“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.” These words come from Henry Ford, one of America’s prominent industrialists and founder of the Ford Motor Company. Ford revolutionized factory production with his assembly-line methods for automobiles.
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Ford was born on July 30, 1863, on his family’s farm near Dearborn, Michigan and was one of the eight children of William and Mary Ford. For eight years, Ford attended a one-room school when he was not helping his father on the farm.
Ford got a pocket watch as a gift from his father when he turned 15. His friends and neighbors were impressed when Ford took it apart and then reassembled the watch. Soon, he started getting requests to fix their timepieces. But the farm life was not meant for him. He left home and took up an apprentice role working as a machinist in Detroit at the age of 16. He returned after a few years and started working part-time for the Westinghouse Engine Company. In his spare time he used to experiment in a little machine shop he had set up. It was there he built a small farm locomotive, a tractor that used an old mowing machine for its chassis and a homemade steam engine for power.
In 1888, Ford married Clara Ala Bryant and they had a son, Edsel. Ford was then hired as an engineer at the main Detroit Edison Company plant with responsibility for maintaining electric service in the city 24 hours a day. Because of the critical nature of his work, he had no regular hours and was not getting enough time to experiment. This changed after his promotion in 1893 to the position of Chief Engineer.
Finally in 1896, Ford built his first model of self-propelled vehicle, the Ford Quadricycle. In the same year, he got the opportunity to attend a meeting with Edison executives where he presented his automobile plans to Thomas Edison. Encouraged by Edison, Ford created a second model. He started the Detroit Automobile Company in 1899 which later became the Henry Ford Company. Backed by Alexander Malcomson, a coal dealer in Detroit, Ford formed Ford & Malcomson, Ltd. to manufacture automobiles. With a capital of $28,000, Ford & Malcomson was reincorporated as the Ford Motor Company on June 16, 1903.
Ford introduced the Model T in October of 1908, proclaiming “I will build a motor car for the great multitude.” It was during this period that Ford developed the assembly-line mode of production, which revolutionized the industry. Ford went on to sell 15,500,000 of the Model T cars in the United States, around 1,000,000 in Canada, and 250,000 in Great Britain. For several years, the company posted 100 percent profit.
Ford became renowned for his revolutionary vision creating an inexpensive automobile for the common people made by skilled workers who earned steady wages.
Ford died of a cerebral hemorrhage on April 7, 1947, at the age of 83, near his Dearborn estate, Fair Lane. Ford is considered one of America’s leading business people and is credited today for helping to build America’s economy during the nation’s vulnerable early years.