Something about automobile that history recorded was, that France and England had automobiles before North-America, and like the first cars in
North-America, they had to be custom-made, so only a few people could buy them. The first automobiles in North-America were driven by
electricity or steam. The cars had to be built up high from the roads in order to clear them. Storage batteries, which often ran down very soon,
provided the electric power. Steam-driven cars were even more difficult to handle and finally disapeared. People laughed at the appearance of
the first cars, and horses were frightened of the loud noises they made. The body or chassis of the early automobile was nothing but a carriage
with one seat. The wheels were like bicycle wheels. There were no mudguards, no windshields, and the headlights used kerosene. Riders wore
goggles to keep the dust out of their eyes.
The first automobile race occurred in Chicago in 1895. Six cars entered the race. Two were powered by electricity and four by gasoline. a buggy
powered by gasoline won the race, after covering the fifty-four miles, in seven and a half hours. In Michigan, Henry Ford was heartbroken because
he could not raise the money to attend the race. He had built a gasoline buggy on bicycle wheels in 1892. After this race, he went to Detroit to
work in a power house. He felt that the automobiles had come to stay and that everybody would soon want one, so he was already working on
plans for producing automobiles in large quantities. Ford developed the theory of mass production, so that many cars could be sold at a lower
price. It was Ford's idea that by continuing to make the same model year after year, methods of production could be standardized and the price
could be kept down.
Once the tools were made and the pattern for the car set, there would be no costrly re-tooling each year. His first backers thought he was crazy.
They want to invest their money where they thought the returns would be better, so Ford parted company with them. It took Ford eight years to
build his now famous model T. The car, according to Ford's idea, had to have the simplest kind of mechanism, so that it could be repaired with
string or a hair pin. He wanted to withstand poor roads and difficult hills. Every car had to be painted black because that was regarded as the
most durable color. It had to last for years. The uglier it look, the better; this would appeal to the farmers. In building the various models, Ford
used all the letters of the alphabet up to the letter T. He did this to show the shareholders in his business that he was making progress. But when
Ford reached the model T, he felt that this was the car he would continue to produce.
Ford dreamed of producing "one car a minute". His production in 1908, when the model T had become a showpiece, was far from that figure.
Six years later Ford's assembly line became the wonder of the age, as the millionth Ford came off the assembly line one minute after the one
before. In an assembly line, the work is brought to the man, not the man to the work. On Ford's assembly line, the conveyor belts were
waist-high, so that no one had to bend while doing work. The main assembly line for motors was three hundred feet long. Each worker that
stood alongside the belt had his particular job in the building of the motor. Automobile bodies were built in the same manner. Millions of
spactator came from all parts of the world to see the fineshed cars roll off the assembly line.
Before the Model Twas removed from production in 1927, fifteen million of these cars had been built. Each year,
with improvements in the methods of production, Ford had continued lowering the starting price of $950.00, until, in 1926, he was able to
sell his automobile for only $299.00. As the price of his car went down, his profits kept going up because more and more people could
afford a car. By the time the model T was no longer being manufactured, he was making more money than any other manufacturer in the
history of the world. Ford had a kind of common-sense philosophy that particularly appealed to Americans. In 1914, he put into practice
two-old theories regarding labor. He believed that a man should be able to buy the product he helped make. This meant that the
workingman had to be paid a wage that made him a potential customer. In this way, production demands increased for the manufacturer.
The worker profitted by being able to buy what he had helped make, in this case, a car. Although a million Ford cars had been sold by 1914,
there were still vast numbers of people who did not own cars. Ford announced that he would pay his factory workers five dollars a day.
Other manufacturers threw up their hands in horror. Five dollars a day was double the usual wage. One group thought Ford had gone
out of his mind. Another thought that he loved his men so much and was so impractical that he planned to give away all his money. But Ford
firmly believed that with increased wages, more of his workers would be able to buy automobiles. The profits of the Ford Company zoomed
as soon as he put his theory into practice.
Ford then embarked on the building of what came to be known as "the Ford empire". Early in his business career,
Ford had recognized the need to do away with waste. He therefore began to find new uses for materials that had formerly been discarded.
He stopped buying his materials from others and started acquiring some of the natural resources that he needed. He bought coal mines, forests,
rubber plantations, cotton plantations and glass works. He synchronized the moving of these products to his factories so they would arrive
when needed. He then eliminated much of the need for warehouse and kept transportation of goods as efficient as the movement of his
assembly lines. By 1927, when the last Model T came off the assembly line, people were demanding fancier cars. In the era of reckless
spending, it had become the butt of many jokes, ofter being called a "coffee grinder", a puddle jumper" and other uncomplimentary names.
It had served long and well, but roads were being improved and people were moving all over the country. They wanted speed and good looks too.
Other automobile companies were now bringing out cars in the low price field. Ford could not sell his model A car as cheaply as he had been
able to sell his model T; but he contiued with his price-reduction plan. It was not until years later that Ford, with his V-engine, that he was able to
challenge the low-price field. A popular millionaire, Henry Ford spent the latter years of his life recapturing early America by collecting articles
of that period for his museum in Dearborn, Michigan. Each year, thousands of people visit this museum, which is a replica of Independence
hall in Philadelphia. On the surrounding acres, where Greenfield village has been built, the visitor can see relics of old-fashioned ways of doing
business in North-America, the birthplaces of famous Americans, a colonial church and village green, a windmill from cape cod, the
Wright brothers' bicycle shop, Thomas Edison's workshop and the building in which Ford made his first automobile.
The Ford foundation, the richest of all foundations, has made large grants to education. In 1955, the foundation's largest grant, also the largest
ever made by any foundation, was for $560,000,000.00 to privately supported colleges, medical schools and non-profit hospitals. The Ford
foundation has also made grants in the fields of literature, art, music and educational television. The Ford foundation attempts in these ways to
stimulate the arts and to provide educational opportunities. Ford expressed his own philosophy on the matter of giving money in the following
words: "Give the average man something and you make an enemy of him". As did Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford believed that the establishment
of grants and foundations rather than charity would help worthy men achieve success.