How The Model T Changed America

The father of the Model T automobile was Henry Ford. Henry was born on July 30, 1863 on his family’s farm in Dearborn, Michigan and grew up tinkering and fixing farm equipment. When he got older he worked at a local machine shop and later for the Westinghouse Engine Company. However, in his spare time he pursued his ultimate passion -working on a “horseless carriage”.

In 1896, he built his first one and his business took off. Ford incorporated the Ford Motor Company in 1903, and proclaimed, “I will build a car for the great multitude”. Ford soon completed the design of his Model T automobile and built a factory to make them. The first Model T’s became available for sale in 1908 for $950. (Note: within 10 years, a Model T could be purchased for just $280.)

It wasn’t long before demand outstripped supply and Ford’s solution to this problem was unique. He developed advanced “assembly line” techniques his Highland Park in 1912 plant could turn out a complete chassis every 93 minutes. This was a stunning improvement over the earlier production time of 728 minutes. Ford’s mass-production techniques would eventually allow for the manufacture of a Model T every 24 seconds. His innovations made him an international celebrity.

In 1914, Ford began paying his employees five dollars a day, nearly doubling the wages offered by other manufacturers. This “Five Dollar Day” assured that he could obtain the best employees on the job market. Later he cut the workday from nine to eight hours in order to convert the factory to a three-shift workday. Business was booming and Henry felt the employees that contributed to his success should have better lives as a result. This was a very unusual way to try “common employees” at the time.

By 1927, nearly 15,500,000 Model T’s were sold in the United States and the vehicle irrevocably altered American society. As more Americans owned cars, urbanization patterns changed. No longer was it necessary to live nearby where one worked and lived. The United States saw the growth of suburbia and a population entranced with the possibility of going anywhere, anytime.

It is quite a realization that Ford witnessed these changes during his lifetime. Interestingly, he personally longed for the agrarian lifestyle of his youth. In the years prior to his death on April 7, 1947, Ford sponsored the restoration of an idyllic rural town called Greenfield Village. Today Greenfield Village is a very popular tourist attraction that provides insight into the life of the man who changed America – Mr. Henry Ford.

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