Henry Ford poses with 1921 Model T, photographer unknown
150 years ago today, on July 30, 1863, American industrial icon Henry Ford was born in Greenfield Township. The museum that he founded, The Henry Ford, says that Ford was a complex man who was ultimately responsible for transforming the automobile from an invention of unknown utility into an innovation that profoundly shaped the 20th century and continues to affect our lives today. A sampling of some of the facts about Ford they offer bear that out:
- As a child, he was inspired by his mother, who encouraged his interest in tinkering. His father was a farmer. He encouraged Henry’s interest in the use of machines on the farm.
- Thomas Edison was Henry Ford’s role model and later his close friend. (here’s a photo of Edison & Ford)
- He built and drove race cars early in his career to demonstrate that his engineering designs produced reliable vehicles.
- He financed a pacifist expedition to Europe during WWI, but during WWII Ford mobilized his factories for the war effort and produced bombers, Jeeps, and tanks. (more about that check out Willow Run on Absolute Michigan)
- He owned a controversial newspaper, The Dearborn Independent, that published anti-Jewish articles which offended many and tarnished his image.
- Henry Ford built Village Industries, small factories in rural Michigan, where people could work and farm during different seasons, thereby bridging the urban and rural experience.
- The idea for using a moving assembly line for car production came from the meat-packing industry. Ford sought ways to use agricultural products in industrial production, including soybean-based plastic automobile components such as this experimental automobile trunk.
- He was one of the nation’s foremost opponents of labor unions in the 1930s and was the last automobile manufacturer to unionize his work force. (not really a surprise there)
Read on for a full bio and if you ever have a chance definitely visit – it’s pretty amazing!