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Henry Ford

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Henry Ford

Henry Ford (July 30, 1863April 7, 1947) was a Freemason[1], American industrialist, peace activist, and critic of Jewish supremacy. He was the founder of the Ford Motor Company and father of modern assembly lines used in mass production. His introduction of the Model T automobile revolutionized transportation and American industry. He was a prolific inventor and was awarded 161 U.S. patents. As sole owner of the Ford Company he became one of the richest and best-known people in the world and back home was referred to as America's Number One citizen.[2]

He is credited with "Fordism", that is, the mass production of large numbers of inexpensive automobiles using the assembly line which could finish a car in 98 minutes, coupled with high wages for his workers—notably the $5.00 per day pay scale adopted in 1914. Ford had a global vision, with consumerism as the key to peace. Ford did not believe in accountants; he amassed one of the world's largest fortunes without ever having his company audited. The company's first audit occurred after Henry Ford II became head of the company. Henry Ford's intense commitment to lowering costs resulted in many technical and business innovations, including a franchise system that put a dealership in every city in North America, and in major cities on six continents. Ford left most of his vast wealth to the Ford Foundation but arranged for his family to control the company permanently.

Early Years

Ford was born on July 30th, 1863, on a farm next to a rural town west of Detroit, Michigan (this area is now part of Dearborn, Michigan). His father, William Ford (1826-1905), was born in County Cork, Ireland. 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 neighbours, the O'Herns. Henry Ford's siblings include: Margaret Ford (1867-1868); Jane Ford (c. 1868-1945); William Ford (1871-1917) and Robert Ford (1873-1934).

Henry took this passion about mechanics into his home. His father had given him a pocket watch in his early teens. At fifteen, he had a reputation as a watch repairman, having dismantled and reassembled timepieces of friends and neighbors dozens of times.[3]

His mother died in 1876, which came as a blow that devastated young Henry. His father expected Henry to eventually take over the family farm, but Henry despised farm work. With his mother dead, little remained to keep him on the farm. He later said to his father, "I never had any particular love for the farm—it was the mother on the farm I loved."[4]

In 1879, he left home for the nearby city of Detroit, Michigan, to work as an apprentice machinist, 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 and became adept at operating the Westinghouse portable steam engine. He was later hired by Westinghouse company to service their steam engines.

He married Clara Ala Bryant (c1865-1950) in 1888, and Ford supported himself by farming and running a sawmill. [5] They had a single child: Edsel Bryant Ford (1893-1943) and had adopted one from China. [6] Ford was nominally an Episcopalian but had doubts about organized religion and was possibly an agnostic.[7]

In 1891, Ford became an engineer with the Edison Illuminating Company, and 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 his own self-propelled vehicle named the Quadricycle, which he test-drove on June 4. After various test-drives, Henry Ford brainstormed ways to improve the Quadricycle.[8]

Ford Motor Company

At age 40, Ford, with 11 other investors and $28,000 in capital, incorporated the Ford Motor Company in 1903. In a newly-designed car, Ford gave an exhibition on the ice of Lake St. Clair, driving one mile (1.6 km) in 39.4 seconds, setting a new land speed record at 91.3 miles per hour (147.0 km/h). Convinced by this success, the race driver Barney Oldfield, who named this new Ford model "999" in honor of a racing locomotive of the day, took the car around the country, making the Ford brand known throughout the United States. Ford was also one of the early backers of the Indianapolis 500.

Ford astonished the world in 1914 by offering a $5 per day wage which more than doubled the rate of most of his workers. The move proved extremely profitable; instead of constant turnover of employees, the best mechanics in Detroit flocked to Ford, bringing in their human capital and expertise, raising productivity, and lowering training costs. Ford called it "wage motive." The company's use of vertical integration also proved successful when Ford built a gigantic factory that shipped in raw materials and shipped out finished automobiles.

