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Sampler: Ford Motor Company


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Ford Mortor Company
Ford Motor Company

Henry Ford (1863-1947) was a pivotal figure in the development of assembly line production. At the turn of the century, he was just one of many entrepreneurs throughout the country experimenting with the development of gasoline-powered automobiles. These machines were perhaps the most complex consumer good produced up to that time, and the expense of hand manufacture and assembly meant that they were readily available only to the wealthy.

Starting in 1900, Ford was involved in two failed automobile manufacturing efforts before organizing the Ford Motor Company in 1903. Although the company was immediately successful, three different cars, the Models A, K, and N, were developed before Ford was able in 1908 to implement his idea of mass production of a reliable and inexpensive automobile for the general populace, the Model T, in 1908. By 1910, the Model T was so popular that Ford was able to build a spacious plant that permitted the production of tens of thousands of cars per year. That facility, in the Highland Park area of Detroit, is shown on the 1910 edition of the Sanborn Map Company's fire insurance plan of Detroit.

Ford Mortor Company's Main Building
Ford, Main Building

The main building of the Highland Park plant was approximately 200 feet wide by 850 feet long. It was supported by an office building roughly 60 feet by 300 feet in size, a foundry 150 by 200 feet, and two smaller buildings. Half of the large structure was made of reinforced concrete, and the remainder was made of brick. Ford's business grew so rapidly that most of what is depicted on this sheet had been either replaced or greatly modified by the time of the next edition of the fire insurance map in 1915. The first moving assembly line for automobile manufacture was introduced in the expanded version of this plant. It was here, also, in 1914, that Ford radically altered basic concepts of industrial development by paying his employees the unheard-of sum of five dollars a day, almost double what they had been making before.

Gary L. Fitzpatrick



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  July 14, 2014
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