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Henry Ford Essay, Research Paper

Henry Ford

Henry Ford, an extremely hardworking man, was very curious in his early life because he liked to take things apart and ask many questions. He designed and manufactured many cars, including the Model T which was the second largest selling car totaling over 15,000,000. In addition to doing this, he managed an enormous company with the help of very few people.

Henry had a few dreams that he thought would change the world. For example, he saw that most of the car companies were making cars for the very wealthy, but Ford looked beyond this and dreamed that every family in the United States would own their own car, even the poor farming families.

Henry was born into a rather poor farming family during Abraham Lincoln’s presidency on July 30, 1863, in a small town called Dearborn located in Michigan. During the first years of Henry’s life, he would work on the farm, take his toys apart, and ask many questions such as, “How does a clock work?” (The Story of Henry Ford).

At the age of 16, Henry left home and found a job as a machinist apprentice. Then, from about 1880 until about 1884, he worked many other jobs usually fixing watches and clocks (The Story of Henry Ford). While doing this, he was learning more and more about mechanics.

Then, in 1885 the first car was invented (The Story of Henry Ford). Made by Benz, this car was three-wheeled, very uncomfortable and extremely slow, going approximately 10 miles per hour. From that date forward, Henry Ford found out what he was destined to do: build an incredible car. Before Henry was going to build any car, he had to first get some money so he decided to work for Westinghouse Steam Engines in southern Michigan.

April 11, 1888, was a great day for Henry, because he married Clara J. Bryant. Mr. and Mrs. Ford moved to Detroit in 1891 to try and settle down. Then, in 1893 Henry was made chief engineer of the Edison Illuminating Company, which paid well (”Henry Ford”). While he was working for them, in his own spare time he constructed a one-cylinder gasoline motor, which was an enormous step for Henry. Then, a couple of months later, on the sixth day of November, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Ford had their only child: a boy named Edsel Bryant Ford (The Story of Henry Ford).

In June of 1896, Henry built his first car: a two cylinder lightweight carriage, called the “quadricycle” (”Henry Ford” 566). 1899 came, and Henry decided to resign from the Edison Illuminating Company to organize the Detroit Automobile Company. After two years of hard work, the company went bankrupt because of the lack of cars sold (The Story of Henry Ford).

Henry Ford decided that building and driving race cars was the best thing for him to do at this time, so late in 1901, he decided to race and sell cars (”Henry Ford”). One of Henry’s most important races was against Alexander Winston at Gross Pointe Michigan in October of 1901. The driver of Ford’s car was Barney Oldfield who beat Alexander by only a few seconds (The Story of Henry Ford). Later, in January of 1904, Ford drove his “999″ to a world’s record of 39.4 seconds in a mile over the ice of Lake St. Claire (”Henry Ford” 566).

After doing a few years of racing, Henry decided to try and open a company one more time. The company was called The Ford Motor Company named after his family. Ford had three other partners when the company first opened on June 16, 1903 (”Henry Ford” 566). These partners were C. H. Wills as Ford’s company assistant, James Couzens as Ford’s business acumen, and Malcomson as Ford’s office manager. At the time the company opened, Ford only owned 25.5% of the company which was worth $28,000.

The first car made in the company was the Model A in 1903. The first one of these made was sold within a month, and orders started pouring in after that for more cars. In 1905, Ford’s office manager, Malcomson, was forced to sell his stock, because Ford and he had an argument on which type of car the company should focus on selling, so when Malcomson left, Ford received Malcomson’s stock, leaving Ford to be the president of the company. Henry decided that, in 1906, the company should move to Highland Park, Michigan because there wasn’t enough room in the old factory to produce the “breakthrough” car that Henry was designing (”Henry Ford” 567).

