ADDoration Ministries
Friday, July 30, 2021
God is SO GOOD; although I have ADD.

Henry Ford


Henry Ford had his ADD idiosyncrasies, but he certainly revolutionized our society. He was socially awkward and extremely stubborn, but he was compassionate caring person. He was much gifted at mechanical tinkering. He was born on a farm in what is today Dearborn, Michigan. At age 16, he became a machinist. Later he became an engineer at Detroit Electric. He became intrigued by the idea of a self-propelled carriage (an automobile).


The automobile really evolved.

Approximately two hundred years ago in 1805, Oliver Evans built a steam powered vehicle -- shortly after Robert Fulton's first steam boat. For most of the nineteen century, the idea of an automobile was dismissed as impractical. Imagine shoveling coal while driving an automobile.

Perhaps Germany is where the automobile originated. In 1866, Nikolaus Otto built the first gasoline 4 cycle piston engine; however it was so extremely heavy that it was only useful for stationary applications. Independently, Germans Karl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler worked on making Otto's engine light enough for automotive use. By the way, it wasn't until much later that Benz and Daimler got together to build Mercedes-Benz automobiles. Benz built his first car in 1885. Daimler built his first car in 1886.

In America, Charles and Frank Duryea built their first car in 1893. Ranson E. Olds (founder of Oldsmobile) built a cumbersome steam car in 1887, that hardly ran. Olds built his first gasoline car in 1896. Henry Ford also built his first car in 1896 (same year as Olds). Before that, Henry Ford built a successful gasoline engine in 1893. The first to produce cars in quantity was perhaps Oldsmobile -- 425 cars during 1901.


1903 is when Ford Motor Company began to produce cars in quantity -- the same year when David Buick began to produce cars. Ford built 1,700 cars that first year. However, at that time, an automobile was a wealthy man's toy. The wealthy car owners would bring their mechanic along, in case the car broke down. At first, Ford likewise produced only very expensive cars.

Henry then had the vision of an automobile that was cheap enough for just anybody to afford. In 1908, his company put that vision into practice, when it introduced the Model T. At first, the Model T cost $850, which was too high for many people. In 1909, Ford Motor Company decided to just focus on producing only Model T's, which was another economy move.

Henry Ford goes down in history also as an industrial engineering whiz, because of the ways his company decreased the cost of producing Model T's. In 1914, the moving assembly line especially reduced the production cost -- in that it brought the car to each worker, so that each worker could do his task (i.e., adding or tightening a part). Suddenly the assembly time to produce one Model T went from twelve and a half hours down to one and a half hours. Another 1914 economy move was to offer only one color, black. 300,000 Model T's were produced that year -- more cars than all the other manufacturers combined. In 1915, the price of a Model T was down to $390. In 1925, the price was $260. By 1922, Ford was producing more than a million cars every year. For years, Ford produced more than half of the cars in this country.

Oh how, Henry revolutionized society, by enabling the average common person to acquire a car! All during my lifetime, the ability to function has revolved around the ability to get from place to place, by car. This includes the ability to get to your place of employment, shop for groceries, get to church, get to social functions, and go on vacation trips. Henry put America on wheels.


Also in 1914 was another breakthrough for Ford. The minimum wage for workers over age 22 was increased to $5 a day. That was more than twice what most wage earners earned, at that time. The length of the working day went from 9 hours to 8 hours. Henry's compassionate side came forward.


During the mid-1920's, Ford was still producing more than a million Model T's a year; however competition was then closing in on him. Ford continued to produce only low cost basic transportation, except for Lincoln division that Ford acquired in 1922. General Motors was then his foremost menace. GM was increasing it's share of the automotive market with a wide variety of models with many luxury features. GM introduced new designs yearly and advertised it's cars as status symbols. Especially Chevrolet Division of GM was threatening with low cost cars. During the late 1920's, Chevrolet was also producing a million cars a year. In addition, during 1924 Walter Chrysler founded a new automotive company, that soon evolved to another formidable competitor. Some independents, such as Studebaker and Hudson were significant too.

