Henry Ford was an American icon, legendary entrepreneur, influential industrialist and the founder of the Ford Motor Company.
He began a new chapter in the history of automobiles and America.
Henry Ford was born on July 30, 1863 in Greenfield Township, Michigan, United States.
His father, William Ford was an Irish immigrant whereas his mother, Mary Ford was an American national.
From a very early age, Henry Ford developed an interest in engineering.
He took up several jobs and apprenticeship at the manufacturing companies to learn about his favourite subject, engineering.
William Ford wanted his son to become a farmer.
But Henry Ford hated farming because at that time farming was slow, tedious, manual and exhausting.
Unlike many others who were born into the farming families and were forced into farming, he was lucky enough to escape from farming.
During that time, Detroit was rapidly transforming into an industrial centre, thanks to the steam engine.
The significant events-
During his childhood, two biggest events occurred by which Henry Ford developed a passion for engineering and those events were observing a road engine and getting a watch.
When he was twelve years old, he saw a road engine made by Nichols, Shepard & Company of Battle Creek near Detroit.
On seeing that engine, Henry Ford was dumbfounded because for the first time in his life he had seen a vehicle running on its own, not drawn by a horse.
In his childhood, he encountered technology and used to tinker with the watches of his neighbours.
And by the time he turned 13, he became very proficient in taking apart the watches and putting them back together and by the time he turned 15, he became an expert in repairing them with his primitive tools.
By the time Henry Ford had become a teenager, the steam engines started entering into the lives of the farmers.
The farmers started employing machines like saw mills, threshing machines in their farm work.
As Henry Ford was very passionate about the machines, he learned their working mechanism and also how to repair them.
Later, he wanted to build vehicles by which he wished to lessen the burden of the farmers.
Henry Ford was very much attached to his mother, Mary Ford and was completely shattered when she died in 1876.
Later, his father wanted him to take over the family farm, but he hated doing the laborious farm work.
In 1879, at the age of 16, Henry Ford left his school and home against his father’s wishes to move to Detroit for work.
He moved to Detroit because at that time, the industries in Detroit were flourishing and thus, offering lucrative employment opportunities to young mechanics.
Initially, Henry Ford worked as an apprentice machinist for James F. Flower & Bros. and later for Detroit Dry Dock Co.
He also used to do repair works in a jewellery shop during the night times.
Thanks to his skills, he was later employed by the Westinghouse to service their steam engines.
In 1882, Henry Ford returned to work on his family farm and became an expert at operating the Westinghouse portable steam engine.
During this same period, Henry Ford studied bookkeeping at Goldsmith, Bryant & Stratton Business College.
Bookkeeping is the job of maintaining the records of the financial affairs of a business.
The magazine which changed it all-
Around this same time, Henry Ford accidentally came across the silent gas engine (Otto engine) in an English publication, the World of Science.
The Otto engine was designed by Nikolaus Otto, a German engineer.
Nikolaus Otto was producing these gas engines in small numbers.
Almost no one in America knew about these engines although these engines were gaining popularity in Europe.
Fortunately, in 1885, Henry Ford came across an Otto engine when he was given an opportunity to repair it at the Eagle Iron Works, Detroit.
He was impressed by this gas engine because it was superior to the steam engines in many aspects.
The gas engines were lighter in weight than the steam engines because they lacked a heavy boiler and water.
They were also more efficient because they did all the combustion internally.
Also, the gas engines were able to start quickly whereas the steam engines took hours to start as they required heating up of water to generate sufficient amounts of steam to start working.
So, Henry Ford decided to build a horseless carriage with a gas engine.
In 1887, he built the Otto four−cycle model to better understand the principles of the gas engine.
Henry Ford possessed extensive knowledge pertaining to the steam and metal but not regarding gas engines.
As the gas engine was fired by an electric spark, he wanted to learn about electricity.
So, in 1891, Henry Ford joined as an engineer and machinist at the local branch of the Edison Illuminating Company in Detroit.
He was initially paid forty−five dollars per month.
