Richest People in History Henry Ford Part 1

About Henry Ford, history, biography and worth of one of the richest men in history.



Born near Dearborn, Mich., on July 30, 1863, Ford was unique among history's richest people in that his fortune was accepted--and even hailed--by his fellow citizens as the just reward for hard work, thrifty habits, and exceptional business acumen. He did not excite the animosities engendered by Rockefeller, Morgan, or the robber barons of the late 19th century. Rather, Henry Ford stood as the symbol of the classic American rags-to-riches story, a living embodiment of the validity of the Puritan ethic.

He began life on a farm, but his mechanical aptitude drew him off the land and into a Detroit machine shop, where he served his apprenticeship. He moonlighted as a watch repairman, and later joined the Edison Illuminating Company as an engineer. It was while working for Edison--where he rose to the level of chief engineer--that Ford began tinkering with internal-combustion engines in his home workshop. By 1896 he was puttering down Detroit streets in his Quadricycle, and in 1903, after acquiring a reputation as creator of the fast Ford 999 racing machine, he formed the Ford Motor Company for the production of cheap, efficient automobiles for every American.

1908, the year the first Model T appeared, was momentous for both the Ford Motor Company and the course of American transportation history. A sturdy little car that at $850 cost about half the price of most of its competitors, the Model T was an immediate commercial success. By 1911 the Ford Motor Company was enjoying annual sales of more than $10 million, but the Ford-inspired revolution in car making was yet to come.

In 1913 Ford introduced the conveyor-belt assembly line, which would result over the life span of the Model T (until 1928) in the creation of 15.8 million Tin Lizzies, or Flivvers. To compensate his workers for the dehumanizing drudgery of the assembly line, to prevent them from joining a union, and to enable them to purchase the vehicles they assembled, Ford in 1914 began paying $5 per eight-hour working day, a wage way above the norm in the car industry. By 1915 a half million vehicles were rolling off the assembly line, each one to be sold at less than $500. Ford had actually lowered the price of his product, lending credibility to the belief that American technology could eventually provide every person with the material goods necessary to live the good life.

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