42 Interesting Facts About Henry Ford

Last updated on July 31st, 2020

Henry Ford was the industrialist founder of the Ford Motor Company, and innovator of the development of the assembly line technique of mass production. He was born in the American state of Michigan to William and Mary Ford.

He was not the inventor of the automobile, which is generally accredited wrongly to him. However, he manufactured an affordable automobile for many middle-class Americans. He and his company famously introduced the ‘Model T’ automobile, which revolutionized American industry and transportation.

“In 1931, Adolf Hitler called Ford an ‘inspiration,’ publicly.”

Here are 42 interesting facts about Henry Ford that will inspire you to do some things that might make a difference to the world.

1. The Ford Motor Company made Henry Ford one of the richest and well-known people of his time.

2. He is considered to be the inventor of mass production. He made use of this concept in his motor company, which drastically brought down the cost of automobile ownership in America at the time.

a pocket watch.
An illustrative image of a pocket watch.

3. Ford was gifted a pocket watch by his father during his early teens. During that time, he dismantled and reassembled the watch, as well as the watches of several of his friends and relatives. Through these efforts, he gained quite a reputation as a watch repairman.

4. After the sad loss of his mother in 1876, his father wanted Henry to take responsibility and work on the farm. However, Henry disapproved of this and said that he was not interested in farm work. In his earlier years, he was willing to perform farm work due to the fact that his mother was present. However, he had no interest in the farm apart from his mother.

5. He disliked working on the farm, but turned to farming at the age of 25, once he was married. He had to do it to support his family.

6. His first engine: In 1878, by the age of 15, Ford built his first steam engine.

Mills Portable Steam Engine, circa 1978. facts about Henry Ford
Mills Portable Steam Engine, circa 1978. Image via Thehenryford.org

7. In 1891, Ford joined Edison Illuminating Company and got promoted as a Chief Engineer in 1893. At this time, he had enough money and time to pursue his curiosity and talent, and started working on gasoline engines.

8. His dream of building a gasoline engine became a reality by the end of 1893, fifteen years after he built his first steam engine.

Car Ford Horseless Carriages.
Car Ford Horseless Carriages. Museum of retro cars, st. Majke Jevrosime 30, Belgrade, Serbia. May 4, 2018.

9. In 1896 he completed his work on his first horseless carriage, called the “Quadricycle”. He sold this vehicle to support the development of his second vehicle.

10. He was inspired by Edison to build cars. In 1896, Ford had a meeting with Thomas Edison, where Edison approved of his automobile experimentation.

“Be ready to revise any system, scrap any method, abandon any theory, if the success of the job requires it.” – henry Ford

11. Incorporating the company: In 1903, the Ford Motor Company was incorporated with a mere 28,000 USD from the public. However, soon the Association of Licensed Automobile Manufacturers stopped his company’s production because Ford was not a licensed manufacturer.

12. Lost in court: Ford took the matter to the court in 1909 but initially lost. However, he won the case in 1911 after his first appeal. This judgment had remarkable effects on the industry, America, and Henry Fords’ life.

A 1928 'Model A' Ford in front of Bowen Island Public Library. fact file of Henry Ford
A 1928 ‘Model A’ Ford in front of Bowen Island Public Library. Image credit – Wikipedia

13. Model A and Model N: Ford built the ‘Model A’ the company’s first car followed by the ‘Model N’ in 1907. The cost of the Model N was approximately $600. Now, his vision was to build a cheaper car so that everyone could afford it.

A Ford 'Model N' from 1906. facts about Henry Ford
A Ford ‘Model N’ from 1906. Image credit – Wikipedia

14. The opportunity – the Model T: Ford’s dream was to empower the common man and build a car for the multitude. He realized his dream with the Model T.

15. The cost of Model T in 1908 (the year it was launched) was $950, and in 1927 it was reduced to $290, making it affordable for a larger segment of the population.

16. Karl Benz from Germany is credited as the inventor of the first automobile. He did so in 1885/1886. However, it is a matter of opinion to credit the invention of the automobile to one inventor. The automobile was first conceptualized by Leonardo Da Vinci in the 15th century when he was working on the designs and models of transport vehicles. Ford just made the most affordable automobile for the masses.

17. In 1918, Ford was convinced by President Woodrow Wilson to compete for the seat of senate as a Democrat. However, he disapproved of spending money for the election campaigns and lost by only 4500 votes, which was still a remarkable achievement.

18. In 1928, during an interview with the Detroit Times, Ford revealed that the source of his inspiration and the work he had done was somewhat mysterious. He dedicated his brilliance to a ‘Master Mind’. He further stated that: “Somewhere is a Master Mind sending brain wave messages to us. There is a Great Spirit. I never did anything by my own volition. I was pushed by invisible forces within and without me.”

19. Ford also founded the Ford Airline Company during World War I due to his interest in the aviation industry. However, lackluster sales prevented the company from becoming successful.

20. Henry ford did not just build cars. He performed various jobs before eventually pioneering the automobile industry. He was a farmer, a watch repairman and a race car driver.

21. Ford’s third automobile company eventually bought success to him. His other two automobile companies were the Detroit Automobile Company and the Henry Ford Company.

22. Ford has 161 unique patents to his name. He was fascinated by science and inventions, in particular. And he never stopped being a scientist; as an inventor, he believed he could have a significant impact on the world.

23. Ford attempted to build a city in the middle of the Amazon, but got defeated in his efforts. The concept was to build an entire city to obtain a supply of rubber. It was called Fordlandia, and the town is still empty to this day.

24. Ford worked relentlessly to bring industrial production costs down and improve efficiency. He established the first moving assembly line in 1913. The first person to make use of stationary assembly lines was Ransom E. Olds. 

25. Reduction in production time: With the help of these lines, he turned many different parts into a complete chassis in just 93 minutes. Earlier the same process took 728 minutes.

26. With the help of mass production techniques, he eventually brought down the time to produce a Model T to a mere 24 seconds. The Ford Motor Company did not just revolutionize the US automobile market but it also ushered the country’s infrastructural and technological development.

27. Without the moving assembly line: Initially, Ford’s cars would sat on the ground throughout the building process, and mechanics would source parts and build the car from the chassis upwards. The moving assembly line also had feeder lines that would supply the right parts at the right time. This was crucial for the success of the whole idea of moving assembly lines.

Related: Interesting facts about Sir Isaac Newton

28. Ford dominated the U.S. automobile market in the early 1900s with half of all automobiles produced.

29. Ford was a promoter of peace, and embarked on a peace mission in 1915. Taking a sea route to Europe, his ship was dubbed the “Ship of Fools” by the media.

30. Ford believed in the potential of his working staff and offered them handsome salaries. His idea was to keep the workers satisfied and content with their jobs by paying them handsome wages. At that time, he was paying almost double the standard wages, which attracted a lot of talent and skill to his company. This leveraged the production and quality of the overall work performed at the company, making it hugely successful.

31. Ford is the only American mentioned favorably in Adolf Hitler’s semi-autobiographical ‘Mein Kampf.’ In 1931, Adolf Hitler also called Ford an “inspiration,” publicly.

32. Ford believed in reincarnation.

33. Ford was against cigarette smoking, and also published a book highlighting the health hazards of smoking, which was considered normal at the time.

34. Interestingly, Ford was never officially an executive of his own company. He had de facto control of the business, and no one in the company dared to go against him.

35. Ford hated car racing; however, he was a car racer for some time during his career. He pursued the task only to promote his cars and the company, and not as a hobby or out of any natural passion for car racing. In 1996, Ford was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America.

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