During that time, the Edison Illuminating Company was generating electricity for more than a thousand homes in Detroit by using the steam engines.
This company was founded by Thomas Edison and this company is responsible for generating power.
As Henry Ford had prior experience in working with the steam engines, he was able to easily secure a job in the Edison Illuminating Company.
His job involved servicing (repairing) the steam engines but during the times when the steam engines were working perfectly, he was allowed to work and experiment on his passion, the gas engine.
An important year-
The year 1893 was very lucky for Henry Ford because in that year he was promoted to the position of the Chief Engineer and was blessed with a son, Edsel Bryant Ford.
His employer at the Detroit Edison Company was not happy with Ford working on the gas engine, so he ordered him to abandon working on the gas engine.
So, Henry Ford was given only two options, either to abandon his passion (automobiles) and settle in the job or to leave his job to work on his passion.
Fortunately, he chose the latter because he was very confident that he will become successful in producing cars.
On August 15, 1899, Henry Ford resigned from his job in order to pursue his dreams and entered into the automobile business.
During that time, he experienced many difficulties in producing the cars, as there were no car parts available and he had to figure out everything by trial and error all by himself.
After working hard for many years, Henry Ford finally succeeded to build his first ever vehicle in 1896 and he named his vehicle as the Ford Quadricycle.
This vehicle was very basic and was controlled by a tiller instead of a steering wheel.
The Ford Quadricycle was built on a simple frame made from angle iron, its transmission was a combination of leather belt and chain drive and this car ran on methanol.
This car was powered by a 4 horsepower gasoline engine and ran on four bicycle wheels and had only two gears (first gear for 10 mph and the second gear for 20 mph) and lacked a reverse gear.
This vehicle had an air cooling mechanism because of which it was constantly getting overheated.
During its first year, Henry Ford made many improvements to this car and also added water jackets to the cylinders for the cooling purpose.
In the years, 1895 and 1896, he rode this car for about a thousand miles and sold it to Charles Ainsley for two hundred dollars.
Henry Ford later bought his first Quadricycle for 60 dollars and this is now on display at The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.
Starting his own company-
By 1899, Henry Ford was confident enough to start his own automobile company.
As he saw business potential in this vehicle, he refined this vehicle and took it to William H. Murphy, a lumber tycoon and investor in Detroit.
After taking a test drive, William H. Murphy was very impressed by this vehicle and realised that the future belonged to gasoline powered vehicles.
Thanks to this realisation, he immediately formed a partnership with Henry Ford.
On August 5, 1899, Henry Ford founded the Detroit Automobile Company with a capital of $150,000.
Unfortunately, this company could not succeed because the automobiles produced by this company were of inferior quality and were pricier than Henry Ford wanted.
So, in January 1901 this company was dissolved.
Later, in 1902, Henry Ford left this company and Detroit Automobile Company was overtaken by Henry M. Leland who later converted it into Cadillac Automobile Company.
The birth of the Ford Motor Company-
Luckily, Henry Ford resumed manufacturing automobiles by forming a partnership, Ford & Malcomson with Alexander Y. Malcomson, a coal dealer.
During this period, he decided to design vehicles for the use of common man instead of designing expensive vehicles for the businesses.
At that time, cars were very expensive, considered as a status symbol and were produced in very limited numbers by the skilled craftsmen and Henry Ford determined to change this.
Henry Ford and Alexander Y. Malcomson leased a factory and made a contract with John and Horace E. Dodge for supplying the car parts.
As the sales of the cars were not great, they were unable to pay John and Horace E. Dodge for the parts.
So, Alexander Y. Malcomson requested the Dodge Brothers to accept a part of the Ford & Malcomson company.
On 16 June 1903, Ford Motor Company was founded in Detroit, Michigan, United States with a total of 28,000 dollars contributed by 12 investors.
The investors also included John and Horace Dodge, who later went on to found their own automobile brand, Dodge.
Henry Ford was 39 years old when he founded this company.
Even though Ford Motor Company was started small, in no time it expanded into one of the world’s largest automakers, thanks to the contributions of Henry Ford.
