Have you ever been driving somewhere and thought to yourself, “I wonder how long it would’ve taken me to walk here… Thank god for cars. ” As humans, you take things for granted. It’s perfectly natural to forget what life would be like without something, when you’re so used to having it. Cars are definitely one of the things that people take for most granted. They’re something that we simply wouldn’t have today if it weren’t for Henry Ford. A common misconception is that Henry Ford created the first ever automobile, but actually Karl Friedrich Benz invented the first true automobile in 1885.
Henry Ford was the one who truly made the automobile business take off with the creation of Ford Motors with his creation of the first affordable car. Henry Ford’s childhood was fairly normal. He was the first of six children, brought up on a family farm in Dearborn, Michigan after he was born July 30, 1863. Henry’s father encouraged Henry to grow up to own and operate that farm with a family of his own one day, given that it was usually the custom. Ford however, showed different interests as a child than farming that his father was none too happy about.
He actually got his friends and other boys together to build and operate rudimentary water wheels and steam engines, almost like the assembly line concept method that we would live by in later years to come. Not only that, but one of his favorite things to do was to tinker with watches. He would take them apart simply to put them together again. He loved seeing how things worked. He was so good with watches in fact, that other boys from nearby would bring him theirs to fix. Ford’s true passion was machines, which is why at seventeen, he left the farm for an apprenticeship in Detroit. 1882 was a big year for Henry.
He met his future wife Clara Bryant and finished up his apprenticeship, earning the title of a full- fledged machinist. During the summers, Henry would work for Westinghouse, operating their steam engines. In the winter, he would reside back at home, working hard on his own projects and helping keep up the farm. Clara Bryant became Mrs. Clara Ford in 1988 when Ford asked her to marry him. As a wedding gift to Henry, even regardless of the strained relationship between he and his father, his father gave him a large piece of land on which Henry and Clara built a house, a sawmill, and a personal workshop.
It was only three years after that however, that Ford and his new wife, left the farm life behind to move back to Detroit so that Ford could have more opportunities to pursue what he loved. So that he could learn more about electricity and how it worked, he got a job at Edison Illuminating Company. In between shifts at the company, Ford was working on his own project, a gasoline engine, actually ignited by electricity. This was a huge deal because this wasn’t too common, especially built by a single man with not as many resources as other inventors and innovators had.
It was June 4, 1896 that Ford completed his first successful carriage that needn’t be pulled by horses. He named his contraption, “the quadricycle. ” Ford’s quadricycle began to develop its own success when people actually began buying it. Although its looks give off the impression of cheap and unsteady materials when compared to later automobiles, at the time this was not a passing thought. The majority of buyers of this vehicle were wealthier people. They thought of these machines as toys. It was after this that Ford decided on making even better automobiles to sell to the public.
Before finally succeeding in finding a worthy investor, Ford had to go through a couple that didn’t necessarily work out. They wanted to make a car for rich people, whereas from the beginning, Ford’s goal was to make a car for the common man. Ford only succeeded in finding a good investor once he began building and racing his own cars on the track. It was truly the publicity from him winning, which got him his first break. This is when Ford Motors became, not only an automobile empire, but also a visionary company, which set the path for the world to become a technological and advanced civilization.
After creating a few models of automobiles, Ford created the Model T. The Model T was so popular because of its strong and durable, yet lightweight and quick build. It was also easy to maintain, and good on almost all road conditions, the perfect balance of an all around car. They were so popular in fact, that Ford couldn’t even produce them fast enough due to the high demand. It was then that Ford began exploring ways to speed up productivity in his company. It was in 1913 that Ford added the motorized assembly line to his plant.
This drastically improved how fast he got cars sold out to the public because all the workers had to do, was add a part to the car as it went by them on the belt. This not only improved the speed of productivity, but it also cut the cost it took to manufacture each car. What made Ford even more successful at this time was the fact that he didn’t keep the extra money for himself, he actually passed it on to the customer by dramatically dropping the price of the Model T so that it was indeed affordable for the common man.
The first Model T cost 850 dollars, after the addition of the belt and some time, the price dropped to a mere 350 dollars. Not only did he give back to the customers, but he also gave back to his workers. Ford began to pay his workers five dollars a day, which was considered absurd and unrealistic at the time because it was nearly double what other factories were paying. Although considered not the smartest decision on his part, it was quite the contrary because it served very well. He also was very interested in the lives of his workers. He even constructed a sociological department for his workers.
The department enforced strict yet sensible ways of living. An example being, it taught the workers that if they were to have this pay raise, they were to take better care of themselves, regularly bathing them and their families. Henry Ford once said, “There are thousands of men out there in the shop who are not living as they should. Their homes are crowded and unsanitary. Wives are going out to work because their husbands are unable to earn enough to support the family. They fill up their homes with roomers and boarders in order to help swell the income. Its all wrong – all wrong.
It is especially bad for the children… Now, these people are not living in this manner as a matter of choice. Give them a decent income and they will live decently – will be glad to do so. What they need is the opportunity to do better, and someone to take a personal interest in them – someone who will show that he has faith in them. ” (123helpme. com) In October of 1913, Ford recruited a man by the name of John R. Lee from Kiem Mills to construct a job ladder system. The higher up workers began getting paid even more, which in turn gave the lower workers incentive to earn their way to the top of the ladder.
Ford cared about his workers knowing that if he showed it, they would be happy and work even harder, therefore increasing production numbers. With a model sent out and bought every 93 minutes, the model T was a vital element for the solidification process of North American economy and a revolutionary piece for the human intellectual growth puzzle. Because of the high demand for the Model T’s, they were affordable. Before them, only upper class people with money could afford to have a car. It was a luxury that most people couldn’t afford.
The fact that middle class people could now have family cars dimmed the line between themselves and upper class. It changed society in more ways than one. Roads were built, to support the rapidly growing population of automobiles everywhere. People now didn’t have to get a job right around the corner at the corner store. They could get a job across town now, which in turn made it easier for employers to hire people, and for people to go out and get jobs. The fact that people now had cars, made them more productive. Henry Ford was the father of innovations.
He was the foundation our century. The assembly line method became the standard for everything in production even today, from fast food, to telephones, to the production of other cars. Back in his time, even our victory in World War II, some say we owe to him. Because of the immense amounts of war materials produced on those assembly lines, our country had everything she needed to take the victory. The high wages with little to no skill factory jobs led by Ford enabled more immigration, and the moving of Americans from farms to cities.
He sparked millions of ideas that contributed to the industrial revolution. He made the lives of millions of people easier with his vision, courage and commitment, to an idea he wasn’t even sure would work. Ford died in 1947 and even all these years later, his presence is still everywhere around us. People might take all this man did for us, for granted; but they don’t forget his legacy because all they have to do to remember, is step outside, and take a look around at the world in front of them, for we owe it all to Henry Ford.