Henry Ford Power point created by Robert L. Martinez Primary Source Content: A History of US: Revised Third Edition, An Age of Extremes 1880-1917, Joy Hakim
Not many people get to change the world they live in. Henry Ford did. He did it because he had an idea he believed in, and he never gave up, even when people laughed at him.
Henry Ford’s idea was to build an automobile so cheap that almost everyone could own one. A car that would cost about the same as a horse and buggy.
Henry Ford went to J.P. Morgan’s bank and asked for a loan to get started. The House of Morgan was the biggest bank in the nation, and he turned Ford down. Automobiles, they told him, were for rich people.
As a boy, Ford got a job with Thomas Edison’s company. He told Edison about an inexpensive automobile powered by liquid fuel. Edison liked it, and encouraged Ford, “Young man, keep at it.” Henry Ford pictured with his childhood boss Thomas Edison
Ford went to work on his idea. He designed several cars. Then he designed a car he called the Model T. It was just what he was aiming for, a car that worked well and was easy to build.
Ford needed to find a way to build it so the cost would be very low. Ford took Eli Whitney’s idea of interchangeable parts and adapted it to cars. All the Model T’s were exactly alike.
Then Ford made the factory system work better than it had ever worked before.
In Ford’s factory, a wide, moving belt, called a “conveyor belt,” brought the car parts to the worker. With this system, called the “mass-production assembly line,” cars could be built quickly by relatively unskilled workers.
The first Model T, which came out in 1908, cost $850. Many Americans could afford that. In 1915, Henry Ford drove his millionth car off the assembly line.
Some friends who had lent him money to get started became rich, J.P. Morgan must have been turning in his grave. J.P. Morgan
Ford showed that making products for average people was much more profitable than making products for rich people. There are only a few rich people, but there are many, many average folks.
Ford’s idea led to the building of American factories that were soon turning out washing machines, refrigerators, and other appliances, at prices ordinary people could afford.
Those ordinary people driving around in their cars would eventually need motels and want supermarkets. Automobiles created industries that no one could have imagined.
Henry Ford understood that if ordinary people were going to buy the new products they needed to earn reasonable pay. So, in 1914, when the average American worker earned $2.40 a day for a nine-hour day, Henry Ford announced that he would pay his workers $5 for an eight-hour day.
That $5 a day meant that workers at the Ford Motor Company could afford to buy Ford cars. Henry Ford was creating his own customers. Soon other manufacturers and businessmen followed his ideas.
America became a nation of consumers. Ford, who always enjoyed simple living, helped bring about our complex modern way of life.
Henry Ford created a revolution. He wanted to build a car “for the multitude (many).” He did that, and much, much more.