History

The Henry Ford story

Henry Ford has changed the way of life for many people with his vision to make owning a car both practical and affordable. The moving assembly line and mass production techniques that he developed, set the standard for worldwide industrial practice in the first half of the 20th Century.

The story begins in Springwells Township, Wayne County, Michigan, on 30 July 1863, when Henry was the first-born of William and Mary Ford’s six children. Growing up on a prosperous family farm, he was educated in a one-room school, where he showed an early interest in all things mechanical. This interest would develop into true genius and earn him the accolade of ‘one of the greatest industrialists in the world’.

Learning the trade

Henry Ford started young. By the age of 12, he was spending most of his spare time in a small machine shop, which he had equipped himself. It was here that he constructed his first steam engine, in 1878, aged just 15. The next year, Henry left home, bound for the nearby city of Detroit, to work as an apprentice machinist.

His first vehicle

The culmination of his experiments was the building of a self-propelled vehicle – the Quadricycle – in 1896. The first Ford engine spluttered its way into history, on his wooden kitchen table at 58 Bagley Avenue and this was quickly followed by his next design, an engine mounted on a frame, fitted with four bicycle wheels – the first Ford car.

 
 

Going it alone

After resigning from Edison in 1898, Henry formed the Detroit Automobile Company. Unfortunately, the company was forced into bankruptcy. But never one to be stopped by a setback, he designed and built several racing cars and drove the infamous ‘Sweepstakes’ to victory beating American Champion, Alexander Winton, on 10 October 1901.

Starting the Ford Motor Company

The history of the car would be changed forever when the Ford Motor Company was incorporated, in 1903, with Henry Ford holding 25.5% of the stock and acting both as Vice President and Chief Engineer. At first only a few cars a day were produced at the Ford factory on Mack Avenue, Detroit, where two or three men worked on each car built from components made to order by other companies. The first car built by the company, was sold on 23 July 1903, and Henry became President before becoming the Controlling Owner three years later.