History of Ford Motor Company, Part 1

Born in the wake of the most unregulated and productive period in history, the American Industrial Revolution, the U.S. automotive industry has existed for not much more than 100 years. Ford Motor Company, founded by businessman Henry Ford (1863-1947), was crucial to its success.

In 1903, Ford was founded in Michigan. The new company’s sales soon topped Olds, Buick and Cadillac combined to become the nation’s number one automaker. Within five years, Ford was selling a car called the Model T, which sold over 15 million vehicles worldwide before production ended in 1927.

After a buyout from the then-privately owned General Motors (GM) fell apart, Ford opened its Highland Park, Michigan, plant in 1910 and commenced the world’s first moving automobile assembly line in 1913. The following year, Henry Ford announced he would increase pay from $2.34 for nine hours per day to $5 a day for an eight-hour workday, proving again that capitalism, not government intervention, is the engine for the individual worker's progress and advancement. According to National Public Radio (NPR), 15,000 job seekers converged upon the Model T plant in Highland Park for 3,000 jobs.

Ford had opened plants in Britain and Canada and, according to Ford, by 1915, had manufactured its one-millionth car. The Ford Motor Company even had a motion picture department with 24 employees that traveled across the globe, making promotional and educational short films. In fact, during the 1920s, Ford’s movie division was the world's largest producer of motion pictures. Ford also made lightweight tractors in those early years.

In 1918, Henry Ford ran as a Democrat for one of Michigan’s United States Senate seats. Ford lost. He retired from Ford Motor Company a year later, turning over control of his car company to his son, Edsel, with Ford building its five millionth car by 1921. But Edsel Ford’s leadership would be cut short. More on that in the next chapter.

[Sources: “A History of the Ford Motor Co.,” by Mike Davis, Ward’s AutoWorld (2003), National Public Radio, Ford Motor Company]

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