“It is going to be like simple and sturdy. It is going to be priced so that, most people can afford it which means that we are going to make a whole lot of them.” (The Story of Henry Ford). Quoted Henry Ford when he had the idea that people needed a “mechanical workhorse” that could do a variety of jobs like take a take a load of cattle feed along rough roads, carry grain to the market, go to the nearest town to get mail or do some shopping, or take the family to a party in a nearby town (”Henry Ford” 567). He also saw that simple farmers didn’t want a fast, or glamorous car, they wanted a car that was reliable, easy to maintain, and most of all, affordable. This car was called the Model T, and was first produced on October 8, 1908. The model T was a four cylinder, twenty horsepower engine that was sold two ways: as a roadster priced at $825, or as a touring car priced at $850. Even though the model T wasn’t cheap when it first came out, it was stronger, easier to maintain, cheaper to run, and more generally useful than any cars at that price. The Model T was such a big hit, that in the first year of production, over 10,000 Model T’s were sold and millions of spare parts were made (The Story of Henry Ford).

The Model T had many uses. First, the farmers used it to pull the plow. Also, many women would use the Model T to drive into town more and carry things such as groceries back home. And finally, people would now be able to work in one place and live a few miles away.

Since there were so many orders for the Model T, in 1909 Henry Ford said that from now on, they would concentrate on making only Model T’s in the factory (The Story of Henry Ford). Ford also hired more workers having a total of 3,000 men working for him in 1910 in his Highland Park factory (”Henry Ford” 567). The demand for the Model T and extra parts was becoming so great, that Ford decided to start mass-producing the Model Ts. Now production would be faster, and each car and part would be identical so that they would be easier to fix by mechanics. The mass-production idea that Ford had wasn’t new. In fact, it was seen as early as 1800 for things such as guns, clocks, watches, sewing machines, and typewriters. It was also seen in 1902 when Russell Olds adopted mass-production methods to make his “Merry Oldsmobile” on an assembly line. The only difference between Ford’s assembly line and Russell Olds, was that Ford had a moving conveyor belt along which the car traveled, and each new part was added. Each worker was given a small, but special job to do, and each worker had a smaller conveyor belt to carry parts they needed. When Henry Ford came out with this idea of using mass-production, he had many quotes like; “Good work is hard unless you have good tools and clean surroundings. Employees and employers ought to be treated by the same standard. Are they indifferent?” Or, “Old production methods say that machines must aid man. Our idea is that man should aid the machine.” He also said this, “Hard labor is for machines, not people.” (The Story of Henry Ford).

A few months after this assembly line was introduced Ford’s workers started to get extremely angry because they were making more cars, and getting the same amount of pay. Because of this, the workers started quitting their jobs, which caused Ford to slow down the production of his Model Ts. Ford then decided to change the pay to: however many cars you make, that is how much you will be paid. Also, Ford started taking the workers to picnics and camp outs. This decision brought all of his workers back, plus more. Radio shows were aired starring Henry Ford and his friends like Harry Firestone and Thomas Edison.

By 1913, there were over 7,000 dealers selling Ford cars. To make his workers happier he made minimum wage $5 per day in 1914. The speed of Ford’s assembly line was so fast, that in 1914 the workers could build a complete Model T in 93 minutes. In addition, over 250,000 Model Ts had been sold and Ford now owned over 50% of the automobile market. Before Ford left on his journey, in 1915, he began to develop and test tractors (”Henry Ford” 567).

Mid-June came, and Ford announced that he would sail with social evangelist, clergyman and reformers, including William James Briana, the former Secretary of State; and Rosiqua Shinimmer, anti-war agitator on a peace ship around the world. Then, on December 4, 1915, his ship set sail. During Ford’s voyage the company was now able to make 2,000 Model Ts daily, and the price was lowered to $360 (The Story of Henry Ford).

