Let's start with the popular saying from him
" If you think you can or you think you can't , you're right."
Henry Ford, the founder of Ford Motor Company is famous for the assembly line technique of mass production in the automobile industry. His concept inspired other entrepreneurs to adopt assembly line techniques to revolutionize other industries which are common practices of today. His work not only made automobiles affordable for general individuals but also provided workers with high wages.
Henry Ford was born on July 30, 1863, in Springwells Township, Wayne County, Michigan to Mary (Litogt) and William Ford. He was the eldest of six children where he had three brothers and two sisters. Origin of his father was from County Cork, Ireland, who came to America in 1847 and settled on a farm in Wayne County. He died at his residence, Fair Lane Estate in Dearborn on 7 April 1947 at the age of 83.
“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.”
Henry Ford’s above lines state his personality which was of a born leader with extraordinary determination. To prove himself, he demonstrated a newly designed car on the ice of Lake St. Clair, driving 1 mile (1.6 km) in 9.4 seconds setting a new land speed record at 91.3 miles per hour (146.9 km/hr)
Early Life, Interests, and Education
Henry Ford did not have a college degree. He took a few business-related courses later on in life but never completed a college degree. But he had built an interest in mechanics early on in his life. By the time he was 12, he spent most of his spare time in a small machine shop that he had equipped himself. When he was 13 he was able to take parts apart and reassemble pocket watches which he received as a gift from his father. At 15, he built his first steam engine. Unsatisfied with farm work, he left home at age of 16.
In 1879, Ford left home to work with James F. Flower & Bros as an apprentice machinist in Detroit. Later, he worked with 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 to service their steam engines. During this period, he also studied bookkeeping at Goldsmith, Bryant & Stratton Business College in Detroit.
In 1885, Ford repaired an Otto engine, and in 1887 he built a four-cycle model with one-inch bora and a three-inch stroke.
In 1890, Ford started to work on a two-cylinder engine. He completed the first motor car with a four-horsepower motor. He drove this car about 1000 miles from 1895 to 1896. He started his other two cars in 1986 in his home workshop.
In 1891, Ford became an engineer with the Edison Illuminating Company of Detroit. He was promoted to Chief Engineer in 1893. With this, he managed to work on his experiments on gasoline engines. In 1896, he completed his mission on a self-propelled vehicle which he named the Ford Quadricycle.
In 1896, Ford attended a meeting of Edison executives, where he was introduced to Thomas Edison. Edison approved of Ford’s automobile experimentation which helped him to complete his second vehicle in 1898.
In 1899, Ford resigned from Edison Company and founded the Detroit Automobile Company which was backed by Detroit lumber baron William H. Murphy. Automobiles produced were of lower quality and higher price which made the company unsuccessful and was dissolved in 1901.
In 1901, Ford with help of C. Harold Wills built a 26-horsepower automobile. With this success, Murphy and other stockholders in Detroit Automobile Company formed the Henry Ford Company, where Ford took the role of Chief Engineer. Later Murphy brought in Henry M. Leland as a consultant in the company, Ford unsatisfied left the company. The company was later renamed Cadillac Automobile Company.
In 1902, teaming with former racing cyclist Tom Cooper, Ford produced the 80+ horsepower car which Barney Oldfield drove to victory. This made Ford very popular.
With this success, Ford was backed by his old acquaintance, Alexander Y. Malcomson, a Detroit-area coal dealer which led to the partnership of forming “Ford & Malcomson, Ltd.”
The Ford Malcomson, Ltd. was reincorporated as the Ford Motor Company in 1903 and their first produced car was sold on July 15, 1903. Henry owned 25.5% stock of the newly formed company and remained as president and controlling owner in 1906. In 1919, Henry, Clara, and Edsel Ford acquired the interest of all minority stockholders for $105,820,894 and became the sole owners of the Company. Edsel later became the president of the Company and served the position until he died in 1943. Henry Ford had to return to the post but later again in 1945, he resigned from the presidency for the second time. The successor was his grandson, Henry Ford II.
In 1946, Henry Ford was recognized at the Automotive Golden Jubilee for his contributions to the automotive industry. On his 83rd birthday, 50,000 people cheered for him in Dearbon, and later that year, the American Petroleum Institute awarded him its first Gold Medal annual award for outstanding contributions to the welfare of humanity. The United States government honored him in 1965 by featuring his likeness with a Model T on a postage stamp as part of their Prominent Americans series. In 1999, Fortune magazine named Henry Ford the Businessman of the Century. A prolific inventor, Ford was awarded a total of 161 U.S. patents.
Henry Ford married Clara Jane Bryant (1866-1950) on April 11, 1888. They had one child.
Ford was very close to his mother. He was devastated when his mother died in 1876. Although his father wanted him to take over the family farm, he despised farm work. Later he wrote, “I never had any particular love for the farm – it was the mother on the farm I loved.”
In parts of friendship, Ford was surrounded by popular Business Man and Innovators like Thomas Edison. He had a tough relationship in the beginning with investors where he was taken to court for locking dividends. Later he bought all shares from the investors and led his way into achieving success.