Many personalities in the world history have changed the way the society lived or treated some things and phenomena. People remember outstanding artists, famous politicians, and patrons that shaped the community’s view on beauty, values, and peaceful coexistence on the planet. At this point, one cannot forget to mention the world-known scientists, engineers, and inventors that altered the way industries develop and people live now, and created different things that were a sheer fiction in the past. Henry Ford was not the first person to invent the car, but he was the first to make the vehicle a reality for average middle-class citizens. Therefore, he can be regarded as a significant personality in the world history for his contribution to the people’s ability to save time moving over the long distances.
Henry Ford was born on July 30, 1863 in Dearborn, in the family of William and Mary Ford. He became the first son who survived after birth. As a child, Ford demonstrated exactly those traits of character that were needed for a true successful, famous, and powerful leader. Henry managed to organize boys living in his neighborhood to construct some simple steam engines and water wheels. It was Ford’s own achievement that he learned so much about big steam engines as he made friends with people owing them. Being good at solving mechanical problems, Henry found how fix watches. Trying to create something from the details he had, Ford learned the basis of mechanical design by the method of trial and error. Being stubborn and persistent, Henry achieved what he aspired to.
Being extremely interested in the engineering, mostly practical one that dealt with different mechanism, Ford went to Detroit, the city situated not far from his native town, in order to work as an apprentice machinist at the Michigan Car Company. Even though after three years of life in the city the man had to return home and help his parents, working with them in the farm, Henry did not forget his passion and continued to work on steam engines and sometimes did occasional stints in some factories in Detroit. At that time, Ford understood that he wanted to work for himself, creating something he was fond of – the mechanisms. In 1888, Ford married Clara Bryant, a girl he knew for many years since she grew in the neighboring farm. Ford used to say that he would not have achieved what he had if his wife did not support him. Clara tried to understand and share his passion, and was always ready to help with whatever she could. Since Ford was working irregular hours as a night engineer at the Edison Electric Illuminating Company and often came back very late, his wife did not make him do something about the house, but encouraged him to work over the project that became his dream – creating the horseless carriage. Feeling the support and belief in his forces, Ford tried even harder than ever to embody his pursuit.
The work at Edison Electric Illuminating Company became a learning experience for Henry Ford since the man knew little about electricity. However, his lack of expertize was not an obstacle for him since after two years Ford was promoted to the chief engineer of the company. Despite his success in electricity business, Henry did not care much about promotion since it was not his primary interest. Similarly to some other individual amateurs, Ford became a ‘self-made’ engineer who strived to build the horseless carriage. The inventor experimented much, and with the assistance of his friends, he finally managed to create the first self-propelled vehicle of his own making in 1896. The machinery was called Quadricycle for it had four wheels. It was operated with the help of a tiller, similar to the one found in the boats. As the first model, the Quadricycle did not have the reverse movement ability; however, it was endowed with two forward speeds. Still, it was a great beginning since the engineer without special education and much money to buy expensive equipment and details needed for the vehicle managed to create the horseless carriage that operated on the force produced by an engine. This achievement marked the beginning of a new era in car building because this kind of transport was not the prerogative of rich people only.
Ford’s persistence was celebrated after he made his second car in 1898. He managed to convince some influential people that his visions of the vehicle are real and possible to embody. Some businessmen, whom Henry convinced to invest in him, agreed to help him with the creation of the company producing and selling the horseless carriages. The beginning was extremely risky since Ford had no idea about running a business. Moreover, very few cars could be found in the streets; so, people did not trust the machineries produced by Ford’s company. His first trial was unsuccessful, as well as the second one. In order to return at least some amount of money he spent on his failing trials, Ford had to construct and in some cases drive racing cars. Since the vehicles he made drove faster than those created by other inventors, some additional financial backers decided to invest in his business. As a result, in 1903, Ford established the third automotive venture. The business was named in a usual for that time manner – Ford Motor Company.
The establishment of the third company proved that Ford had an extremely valuable talent: he managed to convince influential people to support his enterprise even though two previous trials became the failing ventures. Starting his third company, Henry Ford hired young enthusiastic men who trusted Ford’s feeling about success and believed that his inventions would one day change the business into one of the largest car manufacturers in the country. The first car the company produced was called Model A. In the following years, the model was improved many times. In 1907, for example, the vehicle had four cylinders, cost $600, and was called Model N. This version of the horseless carriage became the best-selling vehicle in the whole country despite the fact that Ford started his third enterprise only four years before it was created. At that time, Ford wanted to produce the improved model at a smaller price so that most people could afford buying it. His pursuits led to creation of another version of motorcar in 1908.
