Ford, Henry

Ford, Henry
b. 30 July 1863 Dearborn, Michigan, USA
d. 7 April 1947 Dearborn, Michigan, USA
American pioneer motor-car maker and developer of mass-production methods.
He was the son of an Irish immigrant farmer, William Ford, and the oldest son to survive of Mary Litogot; his mother died in 1876 with the birth of her sixth child. He went to the village school, and at the age of 16 he was apprenticed to Flower brothers' machine shop and then at the Drydock \& Engineering Works in Detroit. In 1882 he left to return to the family farm and spent some time working with a 1 1/2 hp steam engine doing odd jobs for the farming community at $3 per day. He was then employed as a demonstrator for Westinghouse steam engines. He met Clara Jane Bryant at New Year 1885 and they were married on 11 April 1888. Their only child, Edsel Bryant Ford, was born on 6 November 1893.
At that time Henry worked on steam engine repairs for the Edison Illuminating Company, where he became Chief Engineer. He became one of a group working to develop a "horseless carriage" in 1896 and in June completed his first vehicle, a "quadri cycle" with a two-cylinder engine. It was built in a brick shed, which had to be partially demolished to get the carriage out.
Ford became involved in motor racing, at which he was more successful than he was in starting a car-manufacturing company. Several early ventures failed, until the Ford Motor Company of 1903. By October 1908 they had started with production of the Model T. The first, of which over 15 million were built up to the end of its production in May 1927, came out with bought-out steel stampings and a planetary gearbox, and had a one-piece four-cylinder block with a bolt-on head. This was one of the most successful models built by Ford or any other motor manufacturer in the life of the motor car.
Interchangeability of components was an important element in Ford's philosophy. Ford was a pioneer in the use of vanadium steel for engine components. He adopted the principles of Frederick Taylor, the pioneer of time-and-motion study, and installed the world's first moving assembly line for the production of magnetos, started in 1913. He installed blast furnaces at the factory to make his own steel, and he also promoted research and the cultivation of the soya bean, from which a plastic was derived.
In October 1913 he introduced the "Five Dollar Day", almost doubling the normal rate of pay. This was a profit-sharing scheme for his employees and contained an element of a reward for good behaviour. About this time he initiated work on an agricultural tractor, the "Fordson" made by a separate company, the directors of which were Henry and his son Edsel.
In 1915 he chartered the Oscar II, a "peace ship", and with fifty-five delegates sailed for Europe a week before Christmas, docking at Oslo. Their objective was to appeal to all European Heads of State to stop the war. He had hoped to persuade manufacturers to replace armaments with tractors in their production programmes. In the event, Ford took to his bed in the hotel with a chill, stayed there for five days and then sailed for New York and home. He did, however, continue to finance the peace activists who remained in Europe. Back in America, he stood for election to the US Senate but was defeated. He was probably the father of John Dahlinger, illegitimate son of Evangeline Dahlinger, a stenographer employed by the firm and on whom he lavished gifts of cars, clothes and properties. He became the owner of a weekly newspaper, the Dearborn Independent, which became the medium for the expression of many of his more unorthodox ideas. He was involved in a lawsuit with the Chicago Tribune in 1919, during which he was cross-examined on his knowledge of American history: he is reputed to have said "History is bunk". What he actually said was, "History is bunk as it is taught in schools", a very different comment. The lawyers who thus made a fool of him would have been surprised if they could have foreseen the force and energy that their actions were to release. For years Ford employed a team of specialists to scour America and Europe for furniture, artefacts and relics of all kinds, illustrating various aspects of history. Starting with the Wayside Inn from South Sudbury, Massachusetts, buildings were bought, dismantled and moved, to be reconstructed in Greenfield Village, near Dearborn. The courthouse where Abraham Lincoln had practised law and the Ohio bicycle shop where the Wright brothers built their first primitive aeroplane were added to the farmhouse where the proprietor, Henry Ford, had been born. Replicas were made of Independence Hall, Congress Hall and the old City Hall in Philadelphia, and even a reconstruction of Edison's Menlo Park laboratory was installed. The Henry Ford museum was officially opened on 21 October 1929, on the fiftieth anniversary of Edison's invention of the incandescent bulb, but it continued to be a primary preoccupation of the great American car maker until his death.
Henry Ford was also responsible for a number of aeronautical developments at the Ford Airport at Dearborn. He introduced the first use of radio to guide a commercial aircraft, the first regular airmail service in the United States. He also manufactured the country's first all-metal multi-engined plane, the Ford Tri-Motor.
Edsel became President of the Ford Motor Company on his father's resignation from that position on 30 December 1918. Following the end of production in May 1927 of the Model T, the replacement Model A was not in production for another six months. During this period Henry Ford, though officially retired from the presidency of the company, repeatedly interfered and countermanded the orders of his son, ostensibly the man in charge. Edsel, who died of stomach cancer at his home at Grosse Point, Detroit, on 26 May 1943, was the father of Henry Ford II. Henry Ford died at his home, "Fair Lane", four years after his son's death.
1922, with S.Crowther, My Life and Work, London: Heinemann.
Further Reading
R.Lacey, 1986, Ford, the Men and the Machine, London: Heinemann. W.C.Richards, 1948, The Last Billionaire, Henry Ford, New York: Charles Scribner.

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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  • Ford, Henry — born July 30, 1863, Wayne county, Mich., U.S. died April 7, 1947, Dearborn, Mich. U.S. industrialist and pioneer automobile manufacturer. Ford worked his way up from a machinist s apprentice (at age 15) to the post of chief engineer at the Edison …   Universalium

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  • FORD, Henry — (1863 1947)    American inventor and automobile manufacturer who is credited with the expression History is bunk …   Concise dictionary of Religion

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