Now World War I was quickly approaching but Woodrow Wilson tried not to let the United States get involved. It was now 1917, and Henry was told that the United States might have to fight Germany, so he abandoned his ship in Europe so that he wouldn’t get caught in the war. Finally, on the 6th of April, 1916, the United States declared war on Germany, and on that day Ford said, “War puts nothing into the world and takes much from it, but war is not a cause, it is a result, a result of poverty; especially poverty of thought.” (The Story of Henry Ford). Since the war put a decline in the sales of his cars, Ford started mass-producing submarines, planes, and a quarter of a million other vehicles for the United States Government. Ford wanted to impress the government so much that he experimented with Army vehicles and ended up selling over 15,000 tanks called the “Midget Tank” in 1919 (The Story of Henry Ford). During this year, to gain more control of the company, the Ford family bought Dodge’s stock, which was about 10% of the company.

The next big step came in 1919. Since Ford had spent over 13 years as president of the Ford Motor Company, and his son Edsel Ford displayed considerable executive talent, Ford appointed Edsel as the president of the company. Even though Edsel was now president of the company, Henry still played a very important role too (”Henry Ford” 568).

By 1921, Henry and Edsel both decided to stop producing vehicles for the government. Their sales were up so high, that in 1922, over 1,000,000 Model Ts had been sold that year, and they started to disapprove of the war. Henry said “I hope to show them that they can make more money making tractors than by making weapons.” (The Story of Henry Ford).

The company kept growing, and in 1922, Edsel signed contracts to buy Lincoln Motors. Also, the company now owned their own mines, trains, ships, and rubber plants in Brazil for tires.

The Ford Motor Company was starting to become more interested in flight so that in 1926, they started an airmail service. An airport was also built for the public so that people could experience a ride in a plane for a small fee. Finally, late in 1927, the production of the Model T stopped because they were getting ready to make another car? (Ingpen et. al. 42).

Changes to the plant for this new car cost approximately $25,000,000. The new car was called the Model A and had 5,580 parts. It was very luxurious because it was the first car to have safety glass in its windshield as standard equipment, came in four different colors, came in 17 body styles, had four wheel brakes, and hydraulic shock absorbers. Before the car went into production, in mid-1928, there were over 400,000 orders for the Model A (The Story of Henry Ford).

But Ford couldn’t have picked a worse time for the car to come out, because in 1931, the Depression started, and the company lost $51,000,000 and later lost $37,000,000 in 1932. But he never gave up. They tried many things to get business back, like raise minimum wage to $7 per day, and lower the prices of the Model A, set up junkyards to get rid of the old cars. Henry thought that if the old cars were gone, that people would buy more new ones. He also advertised everywhere (The Story of Henry Ford).

The new engine that came out in 1932 now revolutionized the history of cars: the V-8 engine. This engine was the most high tech at that time. Henry Ford and Thomas Edison would team up to make educational movies for people free of charge. Luther Burbank and Will Rogers would star in these films (”Henry Ford” 568).

The World’s Fair was held in New York in 1940, and the Ford family was invited to be honored guests for this incredible event. 1943 was a very sad time for the Ford family because Mr. and Mrs. Ford’s only child, Edsel, died. Henry then briefly resumed the presidency. Edsel Ford’s son Henry Ford Jr., became the president of the company in September 1945. On April 7, 1947, Henry Ford said his last good-byes at the age of 83.

Towards the end of Henry Ford’s life, a monument was located near the Rouge Plant, in a small town called Greenfield Village. A couple of buildings were made to show Ford’s life story, a very great one. The monument is still here today, and is visited every day by many people. The greatest car, Ford’s Model T was seen on the roads as late as the 1950’s, still sturdy and dependable until the end, just like the inventor himself.


Aird, Hazel B, and Ruddiman, Catherine. Henry Ford, Boy With Ideas.

United States: The Bobbs-Merrill Co., Inc., 1960.

Ingpen, Robert and Wilkinson, Phillip. Scientists Who Changed the World.

Italy: Chelsea House Publishers, 1994.

“Henry Ford.” Encyclopedia America. 1993 ed.

American Decades 1910-1919 New York: Gale Research Co., 1996.

Lacey, Robert. Ford, The Men and The Machine. New York: Ballantine

Books Co., 1986.

Marcus, Paul: Ford: We Never Called Him Henry. New York: Tom Doherty

Associates Co., 1951, 1987.

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