Model T, manufactured in 1908, differed much from the Quadricycle made in 1896. The steering mechanism was much easier. Moreover, it allowed one to drive the vehicle on rough roads, which was an important aspect at that time. The demand for a new model became extremely high since its benefits and price allowed more people to buy it. The low price of approximately $260 per a two-passenger runabout and easy operation mechanism resulted in the condition that half of all cars driven in 1918 were Model T vehicles. Ford aspired to produce as many vehicles as people could buy; so, in 1910, the company was relocated to the place where bigger manufacturing could be made. The major Ford’s aim became his revolutionary vision – production of the greatest number of cars at a cheaper price by the skilled employees who were decently paid. It is stated that in 1914, Ford paid $5 per day to each employee to make him responsible. At that time, the sum of $5 was equal to $110 in 2011; therefore, one can admit that ordinary mechanics at Ford Motor Company earned pretty much.
The reason for rising wages was not only Ford’s desire to ensure that skilled workers continued working for his company. In the end of 1913, Henry’s team managed to develop a moving assembly line for motorcars. Ford and his workers combined the ideas they borrowed from the producers of watches, guns, and bicycles with their own ones, and car manufacturing became a never-ending process. His workers objected to the repetitive tasks they had to perform, working on the assembly line; so, many of them quitted after a few months. The company needed 14,000 workers to make the plant function properly, but in 1913, Ford had to hire 53,000 employees in order to meet the turnover. Therefore, Henry needed to raise wages in order to stop the increasing flow of the workforce. Moreover, he benefited from this decision as well as his workers received enough money and started buying the cars of their own making.
In 1919, Ford decided to make the company a family-controlled business. For this reason, he bought the shares that other people possessed, making them millionaires, and appointed his son Edsel to the position of a president of the company. Actually, Ford was the only person who ran the company. However, the decision was unwise since, having absolute power, Ford rejected the suggestions about the creation of new models that could compete with more comfortable and stylish vehicles, such as Chevrolet. Even though his cars cost less, people started to choose those that were more expensive, but looked better and were endowed with more comfort. For this reason, the sales figures started to decline, and Henry Ford needed to do something about that.
As the situation became extremely tough, in 1927, Ford stopped the production of the Model T. He designed a new type of vehicle, more stylish and comfortable, and named it Model A, like the first car he had made. The reason for that was the extreme distinction between those two models. In order to produce a new automobile, Ford decided to build a bigger plant in Dearborn so that the location was beneficial for the manufacturing process as iron and coal were delivered by the railway there. The factory was supposed to become the largest factory in the world since it did not focus on car production only, but also manufactured the components of the cars, such as glass, tires, and others. The new model could compete with other vehicles on the market for four years only before Ford replaced it with a new improved version. The company owner introduced an inexpensive V8 engine, which was comparatively light and could be broadly used. Still, the innovation was not enough to restore the former success of the business since General Motors and Chrysler Corporation moved Ford Motor Company to the third place.
During the World War II, Ford was not eager to support the country’s decision to participate in it. However, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the USA participation was inevitable, and Henry’s plant became one of the largest suppliers of airplanes, tanks, engines, and jeeps. In 1943, Ford’s son died, and two years later, Henry officially placed his business under control of Edsel’s son Henry. On April 7, 1947, Henry Ford died in Dearborn.
Even though Henry Ford was not the first person to invent the car, he made a significant contribution to the way the society lived and to people’s access to the results of the technological advancements. He created the vehicle that served to bring more comfort to human existence. Since the price of the Model A and then Model T was very low in comparison to that of cars produced by other companies, not only rich citizens, but also those having an average income could afford having a means of transport that allowed them to travel over the longer distances than those covered in the horse carriages.
To conclude, Henry Ford was an outstanding personality in the history of the United States. He did not invent the car, or make some important international decisions as many American presidents did, but he made the technology more accessible to the average middle-class people. Starting from the hand-made Quadricycle and acquiring knowledge by the method of trial and error, Henry Ford later managed to create the vehicle that was cheap enough for the ordinary people to afford it. Moreover, his company provided workplace for at least 14,000 employees. Ford raised their wages to make sure that the work was done carefully. Even though his business was less successful in the last decades of his life, Henry Ford made a great contribution to the development of automobile production and fostered healthy competition between car manufacturers, making them improve their products.