In the first year, this company built Ford Model A cars and subsequently, they built cars up to Ford Model T.
The visit which changed everything-
In 1913, Henry Ford visited Swift & Company’s Meat Packing House in Chicago, Illinois.
In this factory, he observed a disassembly line where numerous workers were processing carcasses moving down the line.
Here, Henry Ford realised that the workers were able to do more work in less time because the specifically trained workers were assigned only a particular task.
He got inspired to implement the similar model of disassembly line in his factory and so, he introduced the assembly line system in his factory.
In 1904, Henry Ford built a factory, Ford Piquette Avenue Plant at the Milwaukee Junction area of Detroit, Michigan by the money he had saved from selling the cars.
In this new factory, he started experimenting with the assembly line process.
By 1905, this factory grew capable enough to produce 25 cars per day and at that time, based on the demand, the number of employees varied in between 300 to 700.
Henry Ford was not able to properly execute his assembly line model because many different models of cars ranging from Ford Model B to Model T were assembled in this factory.
Thanks to this assembly line process, the rate of production increased five times in the same factory.
Initially, only a partially moving assembly line was developed followed by a fully moving assembly line.
The Ford Motor Company refined this process through trial and error methods and eventually the integrated moving assembly line for the mass production of an entire automobile was created in 1913.
The moving assembly line system not only revolutionised the automobile industry but also every other industry.
Attracting the best talent-
When Henry Ford implemented his assembly line idea, he observed that the workers were quickly getting exhausted and bored by repeatedly doing the same work on the assembly line.
As a result, the workers started coming late to the factory or even taking work leaves and this started to negatively affect the production.
So, to address this problem and to attract the best talent to his company, Henry Ford decided to increase the pay of the workers.
At the time when most of the other companies were paying around 2 dollars per day, he decided to pay 5 dollars to the workers.
During that time, this daily wage of five dollars was twice the daily average wage paid by the other companies.
Henry Ford’s popularity skyrocketed and he became world famous, thanks to his decision of increasing the pay and sharing his profits with the workers.
As he was paying the highest salary at that time; thousands of applicants showed up at the Ford factory.
The factory was overwhelmed with the sheer number of applicants and so, to select only the required number of workers, Henry Ford announced that only the people who had resided in Detroit for at least six months would be hired.
The American middle class was established from the early 1900s thanks to Henry Ford who offered higher payments and shorter work days.
This hike in daily wages played a pivotal role in transforming America’s working class into the middle class.
During the time of the industrial revolution, the factory workers used to work around 10-16 hours a day.
On September 25, 1926, Henry Ford introduced eight -hour work days and 40-hour weeks.
Becoming the largest automaker of America-
In July 1906, the production of the inexpensive Ford Model N began.
By the end of 1906, Ford Motor Company became the largest automaker in America, thanks to the grand success of Ford Model N and this title was held for twenty long years.
One of the main reasons for the success of the Ford Model N cars was using the superior vanadium steel in its manufacturing.
Thanks to the use of vanadium steel, the cars reduced in weight while increasing in strength.
The most successful car-
Ford Model T is the most successful car produced by Ford Motor Company.
It became the most affordable automobile because this model was assembled by the assembly line production system.
Henry Ford always dreamed to mass produce cars at affordable prices.
These cars sold like hot cakes and 15,000 orders for this car were placed within a few days after its release.
In 1910, in order to meet the rising demand for the cars, Henry Ford moved the company to the new Highland Park complex at 91 Manchester Avenue, Michigan.
Here, he perfected his assembly line production system and by 1914, the production time for the cars was reduced from 12.5 hours to just 93 minutes.
This allowed Henry Ford to increase the production of cars and lower the cost of the final product.
During this same year, Ford Motor Company was producing more cars than all the other automobile makers combined.
Henry Ford adopted a clever strategy of constantly reducing the price of his cars to increase the market share.
The price of the famous Ford Model T was cut more than half from $825 to $390 within a period of six years.
By 1918, half of all the cars in America were model Ford Model Ts and this trend continued for many years.
