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Henry Ford Biography

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Henry Ford

Born July 30, 1863 in Dearborn, Michigan, Henry Ford was the first child of William and Mary Ford. As a young man he became an excellent self-taught mechanic and machinist. At age 16 he left the farm and went to nearby Detroit, a city that was becoming an industrial giant. There he worked as an apprentice at a machine shop, while months later he would begin work with steam engines at the Detroit Dry Dock Co., where he first saw the internal combustion engine, the kind of engine he would later use to make his automobiles.

When he was 28 Ford took a job with Thomas Edison's Detroit Illuminating Company, where he became chief engineer. In his spare time he began to build his first car, the Quadricycle. It resembled two bicycles positioned side by side with bicycle-like wheels, a bicycle seat, and a barely visible engine frame. Some said it bore a resemblance to a baby carriage with a two-cylinder engine. In June 1896, Ford took an historic ride in his first automobile that was observed by many curious Detroit on-lookers. The Quadricycle broke down in a humiliating scene.

By 1899 Ford created a more proper looking motorcar with the help of wealthy businessman William Murphy. It had high wheels, a padded double bench, brass lamps, mud guards, and a "racy" look. In the same year Ford founded the Detroit Automobile Company. Within 3 years Ford had built an improved, more reliable Quadricycle, using a four-cylinder, 36 horsepower-racing engine. In 1901 his car beat what was then the world's fastest automobile in a race before a crowd of eight thousand people in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. The publicity he received for this victory allowed Ford to finance a practical laboratory for refining his auto ideas. In 1903 Ford launched his own car company, The Ford Motor Car Company, and by January 1904 he had sold 658 vehicles. By 1908 he built the famous Model T, a car that was affordable to the middle class. The automobile was no longer the toy of the rich.

Ford was able to make a reliable and inexpensive automobile primarily because of his introduction of the innovative moving assembly line into the process of industrial manufacturing. The assembly line is a system for carrying an item that is being manufactured past a series of stationary workers who each assemble a particular portion of the finished product. The assembly line was undoubtedly Ford's greatest contribution



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