Model T

The Model T was introduced on October 1, 1908. It had many important innovations—such as the steering wheel on the left, which every other company soon copied. The entire engine and transmission were enclosed; the 4 cylinders were cast in a solid block; the suspension used two semi-elliptic springs. The car was very simple to drive, and—more importantly—easy and cheap to repair. It was so cheap at $825 in 1908 (the price fell every year) that by the 1920s a majority of American drivers learned to drive on the Model T, leaving fond memories for millions. 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 explore 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 Henry 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.H. Wills. (See Piquette Plant) Sales passed 250,000 in 1914. By 1916, as the price dropped to $360 for the basic touring car, sales reached 472,000.[9]

Ford posing with the Model T

By 1918, half of all cars in America were Model T's. As Ford wrote in his autobiography, "Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black".[10] 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 Henry Ford, and production continued as late as 1927; the final total production was 15,007,034. This was a record which stood for the next 45 years.

In 1918, President Woodrow Wilson personally asked Ford to run for the United States Senate from Michigan as a Democrat. Although the nation was at war, Ford ran as a peace candidate and a strong supporter of the proposed League of Nations.[11] In December 1918, Henry Ford turned the presidency of Ford Motor Company over to his son Edsel Ford. Henry, however, retained final decision authority and sometimes reversed his son. Henry and Edsel purchased all remaining stock from other investors, thus giving the family sole ownership of the company.

By the mid-1920s, sales of the Model T began to decline due to rising competition. Other auto makers offered payment plans through which consumers could buy their cars, which usually included more modern mechanical features and styling not available with the Model T. Despite urgings from Edsel, Henry steadfastly refused to incorporate new features into the Model T or to form a customer credit plan.

"Model A" and Ford's Later Career

By 1926, flagging sales of the Model T finally convinced Henry to make a new model car. Henry pursued the project with a great deal of technical expertise in design of the engine, chassis, and other mechanical necessities, while leaving the body design to his son. Edsel also managed to prevail over his father's initial objections in the inclusion of a sliding-shift transmission. The result was the successful Ford Model A, introduced in December 1927 and produced through 1931, with a total output of over four million automobiles. Subsequently, the company adopted an annual model change system similar to that in use by automakers today. Not until the 1930s did Ford overcome his objection to finance companies, and the Ford-owned Universal Credit Corporation became a major car financing operation.

Labour Philosophy

Henry 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. On January 5, 1914, Ford announced his five-dollar per day program. The revolutionary program called for a reduction in length of the workday from 9 to 8 hours, a 5 day work week, and a raise in minimum daily pay from $2.34 to $5 for qualifying workers.[12]

Ford had been criticized by Wall Street for starting the 40 hour work week and a minimum wage. He proved, however, that paying people more would enable Ford workers to afford the cars they were producing and therefore be good for the economy. Ford labeled the increased compensation as profit-sharing rather than wages. The wage was offered to men over age 22, who had worked at the company for 6 months or more, and, importantly, conducted their lives in a manner of which Ford's "Sociological Department" approved. They frowned on heavy drinking and gambling. The Sociological Department used 150 investigators and support staff to maintain employee standards; a large percentage of workers were able to qualify for the profit-sharing.

Ford was adamantly against labor unions in his plants. To forestall union activity, he promoted Harry Bennett, a former Navy boxer, to be the head of the Service Department. Bennett employed various intimidation tactics to squash union organizing. The most famous incident, in 1937, was a bloody brawl between company security men and organizers that became known as The Battle of the Overpass.

Ford was the last Detroit automaker to recognize the United Auto Workers union (UAW). A sit-down strike by the UAW union in April 1941 closed the River Rouge Plant. Under pressure from Edsel and his wife, Clara, Henry Ford finally agreed to collective bargaining at Ford plants, and the first contract with the UAW was signed in June 1941.

Ford Airplane Company

Ford, like other automobile companies, entered the aviation business during World War I, building Liberty engines. After the war, it returned to auto manufacturing until 1925, when Henry Ford acquired the Stout Metal Airplane Company.

