Henry Ford was born on July 30, 1863, in Dearborn, Michigan. From early childhood he loved working with machinery. As a child, his father gave him a pocket watch and the first thing he did was take it apart and reassemble it. Before long he was repairing watches for all of his friends and family. When Henry was only 16, he began working as a machinist in Detroit. After returning to the family farm in 1882 Henry became interested in steam engines. Before long he was working for Westinghouse servicing steam engines. Then in 1891 Henry went to work for the Edison Illuminating Company as an engineer. Eventually he would become their chief engineer. The new job would leave him enough free time to pursue his interest in the internal combustion engine. At this time Henry was spending his evenings working on the development of engines. He constructed his first car in 1896. Soon afterwards Henry constructed a series of successful racing cars.
In 1903, Ford obtained financial backing for the creation of the Ford Motor Company. For the next 5 years Henry struggled with patent problems. Finally, in 1908 he released his very successful Model T. The Model T was hand made and both inexpensive and reliable. However, Henry was not happy with the way that the cars were assembled. As a result, in 1908 he introduced assembly line production. It was so efficient that Ford was able to reduce the price on the automobiles from $850 to $360. Before long, the demand for the car rose dramatically, and Henry Ford would become one of the richest men in the world. Production increased from 11,000 a year to 730,000. At the time, everyone had to have what was called the “Tin Lizzy.”
The prevailing wage in the United States had been $11 a week. However, Henry would have nothing to do with the low wage. Instead, he instituted a $5 an 8 hour shift minimum. Henry Ford wanted to pay his employees a wage that was high enough that they themselves would be able to buy the car. Henry retired in 1919 placing his son Edsel in charge of the company. At the time, Henry Ford was sole owner of the company, and one of the richest men in the world.
Competition increased dramatically over the next decade. At the time, Ford stayed steadfast loyal to his Model T while the other auto makers like General Motors introduced a variety of models, colors, and options. Consequently, the Model T lost its dominance in the auto market. After manufacturing 15 million Model T's Ford retired the car and replaced it with the much nicer Model A.
Then when World War I broke out, Henry Ford came out against it. In 1915, he chartered a ship, and loaded it with pacifists and they sailed to Europe in an attempt to stop the fighting. He was not successful. Ford would prove to be a man of many contradictions when he soon used violence to break strikes against his company. He was also very much anti-Semite. Subsequently, he released a variety of anti-Jewish literature including the book that he called the “International Jew.” In the 1930's Ford formed his own private para-military force to fight picketers and organized labor. Then in 1936 Henry created the Ford Foundation. The Ford Foundation quickly became the largest philanthropic organization in the world. Over the next decades Ford who give away 100's of millions of dollars to educational, scientific, and charitable causes.