, he charged Jews with instigating World War One in order to profiteer from it. Closer to home, he attacked Jews for undermining his automobile dealerships as well as manipulating the financial markets for their own purposes.

The old newspaper column morphed into a new one entitled “The International Jew: The World’s Problem.” For a year and a half the column perpetuated Ford’s radical views. He hired retired military intelligence experts to dig up “evidence” to support his theories. The weekly column became progressively more rabid and far-reaching in its charges and assertions.

This bizarre campaign continued for an additional seven years after the Russian Government forged a document entitled “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” that “proved” everything that Ford believed was true. A Russian operative met with Ford and presented him with the document.

Finally—in 1927—after multiple lawsuits from libeled Jews, Ford was brought to his knees by fears of a Jewish boycott of his automobiles and apologized publically while asserting his belief in Jewish virtue and promising his support of Jewish issues and the Jewish people in the future. The barrage of apologies was humiliating and embarrassing for him and the Ford Company.

However, the old Ford was alive and well and placed the blame squarely on the shoulders of his underlings and newspaper staff—firing everyone concerned—while maintaining he was too busy to keep up with what was written.




Henry Ford-Dictator or Visionary

Contributions of Henry Ford

Henry Ford was a man who was worthy of standing up to and molding the confluence of events that streamed his way in the early 1900’s.

Henry didn’t invent the automobile but he developed the first practical and marketable automobile. At the same time the nation was starving for some means to connect east to west and north to south, the automobile accomplished that by putting the country on wheels. The industrial giants of the time were gearing up to take advantage of the nation’s huge iron deposits and turn it into steel. Henry came along and bought it by the ton to build his millions of automobiles. The steel industry infused the burgeoning railroads with new energy as they shipped iron ore and coal for the smelting furnaces and Henry shipped automobiles all over the country. More cars meant the country needed more roads and the city, state and federal road system was built, making more room for more automobiles.

Henry had it going for him in regards to the demand for his product, the hard resources available to produce them and the industries to refine and transport them. Ford figured out quickly how to make it all work for him and his fledgling industry.

Ford also figured out how to make human resources work for him. He doubled the daily wages of his plant workers and gave them a day off each week. This was unheard of at the time. Henry’s strategy was brilliant; he knew that the workers would be terrified of losing such a lucrative job in an economic climate where people were lined up outside all day long waiting for a job to come available. His employees worked harder and faster than ever before as the newly mechanized mass production machinery moved the autos through the assembly line at an ever increasing rate.

There was another part of his strategy as well; Henry knew that each employee could now afford a car and would buy a Ford, putting their wages back into his pockets. At the same time their jobs became even more valuable to them to pay for their new purchase.

This environment allowed Henry to become dictatorial to his employees and members of his working family. He used every means at his command to further his goals, whether they were anti-Semitic, anti-union or strong-arm tactics against competitors. He formed The Service Department, an in-house force of thugs and toughs to carry out campaigns of violence and intimidation against the unions and newspapers.

Henry Ford possessed the brute strength of will and purpose to supply automobiles to the world.

Henry Ford-Innovator Extraordinaire

Henry Ford's Vanadium Steel

As history so obviously points out, Henry Ford was an innovator extraordinaire. What made Ford successful as an innovator was his common sense approach to life and ability to simplify complicated issues. Additionally, Ford could look ahead to see the greater effects that his decisions and actions would generate.

After all, he was the person who single-handily revolutionized the automobile and many other industries by hiring blacks to work in his plants and doubling the salary and cutting hours from the workday of all of his employees. Ford saw the “cause and effect” of his actions. He knew that these benefits would improve the quality and quantity of the work his employees produced. He would also secure their loyalty in the ongoing battle against the unions. But perhaps most importantly, each of his employees could afford to buy one of his automobiles, driving up sales and profits exponentially. 

When Ford heard about a noted metallurgist from England—who was working on developing stronger and lighter steel—he immediately arranged several visits with the scientist. The tensile strength of Vanadium steel was three times greater than the steel currently used in Ford motorcars. Just as importantly as its greater strength, the Vanadium steel was significantly lighter and easier to machine than traditional steel.

Ford immediately saw the possibilities; a lighter more durable automobile, cheaper to build and more importantly, much less expensive for the consumer. The lower price meant that consumers would buy many more autos, driving up profits.

Over the next four years the Ford Motor Company developed the 1908 Model T. The auto was marketed heavily as a lighter auto—strong enough to travel any road in America—large enough to accommodate a large family and priced affordably enough for an individual to operate. Over 15,000,000 Model T’s were sold from Ford plants all over the nation.

The Model T automobile was conceived, designed and built directly from the qualities provided by Vanadium steel.


