July 30, 1863 on a farm in Greenfield Township (near Detroit, Michigan).
His father, William Ford (1826–1905), was born in County Cork, Ireland, of a family originally from western England, who were among migrants to Ireland as the English created plantations
His mother, Mary Litogot Ford (1839–1876), was born in Michigan; she was the youngest child of Belgian immigrants; her parents died when Mary was a child and she was adopted by neighbors, the O'Herns.
Henry Ford's siblings include Margaret Ford (1867–1938); Jane Ford (c. 1868–1945); William Ford (1871–1917) and Robert Ford (1873–1934).
His father gave him a pocket watch in his early teens.
At 15, Ford dismantled and reassembled the timepieces of friends and neighbors dozens of times, gaining the reputation of a watch repairman.
At twenty, Ford walked four miles to their Episcopal church every Sunday.
Ford was devastated when his mother died in 1876.
His father expected him to eventually take over the family farm, but he despised farm work.
He later wrote, "I never had any particular love for the farm—it was the mother on the farm I loved."
In 1879, he left home to work as an apprentice machinist in the city of Detroit, first with James F. Flower & Bros., and later with the Detroit Dry Dock Co.
In 1882, he returned to Dearborn to work on the family farm, where he became adept at operating the Westinghouse portable steam engine.
He was later hired by Westinghouse company to service their steam engines.
Ford married Clara Ala Bryant (1866–1950) in 1888 and supported himself by farming and running a sawmill
They had one child: Edsel Ford (1893–1943).
|Edison and various start-ups||
In 1891, Ford became an engineer with the Edison Illuminating Company.
After his promotion to Chief Engineer in 1893, he had enough time and money to devote attention to his personal experiments on gasoline engines.
These experiments culminated in 1896 with the completion of a self-propelled vehicle which he named the Ford Quadricycle.
He test-drove it on June 4.
After various test-drives, Ford brainstormed ways to improve the Quadricycle.
Also in 1896, Ford attended a meeting of Edison executives, where he was introduced to Thomas Edison.
Edison approved of Ford's automobile experimentation.
Encouraged by Edison, Ford designed and built a second vehicle, completing it in 1898.
Backed by the capital of Detroit lumber baron William H. Murphy, Ford resigned from the Edison Company and founded the Detroit Automobile Company on August 5, 1899.
The automobiles produced were of a lower quality and higher price than Ford wanted and ultimately, the company was not successful and was dissolved in January 1901.
With the help of C. Harold Wills, Ford designed, built, and successfully raced a 26-horsepower automobile in October 1901.
With this success, Murphy and other stockholders in the Detroit Automobile Company formed the Henry Ford Company on November 30, 1901, with Ford as chief engineer.
In 1902, Murphy brought in Henry M. Leland as a consultant; Ford, in response, left the company bearing his name.
Teaming up with former racing cyclist Tom Cooper, Ford also produced the 80+ horsepower racer "999" which Barney Oldfield was to drive to victory in a race in October 1902.
Ford received the backing of an old acquaintance, Alexander Y. Malcomson, a Detroit-area coal dealer.
They formed a partnership, "Ford & Malcomson, Ltd." to manufacture automobiles.
Ford went to work designing an inexpensive automobile, and the duo leased a factory and contracted with a machine shop owned by John and Horace E. Dodge to supply over $160,000 in parts.
Sales were slow, and a crisis arose when the Dodge brothers demanded payment for their first shipment.
|Ford Motor Company||
The Model T was introduced on October 1, 1908.
It had the steering wheel on the left, which every other company soon copied.
The entire engine and transmission were enclosed; the four cylinders were cast in a solid block; the suspension used two semi-elliptic springs.
The car was very simple to drive, and easy and cheap to repair.
It was so cheap at $825 in 1908 ($21,340 today) that by the 1920s, a majority of American drivers had learned to drive on the Model T.
Ford created a massive publicity machine in Detroit to ensure every newspaper carried stories and ads about the new product.
Ford's network of local dealers made the car ubiquitous in virtually every city in North America.
As independent dealers, the franchises grew rich and publicized not just the Ford but the very concept of automobiling; local motor clubs sprang up to help new drivers and to encourage exploring the countryside.
Ford was always eager to sell to farmers, who looked on the vehicle as a commercial device to help their business.
Sales skyrocketed—several years posted 100% gains on the previous year.
Always on the hunt for more efficiency and lower costs, in 1913 Ford introduced the moving assembly belts into his plants, which enabled an enormous increase in production.
Although Ford is often credited with the idea, contemporary sources indicate that the concept and its development came from employees Clarence Avery, Peter E. Martin, Charles E. Sorensen, and C. Harold Wills.
Sales passed 250,000 in 1914. By 1916, as the price dropped to $360 for the basic touring car, sales reached 472,000.
By 1918, half of all cars in America were Model T's.
However, it was a monolithic black; as Ford wrote in his autobiography, "Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black".
Until the development of the assembly line, which mandated black because of its quicker drying time, Model T's were available in other colors, including red.
The design was fervently promoted and defended by Ford, and production continued as late as 1927; the final total production was 15,007,034.
This record stood for the next 45 years.
The record was achieved in just 19 years from the introduction of the first Model T (1908).
Henry Ford turned the presidency of Ford Motor Company over to his son Edsel Ford in December 1918.
Henry, however, retained final decision authority and sometimes reversed his son.
He started another company, Henry Ford and Son, and made a show of taking himself and his best employees to the new company; the goal was to scare the remaining holdout stockholders of the Ford Motor Company to sell their stakes to him before they lost most of their value. (He was determined to have full control over strategic decisions.)
The ruse worked, and Henry and Edsel purchased all remaining stock from the other investors, thus giving the family sole ownership of the company.
|$5 per day wage||
Ford was a pioneer of "welfare capitalism", designed to improve the lot of his workers and especially to reduce the heavy turnover that had many departments hiring 300 men per year to fill 100 slots.
Efficiency meant hiring and keeping the best workers.
He astonished the world in 1914 by offering a $5 per day wage ($120 today), which more than doubled the rate of most of his workers.
A Cleveland, Ohio newspaper editorialized that the announcement "shot like a blinding rocket through the dark clouds of the present industrial depression."
The move proved extremely profitable; instead of constant turnover of employees, the best mechanics in Detroit flocked to Ford, bringing their human capital and expertise, raising productivity, and lowering training costs.
Ford announced his $5-per-day program on January 5, 1914, raising the minimum daily pay from $2.34 to $5 for qualifying workers.
It also set a new, reduced workweek, although the details vary in different accounts.
Ford and Crowther in 1922 described it as six 8-hour days, giving a 48-hour week, while in 1926 they described it as five 8-hour days, giving a 40-hour week.
|Soy/Hemp Plastic car||
Henry Ford long had an interest in materials science and engineering.
He enthusiastically described his company's adoption of vanadium steel alloys and subsequent metallurgic R&D work.
He long had an interest in plastics developed from agricultural products, especially soybeans.
He cultivated a relationship with George Washington Carver for this purpose.
This project culminated in 1942, when Ford patented an automobile made almost entirely of plastic, attached to a tubular welded frame.
It weighed 30% less than a steel car and was said to be able to withstand blows ten times greater than could steel.
Furthermore, it ran on grain alcohol (ethanol) instead of gasoline.
The design never caught on.
In ill health, Ford ceded the presidency to his grandson Henry Ford II in September 1945 and went into retirement.
A public viewing was held at Greenfield Village where up to 5,000 people per hour filed past the casket.
Funeral services were held in Detroit's Cathedral Church of St. Paul and he was buried in the Ford Cemetery in Detroit.