Despite two previous attempts to start a company to manufacture automobiles, it was not until 1903 that Henry Ford finally achieved success. On a warm June day, Henry Ford and a select group of potential shareholders sat down in a Detroit office to sign the paperwork necessary to create a new corporation. After signing the paperwork and having it notarized, it was sent to Michigan’s secretary of state. The following day, June 17, 1903, the papers were received and the company was officially incorporated. The twelve stockholders had no way of knowing that the company would later become one of the world’s top car manufacturers.
For Ford, the company was the result of hard work and determination. In 1896, Ford was employed as a chief engineer for Detroit’s Edison Illuminating Company. He spent what spare time he had available working in a workshop behind his home. In time, he built the Quadricycle, the world’s first vehicle powered by gasoline.
Just one month after the company was established, the first Ford car was assembled in plant located on Detroit’s Mack Avenue. During the company’s early days, small groups of workers assembled a few new cars a day by hand using parts that were made to order by other companies. In 1908, Ford introduced the Model T, referred to as the “Tin Lizzie” by the public. Ford had succeeded in producing an efficient and affordable automobile that was also reliable.
As the result of the huge demand for the Tin Lizzie, Ford began to look at methods of mass production. These methods included opening larger production plants and using standardized parts that were interchangeable. In 1913, five years after the first T model was sold, the Ford Company introduced the first moving assembly line for cars. In 1914, Ford implemented the $5 daily wage for all employees who worked eight hours a day in another effort to increase productivity. This set a new history in car standards for the industry, as employees had previously been paid $2.34 for nine hours of work. By 1918, almost half of the cars on American roads were Model Ts. In 1922, Ford purchased the Lincoln Motor Company.
Ford introduced the idea of a building a huge industrial complex located along the banks of Dearborn, Michigan’s River Rouge to stockholders in 1908. However, they were resistant to the idea due to the significant amount huge of money that would need to be spent. Due to their reluctance, Henry Ford, who owned 58.5 percent of the company as early as 1906, opted to buy the stakeholders out of their interest in the company. By the late 1910’s, the Ford Company had started construction, a project that lasted well into the 1920’s. At completion, the plant had everything needed for auto production, including an assembly line, glass factor, and steel mill. The company continued to flourish, despite the onset of the Great Depression in the 1930’s.
In 1919, Ford chose to make his son, Edsel, president of the company. However, Henry maintained complete control over the company’s operations. After Edsel’s death in 1934, Henry briefly returned to the role of president before giving the position to his grandson, Henry Ford II, in 1945. In 1947, at the age of 83, Ford passed away at his home in Dearborn. His legacy continues to live on in the automotive world and can be seen in cars simply by looking at the rear seatbelts, childproof door locks, retractable hardtops, and seat belt reminder lights, among other innovations Ford introduced.
Today, the company has expanded to include Ford UK, Ford Australia, Ford Germany, and many additional overseas operations that sell both new and used cars.