Facts About Henry Ford

Who hasn't heard of Henry Ford? Most of us are familiar with the name, but how much do we actually know about him? Keep reading to learn a bit more about this incredible man.

  • Henry Ford was born on July 30th, 1863 in Michigan.
  • April 7th, 1947 was Henry Ford's last day of life. He died of a cerebral brain hemorrhage.
  • Henry married Clara Bryant in 1888.
  • In 1893, Clara gave birth to Henry's son, Edsel.
  • Edsel would later go on to help Henry with his business ventures.
  • In 1901, Henry was unemployed and in search of ways to make money to provide for his family.
  • In 1903, Henry and a few investors founded the Ford Company with just $28,000.
  • Ford introduced the Model T in 1908.
  • In 1913, Ford started the first moving assembly line. He is still known as the father of moving assembly lines by many folks today.
  • In September of 1945, Henry resigned as president of the Ford Company and gave the position to his grandson, Henry.

As you can see, Henry Ford led a rather active life. He was constantly inventing new things and finding ways to reinvent his company. Over the years, the Ford Company has provided thousands of jobs for Americans of all ages, races, and backgrounds. The Ford Company has always been on top of trends and busy introducing new models to the public, from the Model T to current models like the Fusion and Escape. Can you imagine what life would be like if it wasn't for Henry Ford? We might still be walking and riding horses everywhere.

This Edsel Was No Lemon

Edsel Ford Was A Winner

Edsel Ford was born on November 6, 1893 to Henry and Clara Ford. Henry was president of The Ford Motor and had grand plans for his son.

Edsel was a well-behaved child who grew into an intelligent, handsome man who was respected by all and was never the subject of scandal or controversy.

Some say Edsel was born with a “silver spoon” in his mouth and that would be correct; however, he was also born with wrench in one hand and a screwdriver in the other.

From the day of his birth Henry Ford determined that his son would someday take over the company. Henry immersed his son in the family business as soon as the boy was able to walk and talk. Edsel spent countless hours of his youth tinkering with Model T’s and assembling cars on the production line. He learned the automobile business by washing grease from his hands at the end of long days in the shop working on Model T Fords.

At the age of 22—after attending prep school at the prestigious Hotchkiss School and graduating from the Detroit University School—Edsel became secretary of the Ford Motor Company. He was married in 1916 to Eleanor Lowtian Clay and the union produced four children: Henry Ford 2nd, Benson Ford, Josephine Clay Ford and William Clay Ford. The children were to take an active role in the Ford Motor Company in later years.

As Edsel Ford climbed through the company hierarchy to become President, he tirelessly battled Henry to introduce better engineering and flashier, more modern automobiles to the public. The elder Ford overruled Edsel on every major decision until flagging sales of the Model T forced him to begin Production of the Model A, which was a smashing success.

Edsel worked tirelessly with company designers and engineers to introduce modern innovations to the cars the company produced and is credited with keeping the company current with its major competitors. He also founded the Mercury Division of the Ford Motor Company where the Lincoln Town Car was developed and produced.

Edsel Ford was to die at the early age of 43 years in 1949, from stomach cancer. Henry resumed the presidency of the company immediately before it began to lose ground to other automobile manufacturers.


Henry Ford's Bump In The Road

Ford Versus UAW

Regardless of where your sympathies lay, the events of May 26, 1937 was a black eye for the Ford Motor Company.

In a blatant attempt to organize the Ford Motor Plant workers the United Auto Workers attempted to entice them to join the union by floating the possibility of an $8.00, six-hour workday as opposed to a $6.00, eight-hour workday. Ironically, Henry Ford was the first auto manufacturer to offer his workers double the going rate for manufacturing and to cut hours off the workday and a day from the workweek.

The incident began when labor organizers assembled at Gate 4 of the Rouge Complex to pass out leaflets to 9,000 workers entering the plant and the same number leaving it.

Two UAW union leaders were pressed by a Detroit News photographer to pose for pictures on the overpass.

Ford maintained an internal security department called the Service Department. These men, up to 40 plus strong descended on the union workers on the overpass and at Gate 4. Chaos and carnage ensued as the Service Department assaulted the UAW organizers. The women UAW members were not spared and were roughed up along with the newspapermen. The Detroit News photographer hid the photographic plates he had used to take pictures of the beatings, as well as pictures of the Detroit Police Department simply standing by and watching. Fortunately, the photographer was able to surrender blank plates to the Ford Service Department and use the real plates to publish pictures the next day on the front page of the paper.

Wherever your sympathies may lie, the incident improved the image of the UAW and damaged that of Ford, leading to the company signing an agreement with the UAW 3 years later.