Henry Ford

Henry Ford was born on July 30, 1863 and died on April 7, 1947. Henry Ford was the son of William Ford, who had emigrated from Ireland in 1847 and settled on a farm in Dearborn, Michigan. Henry disliked farm life and had a natural aptitude for machinery. When he was 15 he went to Detroit and trained as a machinist. Henry Ford began to experiment with a horseless carriage in 1890 and completed his first car, the quadricycle, in about 1896. During the following years he tried unsuccessfully to get it into production. In 1903 he launched the Ford Motor Company with a capital of $100,000 of which $28,000 was in cash. By the time he had formulated his ideal of production: " The way to make automobiles is to make one automobile like another automobile, to make them all alike.

He achieved spectacular success with the Model T Ford, introduced in 1809 and eventually produced in 1903 on the moving assembly line. Henry Ford was a major figure in the world's automobile industry for the next 15 years. His production methods were intensively studied and he also startled the world instituting (1914) the then high wage scale of $5 a day. Ford thus became a figure of legend, the native genius that could work miracles. He had considerable mechanical ability but his conclusions were reached intuitively rather than logically. He ran as a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate in 1918 and was narrowly defeated. In 1936 he and his son Edsel established the Ford Foundation, to which they bequeathed much of the company's stock.

Henry Ford became a victim of his own success in that he clung to the Model T too long, refusing to recognize that its popularity was fading, and consequently lost first place in the automobile industry to General Motors in 1926. He had turned the presidency of the Ford Motor Company over to Edsel in 1919 but never gave Edsel effective authority. Edsel struggled vainly against this situation, and the frustrations of his position undoubtedly contributed to his death at the age of 50. Edsel's oldest son was released from the navy and made an executive vice-president. Unlike his father, who had not been allowed to go to college, Henry II attended Yale University.

Henry Ford II recruited talent from outside the company and effected a sweeping reorganization. The company secured firm control of second place in the American automobile industry. In the 1960s it expanded into electronics and astronautics by purchasing the Philco Corporation, and Henry Ford II was regarded as an industrial statesman. He retired from his top company posts in 1979 and 1980.