Ford Model T stood as the best-selling car for 45 long years and a whopping 16.5 million units were sold.
This car model played a pivotal role in helping the recognition of the Ford Motor Company and revolutionising the automobile industry.
The Model T stood as the highest selling car model until forty five years after its production ceased in 1927.
On February 17, 1972, the total Model T production was exceeded by the Volkswagen Beetle.
In its first two decades, Ford Motor Company dominated the automobile market in America and this made Henry Ford one of the richest men on the planet.
In 1921, Ford Motor Company purchased Lincoln Motor Co. and set its foot into the luxury automobiles market.
Henry Ford followed his passion and worked consistently towards his dreams to build Ford Motor Company which is now a world-renowned automaker.
This company went public in 1956.
Now, Ford Motor Company is one of the longest running (for 116 years) and most successful automakers in the world.
The most iconic models produced by the Ford Motor Company include Ford Model T, Ford Thunderbird, Lincoln Continental,Ford F-Series trucks, Ford Explorer and Ford Mustang.
The innovative spirit-
In 2016, Ford Motor Company was granted 1,442 patents by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and in that year Ford filed the most number of patents among any automaker in the America.
The current chief executive officer of Ford Motor Company is Jim Hackett.
Becoming the richest man-
During his time, Henry Ford became one of the richest and well-known people in the world.
He had a net worth of $200 billion.
The net worth of the Ford Motor Company is more than $140 billion.
In 1943, Henry Ford once again took up the control of the company when his son, Edsel Ford died of cancer.
At that time, he was 80 years old when he assumed the position of the president of the Ford Motor Company for the second time.
Unfortunately, Henry Ford was very old and was not physically and mentally fit to handle such a big corporation.
He remained as a president until September 1945 and later passed the presidency to his grandson,Henry Ford II and he finally retired.
Henry Ford died on April 7, 1947 at the age of 83.
The valuable lessons from the life of Ford-
The success story of Henry Ford teaches us that to become a successful entrepreneur, you should relentlessly follow your passions and should never quit.
Every day you should take small steps to build your business and later on, these small steps will help to grow your business by leaps and bounds.
When Henry Ford publicly announced his intentions to produce a quality car that could be mass produced and be affordable, no one took him seriously.
Many people even thought that he would be out of the business within six months because of this business model.
But Henry Ford did not quit and proved his doubters wrong by working hard and producing the best automobiles.
He never got disheartened by the failures because he saw failures as the opportunities to more intelligently begin again.
A person might fail if he overly fears his future and failures because the fear of failures will force him to play safe and limit his activities and these habits will not help him to become successful.
The importance of teamwork-
A good team is necessary to build great products because with a good team, together everyone achieves more.
Henry Ford emphasised the importance of teamwork by his words, “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”
If every team member is working and moving forward together, then success is inevitable.
To get the best possible results out of your team members, you should treat them like a family and motivate them to give their best and make them feel enthusiastic about the work.
Henry Ford used to hire new employees based upon their willingness to work and at that time unlike the most other employers, he also hired women and handicapped men.
The power of prototype-
If you are an entrepreneur with revolutionary ideas, then you might require funds to work upon your ideas.
You can easily raise funds, if you present a working prototype of your idea to the investors.
The investors will gain confidence about your idea by looking at the working prototype.
So, instead of presenting your ideas or blueprints of it on a piece of paper or email, it would be very effective if you present them and make them feel your product through a working prototype.
This is very important when you are pitching a novel, out-of-box and unique idea to the investors because they might not easily believe in your idea because of the novelty of the idea and also because they have never seen this idea in action in the real world.
How did Henry Ford present the prototype?
Henry Ford longed to become an entrepreneur because he had no dearth of innovative ideas and wanted to work for himself.
He decided to enter into the car manufacturing business and at that time, this area was very new.
Henry Ford was very inspired by Thomas Edison, the America’s greatest inventor and many inventions taking place around him and thus he invented the Quadricycle.
Building a Quadricycle was a very out-of-box idea because at that time many people were riding horses.
