Henry Ford: From Tinkerer To American Industrialist

Henry Ford: From Tinkerer To American Industrialist | Mr. Business Magazine

Whenever you hear the word ‘Ford’, a car model with cutting-edge design, advanced safety features, and efficient engines comes to your mind. But do you know about the man who made it a global brand that everyone loves to this date?

Henry Ford – the man behind the Ford Motor Company who revolutionized the automobile industry in America, and was named the Businessman of the Century by Fortune Magzine in 1999. He has made numerous changes and achieved a lot in his life, but it was also filled with struggles and difficulties.

Who was Henry Ford?

Henry Ford, the well-known American Industrialist was born on July 30, 1863, on a farm in Springwells Township, Michigan. Born into the family of William and Mary Ford, he grew up as a farmer beside his parents but always had a natural eye for engineering. 

Apart from farming, he attended a one-room school for eight years then later did a course in bookkeeping at Goldsmith, Bryant & Stratton Business College. He got married to Clara Jane Bryant in 1888 and had a child Edsel Ford. 

His father wanted him to take over their family farm after Mary Ford died in 1876 but Henry had no interest in farming. He had said in his book My Life and Work, “I never had any particular love for the farm, it was the mother on the farm I loved.”

He left his home in 1879 to work as an apprentice mechanist to shape his career and his life was never the same again.

An Industrialist in the Making

Henry Ford: From Tinkerer To American Industrialist | Mr. Business Magazine

Henry Ford had an eye for mechanics and engineering since his childhood. At the age of 12, his father gave him a pocket watch which piqued his curiosity in mechanics. He began dismantling and reassembling his friend’s and neighbors’ watches, gaining him the reputation of a Watch Repairman. At the same time, he also witnessed Nichols and Shepherd Co.’s self-propelled road machine, which fascinated him, and he learned how to operate and fire it from its operator Fred Reden. He had acknowledged that – because of this experience, he knew he was an engineer by instinct.

Between 1879 to 1882, he worked with two companies, James F. Flower and Bros. and Detroit Dry Dock Co., where he learned the tools and primary skills of engineering. After returning home, he kept working on his farm workshop to fulfill his dream of building his own self-propelled vehicle. 

He worked at Edison Illuminating Co. of Detroit, where he became good friends with Thomas Edison and learned the skills to work on his dream project of that time. He named his first motor car the Ford Quadricycle, which was made using four bicycle wheels and was powered using gasoline.

The Fails and the Wins

Before Henry Ford made a mark in the automobile industry with Ford Motor Company, he took on various projects and failed multiple times. 

After leaving  Edison Illuminating Co. in 1899, Henry founded Detroit Automobile Company, but it went into bankruptcy soon after. In 1901, he designed, built, and raced horse-powered automobiles and again, founded the Henry Ford Company where he was the chief engineer. He left the company in 1902 which was later renamed as Cadillac Automobile Company. He built several racing cars and experimented with his models, one of which was 999 driven by Barney Oldfield

Henry Ford: From Tinkerer To American Industrialist | Mr. Business Magazine

Ford Motor Company

The Ford Motor Company was founded in 1903 by Henry and 11 other investors with $28,000 capital and was a success from the start. The company sold and made a profit within a year of starting. He built many models throughout the years but the most popular was Model T.

Model T, also known as ‘Tin Lizzie’ and ‘The car that put everyone on wheels’, was not only simple to drive and easy to repair but was also affordable and was a part of every American household in the coming years. It was launched in 1908 and marked a new era of innovation for all middle-class people.

The Unique Blend of Assembly Lines In the Automobile Industry

Henry Ford might not have founded the Assemby line but by introducing it into the automobile manufacturing industry, he changed it forever. What took hours of manual work was now simplified and less time-consuming.

At the height of production at Ford Motor Company, the factory saw a Model T roll off the assembly line belts every 24 seconds, but that came with a price. The workers hated the time bound of 90 minutes to manufacture one car. Not only did the work become boring and repetitive but affected their productivity and the workers started leaving to find work that met their requirements. This rebellion led to another revolution marked by Henry Ford.

| Do you know Henry Ford is the one who founded the 40-hour workweek system? 

When his workers started leaving due to long hours and less pay, he introduced $5 a day, twice the wage laborers used to get at that time, and reduced work timings to eight hours a day in 1914. This not only led to an increase in labour but he was also able to introduce three shifts in a day. In 1926, he started closing his factory on Saturdays and Sundays to offer his employees more leisure time, inventing the 5-day work week in the process. 

Henry Ford: From Tinkerer To American Industrialist | Mr. Business Magazine

Controversial Life Yet Left A Longlasting Impact

Throughout his life, Henry Ford went through a lot and faced many controversies as well. In the early days of Ford Motor Company, Dodge Brothers sued Henry for reckless expansion and reducing prices of the company’s products, as a result, diverting money from stockholders’ dividends. He fought the case but lost in the end. 

In a newspaper called, The Dearborn Independent, he had published several antisemitic articles that stirred controversy. He had also reprinted a forged article that spoke wrongly about the Jewish community. 

Despite all the controversies, he left an impact on the automobile industry that changed how it operated forever. Ford became a global sensation and a well-known brand that people recall and love to this day. 

He has also published several books, some based on his life, and some on his controversial beliefs that are listed here. 

  • My Life and Work (1922)
  • The International Jew (1920)
  • Today and Tomorrow (1926)
  • Edison As I Know Him (1930)
  • Ford Ideals (1922)

Henry Ford left a legacy after he died in 1947 due to a cerebral hemorrhage. He was the richest and well-known personality because he was the sole owner of Ford Motors Company. His introduction of Model T in the industry changed the transportation of America forever as it was cheaper and available to all. He was also awarded 161 US patents. Henry Ford wasn’t well educated and grew up in the belief of taking over his family farm. But his curiosity and passion for machinery with zeal to do something big made him the world-famous American Industrialist we know him as today.

Share Now: