Dearborn, Michigan

The early history of Ford Motor Company illustrates one of Henry Ford’s most important talents—an ability to identify and attract outstanding people. He hired a core of young, able men who believed in his vision and would make Ford Motor Company into one of the world’s great industrial enterprises. The new company’s first car, called the Model A, was followed by a variety of improved models. In 1907 Ford’s four-cylinder, $600 Model N became the best selling car in the country.

But by this time Ford had a bigger vision: a better, cheaper “motorcar for the great multitude. ” Working with a hand-picked group of employees he came up with the Model T, introduced on October 1, 1908. The Model T was easy to operate, maintain, and handle on rough roads. It immediately became a huge success. Ford could easily sell all he could make; but he wanted to make all he could sell. Doing that required a bigger factory.

In 1910 the company moved into a huge new plant in Highland Park, Michigan, just north of Detroit. There Ford Motor Company began an relentless drive to increase production and lower costs. Henry and his team borrowed concepts from watch makers, gun makers, bicycle makers, and meat packers, mixed them with their own ideas and by late 1913 they had developed a moving assembly line for automobiles. But Ford workers objected to the never-ending, repetitive work on the new line.

Turnover was so high that the company had to hire 53,000 people a year to keep 14,000 jobs filled. Henry responded with his boldest innovation ever—in January 1914 he virtually doubled wages to $5 per day. At a stroke he stabilized his workforce and gave workers the ability to buy the very cars they made. Model T sales rose steadily as the price dropped. By 1922 half the cars in America were Model Ts and a new two-passenger runabout could be had for as little as $269