Henry Ford

A biographical look at the life, times and lessons of
Henry Ford
"It is doubtful if any mechanical invention in the history of the world has influenced in the same length of time the lives of so many people in an important way as the motor car." So writes an American historian, thinking of the automobile alone. But it does not stand-alone. It was the automobile factory that introduced mass production, a process that has changed the lineaments of our economic and social life more profoundly than any other single element in the recent history of civilization. Nearly everyone has heard of this process, yet few have any detailed or exact knowledge of its inception and development. Enter Henry Ford. The true answers of what inspired this Michigan farmer to develop a production process that was so simple, effective and efficient it changed the entire course of history.
In this report, we will present a brief history of the era in which Henry Ford lived, the background from which he came, and important management trends he followed.
It is hard to summarize the era in which Henry Ford lived. Chiefly because he changed the entire tone of the era in which he lived, making his career a transitional period. We will begin with the world before Ford.
In the mid-latter part of the eighteen hundreds (c.1860-c.1895), the United States was still tending its wounds from the aftermath of the civil war. It was a time of rebuilding, reorganizing and a time to accept change. The country?s figureheads were also changing. When the most respected of men were generals, soldiers, presidents, and war painted warriors, combat bravery was a greatly revered trait. However when the dust and smoke of war cleared, the public?s attention naturally shifted back to home life. The transition occurred when the position of bravery in the public eye changed from a warrior?s bravery, to an entrepreneur?s type of bravery. An undeniable part of home life and living is what tools are used to make a home or farm function. This is where the gaze shifted toward men like Edison for inventing the light bulb and standardizing the use of electricity. Well over one hundred years later, what home is complete without electricity? And (back to our focus) what home is complete without an automobile?
Naturally many inventors influenced this time in history. Take for example three boys who grew up on several of the farms in Worcester County, Massachusetts. At thirteen, Tom Blanchard invents an apple-parer; at eighteen he works in a tack factory, and is soon inventing a tack-counting machine, then a tack-making machine. Before long he is one of the masters of the Springfield Arsenal. Elias Howe liked to tinker with the grain mill on his father?s farm, an occupation fitting his rural life. At sixteen he became an apprentice in a Lowell factory for making textile machinery ? his sewing machine lay just ahead. Eli Whitney combines farm chores and forge work; restlessly ambitious, he saves money to attend Yale ? with what result we all know. "The farm is a sound teacher of ingenuity and elementary mechanical skills. Before long however its lessons are ended, and the youth whose imagination is fired by railroads, steamboats, cotton mills, machine shops, and gun factories looks to a larger sphere." 2
Henry Ford was born on July 30, 1863 in the Detroit, Michigan area. He was the oldest of six children born to William and Mary Litogot O?Hern Ford, and the grandson of Irish immigrants who had arrived in America in 1847. The entire family worked on the family farm and Ford was raised with intentions of taking over the family farm when he grew up.
"He had an intelligent, inquisitive nature and was energized by the huge growth of industry occurring in the Detroit area." 3He was also an avid experimenter. At age nine, in one of his first experiments, he theorized the power of steam. To prove the nature of this phenomenon, he plugged the spout of one of his mother?s delicate teapots, and set it to a boil. And to the great joy of the young, giggly theorist (and dismay of his mother), the explosion sent pieces of glass and boiling water crashing around the kitchen! Miraculously the young observer was left untouched! This result is eerily reminiscent of the effect Ford would have on the industrial revolution in times