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Media post: The car that changed America


On July 30, 1863, Henry Ford was born in Dearborn, Michigan. As a youngster, he grew up curious about the machinery that was used for farming and enjoyed working on it. When he got older, he got a part-time job working for the nearby Westinghouse Engine Company. At Westinghouse, Henry learned all he could about internal combustion engines and frequently worked 10-12 hour days. In his spare time he pursued his passion of building a “horseless carriage”. His first design was finished in 1896 and several others soon followed. He then started building them for sale to clients.

Before long Henry was formally selling his “automobiles” and in 1903 he incorporated the Ford Motor Company. By 1908, Ford had completed the design of his first Model T automobile, and started building them. Although there were many companies building automobiles, the sales manager at Ames Ford of Ames, IA, a full-service Ford dealer, says to keep in mind that Henry’s Model T was built for the masses and was priced affordably. The consumer acceptance of the Model T was nothing short of phenomenal and he was deluged with not only customers but people that wanted to become “Ford Dealers.” It wasn’t long before demand outstripped supply and Ford needed to make Model T cars rapidly. His solution to this problem was an advanced type of “assembly line”. As a result of this revolutionary concept, his Highland Park plant could turn out a complete Model T chassis every 93 minutes. Previously it took 728 minutes. As the process was improved, Ford’s mass-production techniques would eventually allow for the manufacture of a Model T every 24 seconds!

Ford was always sympathetic to the plight of the working man and in 1914 he began paying his employees five dollars a day, nearly doubling the wages offered by other manufacturers. This “Five Dollar Day” was simply unheard of and it assured that he could obtain the best employees on the job market. Later he cut the average workday from nine to eight hours in order to convert the factory to a three-shift workday. This was undoubtedly lead to the expansion of the vast middle class in the United States. An economic strata where workers could live well, take vacations and raise their families.

The Model T automobile was instrumental to opening up the country for expansion and travel. It was a dream for most Americans to own their own. By 1927, the last Model Ts were made. By then nearly 15,500,000 Model T’s were sold in the United States alone and the vehicle had irrevocably altered American society. As a result of the Model T Ford and other automobiles, America was turned into a mobile society. In 1928, the Ford Company released a much anticipated sequel to the Model T called the Model A. The Model A had a great deal of design help from Henry’s son Edsel who had a keen eye for styling. The Model A was available in many colors and was a very good looking automobile.

It is quite a realization that Ford changed the fabric of the United States. Interestingly, though, he personally longed for the simple, agrarian lifestyle of his youth. One can only imagine how simple life was when Henry was a young man and how it had become when he reached old age.

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