Ford's most successful aircraft was the Ford 4AT Trimotor—called the “Tin Goose” because of its corrugated metal construction. It used a new alloy called Alclad that combined the corrosion resistance of aluminum with the strength of duralumin. The plane was similar to Fokker's V.VII-3m, and some say that Ford's engineers surreptitiously measured the Fokker plane and then copied it. The Trimotor first flew on June 11, 1926, and was the first successful U.S. passenger airliner, accommodating about 12 passengers in a rather uncomfortable fashion. Several variants were also used by the U.S. Army. About 200 Trimotors were built before it was discontinued in 1933, when the Ford Airplane Division shut down because of poor sales during the Great Depression.

Willow Run

Henry Ford has been honored by the Smithsonian Institution for changing the aviation industry. President Franklin Roosevelt referred to Detroit as the "Arsenal of Democracy." The Ford Motor Company played a pivotal role in the Allied victory during World War I and World War II.[13] With Europe under siege, Henry Ford's genius turned to mass production for the war effort. Specifically, Ford examined the B-24 Liberator bomber, still the most produced Allied bomber in history, which quickly shifted the balance of power. Before Ford, and under optimal conditions, the aviation industry could produce one Consolidated Aircraft B-24 Bomber a day at an aircraft plant. Ford showed the world how to produce one B-24 an hour at a peak of 600 per month in 24 hour shifts. Ford's Willow Run factory broke ground in the April 1941. At the time, it was the largest assembly plant in the world.

Edsel Ford, under stress, died in the spring of 1943 of stomach cancer prompting Henry Ford to re-assume day-to-day control of the Ford Motor Company. Mass production of the B-24 began by August 1943. Many pilots slept on cots waiting for takeoff as the B-24 rolled off the assembly line at Ford's Willow Run facility.[14]


Henry Ford opposed war and thought it was a waste of time.[15][16][17] Ford became highly critical of those who he felt financed war and seemed to do whatever he could to stop them. Ford felt that time was better spent making things. In 1915 Henry Ford agreed to fund a Peace Ship to Europe, where World War I was raging, for himself and about 170 other prominent peace leaders. Ford's Episcopalian pastor, Reverend Samuel S. Marquis, accompanied him on the mission. Marquis also headed Ford's Sociology Department from 1913 to 1921. Ford talked to President Wilson about the mission but received no government support. His group went to neutral Sweden and the Netherlands to meet with peace activists there. He left the ship when it reached Sweden.

One outcome of his failed peace mission was Ford's certitude of the International Jews responsibility for war and their profiting from warfare. Coming from that experience he made a promise to himself: "It taught me who starts the wars--the International Jew, the International Jewish banker--and were going to write some articles about him some time."[18]

Ford’s views on Hitler and Mussolini were a bit naïve. In an article by Ford which appeared in the isolationist journal Scribner's Commentator titled "An American Foreign Policy" he suggests the two European leaders were mere "puppets" of international bankers and not true representatives of the will of their peoples.[19]

The Dearborn Independent

In 1918, Ford's closest aide and private secretary, Ernest G. Liebold, purchased an obscure weekly newspaper, The Dearborn Independent for Ford. The Independent ran for eight years, from 1920 until 1927. The newspaper published the controversial "Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion. The American Jewish Historical Society describes the ideas presented in the magazine as "anti-immigrant, anti-labor, anti-liquor, and anti-Semitic." In February 1921, the New York World published an interview with Ford, in which he said "The only statement I care to make about the Protocols is that they fit in with what is going on."

