Henry Ford Biography
Died At Age: 83
Sun Sign: Leo
Born in: Greenfield Township, Michigan, U.S.
Famous as: Businessman
Spouse/Ex-: Clara Ala Bryant (m. 1888–1947)
father: William Ford
mother: Mary Litogot Ford
children: Edsel Ford
place of death: Fair Lane, Dearborn, Michigan, U.S.
U.S. State: Michigan
Founder/Co-Founder: Ford Motor Company
education: Detroit Business Institute
awards: 1928 - Franklin Institute's Elliott Cresson Medal
1938 - Nazi Germany's Grand Cross of the German Eagle
Henry Ford was an American industrialist who founded the Ford Motor Company, which sells automobiles and commercial vehicles under the Ford brand. He also played a major role in the development of the assembly line technique of mass production. Before he started his company, most American middle-class families were not in a position to own automobiles which only the upper classes could afford. However, Ford revolutionized the automobile industry by developing and manufacturing affordable automobiles that even the middle-class community could conveniently purchase. Born to a farmer in Greenfield Township, Michigan, he started displaying leadership qualities and technical skills as a young boy. He was expected to follow his father and become a farmer, but the independent minded young man had other plans for himself. Intelligent and hard working, he apprenticed with a machinist and went on to become an engineer. Fascinated with automobiles, he started conducting his own experiments in building them. During this time, he became acquainted with the famous inventor Thomas Edison who encouraged the young man’s experiments. Motivated, Ford built several automobiles before establishing the Ford Motor Company. As an industrialist, he adopted several innovations in his company that revolutionized the entire automobile industry. He was also well known for his pacifist views and staunch opposition to war.
- Henry Ford was born on July 30, 1863, in Dearborn, Michigan, to William and Mary Ford. He had four siblings.
- He was bright and curious as a child. He was in his teens when his father gave him a pocket watch which he dismantled and reassembled by himself. He also practiced on the timepieces of friends and neighbors, and soon gained the reputation of a watch repairman. From a young age he demonstrated mechanical ability and leadership qualities.
- His mother died in 1876, leaving him devastated. He realized that he did not want to live on the farm anymore now that his mother was gone.
- He left home in 1879 to work as an apprentice machinist with James F. Flower & Bros. in Detroit. Later on he went to work for the Detroit Dry Dock Co. before returning home in 1882.
- Back home, he started working on the family farm and became an expert at operating the Westinghouse portable steam engine. His technical skills gained recognition and he was later hired by Westinghouse to service their steam engines.
- His mechanical skills and ability to grasp new things led to his appointment as night engineer for the Edison Electric Illuminating Company in 1891. He found the job very exciting as he got the opportunity to learn more about electricity which was a fairly new concept back then.
- Hard working and determined, Ford rose to the position of a chief engineer of the Illuminating Company by 1896. Alongside working on his job, he also started working on something he had always been fascinated with: building automobiles.
- He teamed up with a group of friends and built a self-propelled vehicle, the Quadricycle. With four wire wheels that looked like heavy bicycle wheels, it could be steered with a tiller like a boat, and had only two forward speeds with no reverse.
- He met with Thomas Edison who approved of his experimentation. Motivated, Ford continued on bettering his model of automobile, and completed a second vehicle in 1898.
- Ford then decided to form his own company and resigned from his job. He founded the Detroit Automobile Company in 1899. However, the automobiles produced by the company did not perform well at the market and very soon he was forced to close down the business.
- Ever the resilient soul, he started working on improving the quality of his automobiles and successfully raced a 26-horsepower automobile in October 1901. Then he teamed up the stockholders in his Detroit Automobile Company to form the Henry Ford Company in November 1901.
- However, some issues came up between Ford and the other stockholders and Ford left the company which was later renamed Cadillac Automobile Company after Ford’s departure.
- Undaunted by the failure of yet another venture, he continued to pursue his passion of building automobiles. He built several racing cars over the ensuing years, including the “999” racer which looked quite promising.
- In 1903, Henry incorporated the Ford Motor Company. The original investors included Henry Ford, Alexander Y. Malcomson, the Dodge brothers, and John S. Gray, among others. Around this time, the race driver Barney Oldfield drove the “999” around the country, making the Ford brand known throughout the United States.
- The company launched the Model T in October 1908. The vehicle had a steering wheel on the left—an idea which other automobile companies soon copied. The model proved to be highly successful as it was not only affordable, but also very simple to drive, and easy and cheap to repair.
- The Model T was so successful that Ford had to greatly expand his production in order to meet the ever-increasing demand. For this, Ford, along with the company staff developed a moving assembly line for automobiles in 1913. The company developed techniques of mass-production which enabled them to greatly increase their output.
- The Model T dominated the automobile market for several years and by 1918, half of all cars in America were Model T's. In 1918, Ford also handed over the presidency of Ford Motor Company to his son, Edsel Ford, even though he retained the final decision authority.
- By the mid-1920s, the sales of the Model T had begun to decline. Thus the company introduced the Ford Model A in 1927 which sold profitably till 1931. But the company continued to decline in the 1930s and by 1936, Ford Motor Company had fallen to third place in the US market, behind both General Motors and Chrysler Corporation.
- Henry Ford was a pacifist and when the Second World War broke out in 1939, he opposed the United States’ entry into the war. However, when America entered the war, Ford Motor Company became one of the major US military contractors, supplying airplanes, engines, jeeps and tanks.
- A tragedy befell the aging Ford in 1943 when his son Edsel died of cancer. Even though Henry Ford formally resumed control of the company after his son’s death, he no longer exercised absolute authority. The key decisions were taken by others in his name and he was increasingly sidelined. Eventually his grandson, Henry Ford II, was made the president.
- Henry Ford was the founder of the Ford Motor Company which revolutionized the automobile industry in the world. Under Ford’s leadership, the company introduced methods for large-scale manufacturing of cars and large-scale management of an industrial workforce using specialized techniques. Today, it is the second-largest U.S.-based automaker.
- Ford was awarded the Franklin Institute's Elliott Cresson Medal in 1928.
- In 1938, Ford was awarded Nazi Germany's Grand Cross of the German Eagle, a medal given to foreigners sympathetic to Nazism.
- He married Clara Jane Bryant in 1888 and had one son, Edsel, with her.
- Henry Ford died of a cerebral hemorrhage on 7 April 1947 at the age of 83.
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