Henry Ford

By: Josh Standefer

Life Influences

-On July 30, 1863, Henry Ford was born into an Irish immigrant farming family in Dearborn Michigan

-From an early age, Ford was interested in mechanics

-He taught himself to fix watches and even befriended steam engine operators in order to learn more about how these machines work

-This early exposure to intricate mechanisms served as a sort of textbook for Ford when designing machines of his own

-Henry's father wanted him to work on the farm as he did, but Henry had other ideas

-In 1879, Ford left his Father's farm to apprentice at the Michigan Car Company (railroad cars)

-Although his father would have liked him to stay on the farm, Henry was still inspired by his parents

-His father inspired him to use machines on the farm and his mother influenced his interest in tinkering, his obsession with efficiency, and his work ethic.

Defining quote

"A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business."

-Henry Ford

Historiography: Rise of the Automobile

In David Blanke's "Rise of the Automobile", Blanke reveals the keys to Henry Ford's innovation in the automobile industry through his analysis of the content of history books. Blanke's tone is critical of the textbook, but informational when discussing the accomplishments of Ford. Blanke is somewhat correct in his analysis of the textbook's view of the rise of this industry. While textbooks cannot all fit the entire story of the automobile industry, they should not downplay Henry Ford's tremendous contribution to this industry. According to Blanke, textbooks don't do enough to properly portray the downside of Henry Ford's Model T. While Blanke agrees that people should know about economic, cultural, and personal impacts of Henry Ford's innovations, he also believes there is more that people should know about this iconic story. In Blanke's mind, rapid takeoff of the automobile industry made it harder for other possible industries to establish their place in the transportation market. However, this suggestion is insignificant as it merely considers alternate outcomes that could have taken place if Ford was less successful. If this suggestion were in textbooks, it would only cloud the message by somehow suggesting that this industry might have grown further if Ford had less success. Also, Blanke asserts that the automobile industry was helped along by the building of roads whereas other industries were not. This is true as is shown by the interstate system and government funded roads. However, this decision by the government was most logical and paid off in the long run. As cars became more affordable thanks to Ford, more people began to buy them whereas railway monopolies were perfectly content to make their money off of the few people who could afford their atrocious costs. And as the number of car owners grew, the government had no choice but to build public roads. Clearly, the automobile industry was helped into its rise by its opening up to the common man. Another mistake Blanke says textbooks make is downplaying the role that the Model T had in creating a consumer culture of debt. While Blanke is partially correct, the soaring stock market of the 1920s also played a role in this cultural change. The Model T inevitably led people to a fascination with owning material goods. This is what Blanke blames for the consumer culture of debt. However, he fails to see that the capability for this consumer culture was always present in our American economic system. This new fascination with materials was bound to come along, it just needed a revolutionary businessman like Henry Ford to facilitate its growth. This economic and cultural change was would taken place with or without Henry Ford, so I am thankful that it brought such a great innovation with it. David Blanke attempts to inform the readers of more of the negative results that came with Henry Ford's success in the automobile industry through the analysis of the content of textbooks. The success of the Ford motor company had many positive impacts culturally and economically and it is impossible to tell what may have happened without it.

Henry Ford Today

If Henry Ford was alive today, he would be perceived differently than how he is remembered. Ford possessed several controversial views that would deter potential customers today. For example, Ford was openly Anti-Semitic. Also, Ford was against joining in the First and Second World War . In fact, Ford felt so strongly about this that he set sail on a "peace ship" in 1915 to stop the war in Europe. Years later however, Ford resorted to violence and intimidation as a last ditch effort to resist unions. Contradictions like this are the reason why I believe Henry Ford would be less successful today. While this was overlooked in Ford's time, today it would be widely published and nationwide boycotts would take place. Ford would not be accepted today because we have different morals as a society that Ford disagreed with. However, given the vast pool of resources to draw from in the modern world, Henry Ford would be able to create something amazing.
I find myself wondering what someone with Ford's skills would be able to accomplish in today's world with all of the resources we have to draw from. Henry Ford once said "I invented nothing new. I simply assembled the discoveries of other men behind whom were centuries of work... progress happens when all the factors that make for it are ready and then it is inevitable." For this reason, if I had Ford's talents, I would put them to use trying to find a more efficient fuel source. This would help America by making us less dependent on the Middle East for our economy, but could only be employed when it reaches the point where it is as cost effective and efficient as as oil. Henry Ford tried and failed numerous times in making the car, but he didn't try to force the quadricycle on the consumer, he worked until he had a quality finished product that was practical.

Henry Ford: activist or scientist?

In order to answer the question of whether Ford was a scientist or an activist, we must look at what he really did. Henry Ford revolutionized the transportation industry, but also was the first successful businessman to give his workers a five dollar day and a two day weekend. However, Ford was a scientist first, and later used his success to make changes he thought necessary and for that reason, Ford is a scientist. Ford was clearly inspired by his interest in mechanics. However, his success did not come easily. Ford's first two businesses failed which presented a huge obstacle to Ford, but by assembling the discoveries of other men, Ford was able to succeed. From his first car in 1896, to the turning over of the company to his grandson, Ford constantly improved his business and the lives of his workers. The impact of Ford's invention and reforms is justly portrayed as a key portion of American history. The invention of the car sparked various economic opportunities that people would have never thought possible before. On the other hand, his reforms were just as important if not more. By giving his workers more money and free time, Ford opened the door to a consumer economy which spread like wildfire.
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Presentation Conclusion

Henry Ford's American experience was the American Dream, and his success granted him the opportunity to make the American Dream available for so many more. The American Dream is the idea that any single American, regardless of background, has the opportunity to make their life better and live comfortably. I can think of no better example of this than a kid who grew up on the farm and was able to change America for the better. Furthermore, Ford made drastic changes in how companies treat their workers and we all can thank Henry Ford for our two day weekend. Ford's American experience was changing his life and the world in ways no one would have ever thought possible and after Ford had made his progress, America would never be the same again.

Works Cited

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