Along with the Protocols, anti-Jewish articles published by The Dearborn Independent were also released in the early 1920s as a set of four bound volumes, cumulatively titled The International Jew, the World's Foremost Problem. Vincent Curcio writes of these publications that "they were widely distributed and had great influence, particularly in National Socialist Germany, where no less a personage than Adolf Hitler read and admired them." Hitler, fascinated with automobiles, hung Ford's picture on the wall; Ford is the only American mentioned in Hitler's book. Steven Watts writes that Hitler "revered" Ford, proclaiming that "I shall do my best to put his theories into practice in Germany, and modeling the Volkswagen, the people's car, on the model T."[20]

Denounced by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the articles nevertheless explicitly condemned pogroms and violence against Jews (Volume 4, Chapter 80), preferring to blame incidents of mass violence on the Jews themselves.[21] None of this work was actually written by Ford, who wrote almost nothing according to trial testimony. Friends and business associates say they warned Ford about the contents of the Independent and that Ford probably never read them. (He claimed he only read the headlines.)[22] However, court testimony in a libel suit, brought by one of the targets of the newspaper, alleged that Ford did know about the contents of the Independent in advance of publication.[23]

A libel lawsuit brought by San Francisco lawyer and Jewish farm cooperative organizer Aaron Sapiro in response to anti-Semitic remarks led Ford to close the Independent in December 1927. News reports at the time quoted him as being shocked by the content and having been unaware of its nature. During the trial, the editor of Ford's "Own Page," William Cameron, testified that Ford had nothing to do with the editorials even though they were under his byline. Cameron testified at the libel trial that he never discussed the content of the pages or sent them to Ford for his approval.[24] Investigative journalist Max Wallace noted that "whatever credibility this absurd claim may have had was soon undermined when James M. Miller, a former Dearborn Independent employee, swore under oath that Ford had told him he intended to expose Sapiro."[25]

Michael Barkun observed, "That Cameron would have continued to publish such controversial material without Ford's explicit instructions seemed unthinkable to those who knew both men. Mrs. Stanley Ruddiman, a Ford family intimate, remarked that 'I don't think Mr. Cameron ever wrote anything for publication without Mr. Ford's approval.'"[26] According to Spencer Blakeslee,

"The ADL mobilized prominent Jews and non-Jews to publicly oppose Ford's message. They formed a coalition of Jewish groups for the same purpose and raised constant objections in the Detroit press. Before leaving his presidency early in 1921, Woodrow Wilson joined other leading Americans in a statement that rebuked Ford and others for their antisemitic campaign. A boycott against Ford products by Jews and liberal Christians also had an impact, and Ford shut down the paper in 1927, recanting his views in a public letter to Sigmund Livingston, ADL".[27]

In July 1938, prior to the outbreak of war, the German consul at Cleveland gave Ford, on his 75th birthday, the award of the Grand Cross of the German Eagle, the highest medal that National Socialist Germany could bestow on a foreigner,[28] while James D. Mooney, vice-president of overseas operations for General Motors, received a similar medal, the Merit Cross of the German Eagle, First Class.[29]

In his private life he was on good terms with almost every Jew he happened to know personally. He naively divided them among “good Jews” and “bad Jews” which were seen by Ford as internationalists. Ford was very surprised when Rabbi Leo Franklin returned the Model T he had offered him. When he started buying antiques he went to a Jewish merchant, and his personal butcher at his mansion was a Jew. He was in excellent terms with architect Albert Kahn. Another personality who was said to have been friendly with Ford is Detroit Judge Harry Keidan. When asked regarding this connection, Ford replied that Harry is only half-Jewish, which is inaccurate. Keidan was, in fact, an Orthodox Jew. Ford's factories employed at least 3,000 Jews.

