Henry Ford. The Development Of His Company And The Automotive Crisis of 2007

Facharbeit (Schule), 2010

20 Seiten, Note: 1,3

Dennis Schmidt (Autor:in)


Table of Contents

1 Introduction

2 Life of Henry Ford
2.1 Personal background
2.2 Youth and early professional life
2.3 Private Life
2.4 Ford and the Jews
2.5 Characterization
2.6 Ford’s appreciation in society – Fordism

3 The Ford Motor Company
3.1 Henry starting the business
3.2 The Model A and the Model T
3.3 The Five-Dollar Day
3.4 The assembly line
3.5 Creation of an empire
3.6 Harry Bennett
3.7 Black Tuesday
3.8 Working conditions and riots
3.9 The company after Henry

4 The Automotive Crisis
4.1 Origins and progress
4.2 Counter measures
4.3 Impact on the automotive market

5 Ford’s reaction compared to GM’s
5.1 Ford’s way through the crisis
5.2 The fate of General Motors

6 Conclusion

7 Appendix
7.1 Glossary
7.2 Bibliography

1 Introduction

When you ask people in the street what they associate with the term “Ford“, the majority will immediately say that it is a famous car brand. Nearly everybody has already heard about “Ford” in many different contexts. We all know the “Ford Mustang” – probably today’s most established Ford product – or the “Model T”, the first mass-produced car of all times and the most sold car at the beginning of the history of the world’s automobile industry.

However, even for successful automakers times are not always glorious. At the moment the international car industry is seriously suffering from the worldwide economic crisis triggered by the collapse of the US banking system in 2009. Car companies are desperately searching for solutions to overcome the depression.

It is highly interesting to see how Ford – in comparison to other leading carmakers – is reacting to the problem.

In the following research paper I will elaborate a detailed discussion of Ford’s personal background and career, including the development of his own car company.

Additionally, I will illustrate the effects of the current economic recession on the automotive sector and show – by comparing it to General Motors – how Ford Motor Company is fighting for survival.

2 Life of Henry Ford

2.1 Personal background

Henry Ford’s origines lived in Ireland. In 1847, his father William Ford, a 21-year-old carpenter from Country Cork, crossed the Atlantic Ocean together with his father John and his mother Thomasine. Their destination was Dearborn, Michigan, where they wanted to start a new life with the help of some relatives already living there.

John Ford established their new livelihood by purchasing 80 acres of farmland, while William found employment as a carpenter with Michigan Rail Road. Eleven years after their arrival in Dearborn, William decided to buy his father’s estate and marry Mary Litogot another three years later in 1861 (Bak, 1-3)[1].

2.2 Youth and early professional life

Two years later, Mary gave birth to her first son on July 30, 1863. He was named Henry, after John’s brother. In the following eight years Henry was to receive five siblings – John (1865), Margaret (1867), Jane (1869), William (1871) and Robert (1873). They all “grew up in that spacious, substantial-looking frame house” (Bak, 3) which can still be viewed in what is now “Ford Road”. (Bak, 3)

Henry, whose relationship to his mother was much closer than that to the father, hated drudgery but loved exploring the innards of machinery. He soon was called a “born mechanic” by those who recognized his talents (Bak, 5). When, in 1876, Mary died of fever, Henry became more uncommunicative, elevating his mother to “sainthood status” (Bak, 8). Another result was that he denied any further exposition of his inner feelings to the public, and even to his own relatives (Bak, 7-8). He became obsessed with reading technical literature and repairing the farm machinery. He left school three years later and obtained work as a manufacturer of railroad boxcars at Michigan Car Company. After getting fired for embarrassing his boss by solving a problem the latter had not been able to deal with, he said: “I learned not to tell all you know” (Bak, 10).

He soon found another job at James Flower & Brothers Machine Shop. After nine months he took an employment at Detroit Dry Dock Engine Works, receiving $2 a week. (Bak, 8-10)

2.3 Private Life

In 1886 he met Miss Clara Jane Bryant at a New Year’s dance. They got engaged a couple of months later and finally married on April 11, 1887. Moving to their self-built house in a rural, peaceful area, the couple was glad about their first son, Edsel Bryant Ford, seeing the light of day on November 6, 1893 (Bak, 14-16).

In the last ten years of the 19th century American inventors tried to follow their European counterparts by designing and driving the first gasoline-powered buggies. During that time Henry was anxious to create the most pragmatic car possible.