So in May 1927, Model T production ceased. Immediately, Chevrolet took over as number one in sales. Ford woke up to reality in the marketplace. For six months, Ford switched over to production of a vastly redesigned car. December 1927 was the big introduction of the Model A Ford, with twice the horsepower at 40 -- plus conventional 3 speed sliding gear transmission (instead of the Model T's 2 speed planetary) -- plus four wheel brakes -- plus styling that looked like a baby Lincoln. The Model A was then in much better sync with the competition. Again Ford was producing over a million cars a year. Ford was again number one in sales in 1929 and 1930, but Chevrolet took over again in 1931.


In 1932, Ford had another very significant breakthrough -- a V-8 engine in the low price field. Never before had there been so many cylinders at such a low price. However Henry kept a very close watch of the development of the V-8 -- always telling the engineers what to do. Neglected was any durability testing. The first year of V-8 production was a quality disaster, with broken pistons and cracked cylinder heads -- and they burned oil. Fortunately the quality problems were solved within a year; however their reputation suffered. That caused Chevrolet to lead by a significant margin. Once the V-8 quality problems were solved, Ford won a favorable image with younger drivers, especially the hot rodders. Bank robber John Dillinger wrote Henry Ford a letter saying he liked the Ford V-8.

In 1933, Henry Ford turned 70 years of age. In addition to being ADD, he was a hardened crusty old man. His son, Edsel Ford, was president of Ford, according to the organization chart; however Henry continued to rule Ford with an iron fist. Edsel was of more progressive philosophy, but unfortunately his dad habitually overruled him. As he got older, he became increasingly recalcitrant.

In 1935, Ford was again number one in sales; however that was only for one year. In 1936 Chevrolet was again number one to stay for more than 20 years. During 1936 and 1937 Ford sales still were over 800,000, but then Ford sales sank in 1938. In fairness, this was during the Great Depression of the 1930's, when all car makers' sales were down. During the 1930's, only the 1930 Model A Ford sold a million. During 1941 (just before Pearl Harbor), Chevrolet again sold a million cars, but 1941 Ford sales were only 600,000. This was just a hair above 1940 Ford sales, that were 599,000.

Yes, the Ford V-8 was popular for speed. However the majority of the motoring public preferred technical advances and creature comforts that Ford didn't have. Hence Ford sales suffered increasingly.

Henry's stubbornness stifled product development. He refused to believe that any of his ideas were outmoded. During the mid-1930's, competition came out with independent coil spring front suspension. Meanwhile, Ford persisted in the use of transverse leaf spring suspension, that was the same design as on Model T's. Mechanical brakes (using cables) was another stubborn point. Chrysler had used hydraulic brakes since their first 1924 model. General Motors used hydraulic brakes since 1935. Henry contended that hydraulic brakes are vulnerable to failure. Actually Henry was right. I remember some hair raising stories of hydraulic brake failure during the 1940's and 1950's (before dual circuit hydraulic brakes came along). Nevertheless mechanical brakes were behind the times during 1936 to 1938. In 1939, Ford finally came out with hydraulic brakes.

Product lineup is also where son Edsel was more progressive, but Henry was stubborn. General Motors had a brand for each economic status with brands in ascending order, Chevrolet, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick, and Cadillac. Chrysler was the number two automaker, that also had a brand for each economic status, Plymouth, Dodge, DeSoto, and Chrysler. But Ford only had Ford and Lincoln. Edsel wanted a brand in the middle. In 1936, they did come out with a smaller Lincoln, called the Zephyr. Finally Edsel won when the mid-priced 1939 Mercury was introduced.