International Business

Ford's philosophy was one of economic independence for the United States. His River Rouge Plant became the world's largest industrial complex, even able to produce its own steel. Ford's goal was to produce a vehicle from scratch without reliance on foreign trade. He believed in the global expansion of his company. He believed that international trade and cooperation led to international peace, and he used the assembly line process and production of the Model T to demonstrate it.[30] He opened Ford assembly plants in Britain and Canada in 1911, and soon became the biggest automotive producer in those countries. In 1912, Ford cooperated with Agnelli of Fiat to launch the first Italian automotive assembly plants. The first plants in Germany were built in the 1920s with the encouragement of Herbert Hoover and the Commerce Department, which agreed with Ford's theory that international trade was essential to world peace.[31] In the 1920s Ford also opened plants in Australia, India, and France, and by 1929, he had successful dealerships on six continents. Ford experimented with a commercial rubber plantation in the Amazon jungle called Fordlândia; it was one of the few failures. In 1929, Ford accepted Stalin's invitation to build a model plant (NNAZ, today GAZ) at Gorky, a city later renamed Nizhny Novgorod, and he sent American engineers and technicians to help set it up, including future labor leader Walter Reuther.

The technical assistance agreement between Ford Motor Company, VSNH and the Soviet-controlled American Trading Organization (AMTORG)[32] (as purchasing agent) was concluded for nine years and signed on May 31, 1929, by Ford, FMC vice-president Peter E. Martin, V. I. Mezhlauk, and the president of Amtorg, Saul G. Bron. The Ford Motor Company worked to conduct business in any nation where the United States had peaceful diplomatic relations:

By 1932, Ford was manufacturing one third of all the world’s automobiles.

Ford's image transfixed Europeans, especially the Germans, arousing the "fear of some, the infatuation of others, and the fascination among all".[33] Germans who discussed "Fordism" often believed that it represented something quintessentially American. They saw the size, tempo, standardization, and philosophy of production demonstrated at the Ford Works as a national service—an "American thing" that represented the culture of United States. Both supporters and critics insisted that Fordism epitomized American capitalist development, and that the auto industry was the key to understanding economic and social relations in the United States. As one German explained, "Automobiles have so completely changed the American's mode of life that today one can hardly imagine being without a car. It is difficult to remember what life was like before Mr. Ford began preaching his doctrine of salvation"[34] For many Germans, Henry Ford embodied the essence of successful Americanism.


Ford began his career as a race car driver and maintained his interest in the sport from 1901 to 1913. Ford entered stripped-down Model Ts in races, finishing first (although later disqualified) in an "ocean-to-ocean" (across the United States) race in 1909, and setting a one-mile (1.6 km) oval speed record at Detroit Fairgrounds in 1911 with driver Frank Kulick. In 1913, Ford attempted to enter a reworked Model T in the Indianapolis 500 but was told rules required the addition of another 1,000 pounds (450 kg) to the car before it could qualify. Ford dropped out of the race and soon thereafter dropped out of racing permanently, citing dissatisfaction with the sport's rules and the demands on his time by the booming production of the Model Ts.

He was inducted in the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 1996.


Ford suffered an initial heart attack in 1938, after which he turned over the running of his company to Edsel. Edsel's 1943 death brought Henry Ford out of retirement. In ill health, he ceded the presidency to his grandson Henry Ford II in September 1945 and went into retirement. He died in 1947 of a cerebral hemorrhage at age 83 in Fair Lane, his Dearborn estate, and he is buried in the Ford Cemetery in Detroit. [35]


Henry Ford long had an interest in plastics developed from agricultural products, especially soybeans. He cultivated a relationship with George Washington Carver for this purpose. Soybean-based plastics were used in Ford automobiles throughout the 1930s in plastic parts such as car horns, in paint, etc. 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.[36]

Henry Ford is sometimes credited with the invention of the automobile, generally attributed to Karl Benz, and the assembly line, invented by Ransom E. Olds. Ford's employees did develop the first moving assembly line based on conveyor belts.