Henry Ford knew that it would be much easier for him to raise funding if he showcased a working prototype of his car to the investors instead of simply drawing the image of the car on a piece of paper.
So, he built his first Quadricycle and rode it to William H. Murphy.
Henry Ford effectively pitched him his idea of building cars by showing him a working Quadricycle and taking him for a ride on that vehicle.
By the end of that ride, William H. Murphy and Henry Ford became business partners.
The success starts in your head-
First of all, you should believe in yourself that you are capable enough of becoming successful.
Whether you believe that you can achieve success or you cannot, you are usually right.
The right time-
If you dream to become successful, the right time to start working towards your dreams is now.
Many people believe that they should start working towards their dreams at the right time, the time in which they face no obstacles but they will never realise their dreams because the perfect time will never come.
Remember that you will become successful only when you start working towards your dreams even when you are facing obstacles and note that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.
The most important thing-
An entrepreneur becomes successful only when he offers quality products and services.
The business reputation of an entrepreneur directly depends on the quality of his products or services and an entrepreneur can feel proud of his creations only when they are of the best quality.
So, you must strive hard and do everything possible to create the products or services with the highest quality possible.
Only by offering the quality products you can retain the old customers and acquire new consumers and this will help in growing your business.
Henry Ford named his company after him and strived to make the quality automobiles.
He felt that his cars should be of the highest quality and should not break down because this will hurt his reputation as the cars bore his name.
Quality means doing the right thing when no one is watching and satisfying the customer expectations.
When the business expansion hurts-
Many businesses and entrepreneurs fail when they try to expand too quickly because by doing so the quality of their products and services take the back seat.
Henry Ford did not enter into new businesses until he had full confidence in the quality of the products that would be created.
He faced many obstacles while on his path of realising his dream of making horseless carriages but the obstacles couldn’t frighten him because he believed that the obstacles are those frightful things which become visible only when one sets his eyes off his goals.
The success story of Henry Ford teaches us that to build a successful business; one must never give up, should build a great team and focus on quality.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How did Henry Ford get started?
Around 1882, Henry Ford accidentally came across the World of Science publication which described the Otto engine.
He was very inspired by this gas engine and determined to build a horseless carriage with a gas engine.
In 1896, Henry Ford succeeded to build the Ford Quadricycle.
And on August 15, 1899, Henry Ford quit his job to work on his passion of building automobiles and became an entrepreneur.
What did Henry Ford invent?
Henry Ford invented the Quadricycle and it was named as the Ford Quadricycle.
It was built in 1896 and was the first vehicle built by him.
Apart from this, Henry Ford also invented many things and was awarded 161 U.S. patents.
Did Henry Ford invent the car?
No, Henry Ford didn’t invent the car.
In 1885, Karl Benz produced Benz Patent-Motorwagen, the world’s first automobile.
What is Henry Ford famous for?
• Henry Ford is very famous for perfecting the assembly line process and increasing the production.
• He is also famous for increasing the pay and sharing his profits with the workers.
• Henry Ford is well known for the Ford Model T, the most successful car produced by Ford Motor Company.
What were Henry Ford’s inspirations?
Many things inspired Henry Ford and they are as follows-
• Henry Ford came across the silent gas engine in a publication and this inspired him to work on the gas engine.
• In 1913, Henry Ford visited Swift & Company’s Meat Packing House and saw a disassembly line. This inspired him to implement the assembly line system in his factory.
• Henry Ford was also inspired by Thomas Edison and this motivated him to make many inventions.
How did Henry Ford make his money?
Henry Ford became one of the richest men on the planet thanks to the huge success of Ford Model T of his Ford Motor Company.
The Model T was so successful that it was the highest selling car model until forty five years after its production ceased in 1927.
Was Henry Ford a billionaire?
Yes, Henry Ford was a billionaire with a net worth of $200 billion.
Was Henry Ford a president?
Yes, Henry Ford was the president of Ford Motor Company twice from 1906–1919 and 1943–1945.
Who owns Ford now?
Now, the Ford Motor Company is conjointly owned by Ford family, The Vanguard Group and Wealth Management.