30 years later, after Henry had become one of the most successful and powerful men in the US, John Dahlinger was born at Henry Ford Hospital on April 9. While the boy grew up, a certain resemblance to Edsel became more and more discernible. There is some evidence that he was Henry Ford’s illegitimate son. Evangeline Dahlinger’s husband worked for Henry, who was definitely attracted by her energy and her beauty, and nicknamed her “Billie”. It is also significant that Evangeline did not have problems financing expensive hobbies like speedboating after John’s birth. Of course, Clara Ford knew about that gossip, but she managed to live with it. It is quite distinctive to note that the first person Clara informed about Henry’s death in 1947 was Evangeline (Bak, 121-124).

In 1942 Henry’s son Edsel developed cancer and died on May 26, 1943 (Bak, 257). Henry felt somewhat responsible for Edsel’s early death, knowing that he had not always been fair to his son, a fact I will explain later. He once asked a confidant of his whether he had been cruel to his son. The answer was that he had not been cruel, but unfair, and that an ordinary son would have got mad. Henry just made the remark, “That’s what I wanted him to do( ...). Get mad” (Bak, 260).

Having reassumed presidency of his firm, Henry showed certain indications of mental decay. He knew that he was more forgetful now, but he emphasized the fact that he consciously wanted to forget things for not having to worry about them (Bak, 261-262). Henry’s growing incompetence finally threatened to damage the company and he was persuaded to resign in 1945 (Bak, 270).

Returning from their annual trip to Georgia on April 7, 1947, Henry fell ill and suffered a cerebral hemorrhage. Henry died the same night. Three days later the funeral took place at St. Paul’s Cathedral on Woodward Avenue, Detroit. 30,000 mourners paid him their last respects (Bak, 272-274).

2.4 Ford and the Jews

One point which is often ignored when discussing Henry Ford’s achievements is his attitude towards Jews. It can be assumed that “his rural upbringing and the populist tenor of the times” (Bak, 142) confirmed Henry’s opinion that the term “Jew” stood for such negative words as “banker”, “warmonger” and “huckster” (bak, 142). He called himself a specialist “on the subject of ‘the international Jewish conspiracy’” (Bak, 141) and claimed that World War I had actually been caused by German Jewish bankers (Bak, 142). In 1919 he published the first issue of the Dearborn Independent, a successful magazine he used as an outlet for his opinions and ideas. When Henry knew a Jew he liked, it was clear for him that the person was not a pure Jew, but of mixed origins. Yet, when this person made a fault, he likely asked: “What did you expect?”(Bak, 142-143). Another example illustrating his repulsion towards Jews was that he always wanted to get information about a person’s ethnic background, and that his company stopped the use of brass, because Henry believed it was a Jewish metal. One cover story of the Dearborn Independent bore the headline “’The International Jew: The World’s Problem’” (Bak, 143). His relationship to Adolf Hitler should also be mentioned here: the German dictator read Henry’s biography Mein Leben und Werk published in 1923 and “kept a framed photograph of ‘Heinrich Ford’ in his office” (Bak, 147). Surprisingly, there was no official boycott of Ford products by Jewish organisations. After a trial for the defamation of a Jew, Henry wrote an apology which was accepted by most Jews. Nowadays the influence of Ford concerning antisemitism is hotly debated. Ford opponents argue that he had great influence on many readers because he was one of the most successful persons in the world. But defenders say that his writings were just a little fragment in an anti-Jewish stream flooding the market. (Bak, 147-153).

2.5 Characterization

To understand some of Ford’s actions, one has to take a closer look at him. Physically, he was “tall”, good-looking and “athletic” (Bak, 27). Even when his curly brown hair started to turn grey, he was still described as “handsome, clear-eyed, lithe and lean” (Bak, 13). Soon in his childhood it became clear that he was fascinated with the natural world, which forms a strong contrast to his aversion towards hard work on a farm (Bak, 5). He had “wheels in his head” (Bak, 8) and loved everything to do with engines. Influenced by McGuffey and his mother, he reduced his view of life to complexities and simplifications like black and white or good and evil (Bak, 7). Activities he appreciated were “dancing, skating and picknicking” (Bak, 13). He also showed great self-confidence. Seeing him as the “typical American hero” who was “alone” and “misunderstood” but finally prevailed against all odds, other people claimed that “Crazy Henry” was a myth (Bak, 28). His sentence “’History is more or less bunk’” (Internet 1) suggests a certain ignorance that can also be recognized in his relationship with his only son Edsel. Henry did love him, but Edsel could not fulfil his father’s claims and satisfy his visions regarding the company. That is why Henry tended to humiliate him and was never content with his work. He could not accept the fact that his son’s visions differed from his own.


[1] For complete references regarding books, newspaper articles and websites cited in this research paper, see pages 19-21: Bibliography

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Henry Ford. The Development Of His Company And The Automotive Crisis of 2007
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henry, ford, development, company, automotive, crisis
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Dennis Schmidt (Autor:in), 2010, Henry Ford. The Development Of His Company And The Automotive Crisis of 2007, München, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/295914


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