Henry Ford was born on July 30, 1863, on his family’s farm near Dearborn, Michigan (Henry Ford). When he was thirteen years old, his father gifted him a pocket watch, to which he quickly disassembled it and put it back together (Henry Ford). At age sixteen, Ford left home to take an apprenticeship as a machinist at the Michigan Car Company, a company that manufactured railroad cards in Detroit (“The Life of Henry Ford”). In 1891 he moved back to Detroit with his wife where he took a job as a night engineer for the Edison Electric Illuminating Company (“The Life of Henry Ford”). By 1893, he was promoted to the chief engineer (Henry Ford). While working in the electrical field, Ford was also hard at work developing a horseless carriage, which he dubbed the Ford Quadricycle in 1896 (“The Life of Henry Ford”).
“1896 Ford Quadricycle.” Accessed December 7, 2015. http://www.conceptcarz.com/images/Ford/01ish_Ford-Quadricycle_DV-09_MBC_0001.jpg.
On July 16, 1903, Henry Ford incorporated his third automotive venture, the Ford Motor Company (“The Life of Henry Ford”). In October of 1908, Ford introduced the Model T, and that year and for several beyond that his company posted one hundred percent gains (Henry Ford). Besides making huge amounts of profits, Ford was also recognized for his ability to manufacture inexpensive automobiles from skilled workers that made steady wages (Henry Ford). This was mainly accomplished with the development of the moving assembly line technique of mass production in 1914 (Henry Ford). In 1916, Ford had rejected the value of the past by stating that history was bunk, and that people only want to live in the present and don’t want to have to worry about tradition (Swigger). It was three years later that Ford contradicted his then infamous statement by setting out to create his own museum that focused on the accomplishments of farmers and inventors instead of military heroes and political figures (Swigger).
Before opening his museum, Ford welcomed guests to the Greenfield Village which ironically was during the moment just before the introduction of the Model-T (Swigger). The village itself was a combination of both real and replicated buildings from the mid-to-late nineteenth century that Ford had either commissioned to be build or had been one that he had collected (Swigger). Different from most historical sites of the time which focused on the homes and landscapes associated with the revolutionary and civil war, the Greenfield Village focused on the common man, science, and technology at the center of America’s history (Swigger). The village also contained a reconstruction of Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park laboratory, a steamboat named Suwanee, and the cabin William McGuffey was born in (Swigger). Ford also hired actors to dress up as if they were living in that time period so visitors could not only see the past, but could also experience it in the present
By the 1930’s Ford was devoting more and more of his time towards his museum, the Edison Institute where he gathered the greatest collections of building and artifacts he thought were significant from American history (“The Life of Henry Ford”). The Edison Institute Museum itself is housed in a building which has a façade that replicates the one used at Independence Hall and used conventional displays to document America’s technological past (Swigger). His son Edsel died in 1943, and two years following that Ford officially turned his company over to his grandson Henry II (“The Life of Henry Ford”). Ford then retired to his home in Dearborn where he died on April 7, 1947 (“The Life of Henry Ford”).
Iacocca, Lee. “Driving Force: Henry Ford.” Time. December 7, 1998. Accessed September 20, 2015.
“Henry Ford’s Business Philosophy.” American Decades Primary Sources. Ed. Cynthia Rose. Vol. 2: 1910-1919. Detroit: Gale, 2004. 98-102. U.S. History in Context. Web. 25 Oct. 2015.
Ford, Henry. The International Jew, the World’s Foremost Problem. Dearborn, Mich.: [Dearborn Pub.], 1920.
“The life of Henry Ford.” Accessed September 20, 2015. https://www.thehenryford.org/exhibits/hf/default.asp.
Watts, Steven. The People’s Tycoon: Henry Ford and the American Century. New York: A.A. Knopf, 2005.
“Henry Ford.” Biography.com Editors. Accessed September 20, 2015.
Swigger, Jessie. “History Is Bunk”: Assembling the past at Henry Ford’s Greenfield Village. University of Massachusetts Press.