See also


  1. http://freemasonry.bcy.ca/biography/ford_h/ford_h.html
  3. Ford, My Life and Work, 22-24; Nevins and Hill, Ford TMC, 58.
  4. Ford, My Life and Work, 24; Edward A. Guest "Henry Ford Talks About His Mother," American Magazine, July, 1923, 11-15, 116-120.
  5. "Widow of Automobile Pioneer, Victim of Coronary Occlusion, Survived Him Three Years". Associated Press. September 29, 1950, Friday. Friday, Sept. 29 (Associated Press) Mrs. Clara Bryant Ford, 84 year-old widow of Henry Ford, died at 2 A. M. today in Henry Ford Hospital. A family spokesman said her death was the result of an acute coronary occlusion.  Check date values in: |date= (help);
  6. "Edsel Ford Dies in Detroit at 49. Motor Company President, the Only Son of Its Founder, Had Long Been Ill.". Associated Press. May 26, 1943, Wednesday. Edsel Ford, 49-year-old president of the Ford Motor Company, died this morning at his home at Grosse Pointe Shores following an illness of six weeks.  Check date values in: |date= (help);
  7. Henry's Lieutenants, by Ford Richardson Bryan, page 205
  8. [1]
  9. Lewis 1976, pp 41-59
  10. Ford, My Life and Work, Chapter IV
  11. Watts, pp 243-48
  12. Samuel Crowther Henry Ford: Why I Favor Five Days' Work With Six Days' Pay World's Work, October 1926 pp. 613-616
  13. Larry Lankton (November - December 1991). From Autos to ArmamentsMichigan History Magazine. Retrieved on April 2, 2007.
  14. Jenny Nolan (compiled).Willow Run and the Arsenal of Democracy The Detroit News. Retrieved on April 2, 2007.
  15. Henry Ford, Biography (March 25, 1999). A&E Television.
  16. Michigan History, January/February 1993
  17. Marquis, Rev. Samuel S. (Episcopalian), with introduction by David Lewis. (2007/[1923]). Henry Ford: An Interpretation. Wayne State University Press
  18. The People's Tycoon: Henry Ford and the American Century, By Steven Watts, page 382
  19. The American Axis, by Max Wallace, page 257
  20. Watts page xi.
  21. Ford, Henry (2003). The International Jew: The World's Foremost Problem. Kessinger Publishing. ISBN 0-7661-7829-3, p. 61.
  22. Watts pp x, 376-387; Lewis (1976) pp 135-59.
  23. Wallace, p. 30.
  24. Lewis, (1976) pp. 140-156; Baldwin p 220-221.
  25. Wallace, p. 30.
  26. Barkun, Michael (1996). Religion and the Racist Right: The Origins of the Christian Identity Movement. UNC Press. ISBN 0-8078-4638-4, p. 35.
  27. Blakeslee, Spencer (2000). The Death of American Antisemitism. Praeger/Greenwood. ISBN 0-275-96508-2, p. 83.
  28. Ford and GM Scrutinized for Alleged National Socialist Collaboration, Washington Post, Monday, November 30, 1998; Page A01.
  29. Farber, David R. (2002). Sloan Rules: Alfred P. Sloan and the Triumph of General Motors. University of Chicago Press, ISBN 0-226-23804-0, p. 228.
  30. Watts 236-40
  31. Wilkins
  32. [2]
  33. Nolan p 31
  34. Nolan, p 31
  35. "Leader in Production Founded Vast Empire in Motors in 1903. He had Retired in 1945. Began Company With Capital of $28,000 Invested by His Friends and Neighbors. Henry Ford Is Dead. Founder of Vast Automotive Empire and Leader in Mass Production.". Associated Press. April 8, 1947, Tuesday. Henry Ford, noted automotive pioneer, died at 11:40 tonight at the age of 83. He had retired a little more than a year and a half ago from active direction of the great industrial empire he founded in 1903.  Check date values in: |date= (help);
  36. Lewis 1995
  37. The People's Tycoon: Henry Ford and the American Century, By Steven Watts, page 381

External links

Part of this article consists of modified text from Metapedia, page http:en.metapedia.org/wiki/Henry Ford and/or Wikipedia, page http:en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry Ford, and the article is therefore licensed under GFDL.