Labor relations -- Henry's stubbornness was a problem, big time. He adamantly refused to let his factories unionize. His right hand man, Harry Bennett, employed a military organization to make sure that Henry got his way. In fact, Henry more readily listened to Bennett, than he did his son, Edsel. There was violence when union organizers visited the Ford factory in 1937. Finally Henry's wife threatened to leave him, if he continued to exclude the union. That was enough to cause Henry to concede to the union; however employee loyalty had already suffered.

Henry's stubbornness took a toll on the health of his son, Edsel, who was supposed to be company president. During 1943, Edsel died at age 49 from ulcers and cancer. Henry was stone faced at his son's funeral, and then he immediately appointed himself as company president (although he was then 80 years old).

In 1945, the family revolted and installed Henry's grandson, Henry II (Edsel's oldest son) as president, over the elder Henry's objection. In 1943 (during World War II), the Government called Henry II home from the Navy to help the company build for the war effort.

April 1947, Henry passed on to eternity, at age 84.


Henry Ford was a pacifist. In 1915, during World War I, he and a group of about 170 people traveled to Europe at his expense (and without Government approval) to try to persuade the nations to peacefully settle their differences. Perhaps that undermined President Woodrow Wilson's efforts. In 1918, when the war ended, he ran as a Democrat for a senate seat from Michigan, but he lost the election. He never again ran for public office; however he continued to speak out on political issues.

At the time of Pearl Harbor in 1941, he immediately changed away from pacifism. Suddenly his compassion changed to that we got to stop Hitler and the Japs. During World War II, his company was actively producing products for the war effort -- as were all other automakers.

He donated much time and money to charitable and educational projects. He established Greenfield Village and the Henry Ford Museum, both located in Dearborn, Michigan. Greenfield Village is a group of restored historical buildings. Also he and his son, Edsel, established the Ford Foundation, which gives grants for education and research.

He was not just an automotive pioneer and company leader. His compassion led to other positive efforts.


Afterwards Henry II was far more progressive and was free to run the company without grandfather's interference. After World War II, he rescued the company from bankruptcy.

The radically modernized 1949 Ford was one of the first evidences that better days were ahead for the company. Most evident with the 1949 Ford was that it now was mechanically in sync with competition. For instance, finally the 1949 Ford had independent coil spring front suspension. Also the 1949 Mercury was similarly modernized. Finally Mercury sales increased high enough to seriously challenge Pontiac and Dodge.

During the 1950's, 1960's, and beyond the company prospered. Beginning with 1950, Ford Division sold at least a million cars almost every year; however Chevrolet generally sold more. The 1959 Ford outsold the 1959 Chevrolet (this web site's webmaster's first new car was a 1959 Ford).

People commonly say that the 1958 Edsel was a mistake. Truthfully, it was a well-intentioned marketing miscalculation. The Edsel appeared on the market during an ecomonic recession year, when buyer preferences changed to economy cars. That was the year when American Motors' compact Rambler suddenly increased in sales.

Ford immediately rose to the challenge by two years later bringing out the compact Falcon, that was hugely successful. In 1964, Ford scored a tremendous success with the Mustang sports compact.

Did Henry II inherit his grandfather's ADD -- my opinion is that it was to a much less extent, if at all. He certainly was a focused executive of the take-charge type. By the way, I have read Lee Iacocca's autobiography. Henry II did inherit some stubbornness. Time and again, Henry II said to Iacocca, "No car with my name on the hood will have _____________." But Henry II's willingness to encourage product inovation exceeded any stubbornness. He certainly encouraged new executive talent in his company. But whenever any executive became too powerful, he pushed them out the door -- Iacocca was an example. On the day Iacocca was fired, Henry II said to him, "I just don't like you." Henry II fired the man who went on to rescue Chrysler Corporation.

In total view, Henry II led the company to prosperity.


Henry Ford had traits of ADD in inventiveness, intuition, compassion that enabled him to hugely change the world; however his stubbornness was an obstacle.

<*(((>< your ADD brother in the risen christ,
Lester Hemphill
Founder of ADDoration Ministries