Here are some interesting facts about one of Henry Ford, one of the early American pioneers and a brilliant visionary who changed the face of the automobile industry. Some of the facts included here do not even involve cars!
Henry Ford led pretty much a healthy lifestyle, and in fact published an anti-smoking publication in 1914 entitled The Case Against the Little White Slaver. At the time smoking wasn’t seen yet as dangerous to health, so Ford’s negative views toward smoking was seen as unusual.
Ford’s penchant for assembling things started when his father gave him a pocket watch in his early teens. He ended up disassembling and re-assembling it. By the time he was 15, Ford was already fixing timepiece mostly of his neighbors and friends.
In 1891, Ford was employed as an engineer for the Edison Illuminating Company. Following his promotion as Chief Engineer two years later, Ford had had enough money to focus his attention on his personal experiments relating to gasoline engines. These experiments resulted into his invention of the self-propelled car called Ford Quadricycle in 1896.
Ford was born and raised in a farm, and his father had expected him to take over the land as soon as he reached adulthood. While the idea of working on the farm seemed pretty okay for him, his mother was actually the real reason why he loved the land. Ford was devoted to his mother, so when she died in 1846, he was devastated. With no more reason to continue his life on the farm, Ford left home for Detroit three years later.
Henry Ford didn’t believe in accountants, as he feared they would cost him more money than what they were worth. Strangely, he amassed vast fortunes without his company ever being audited under his administration.
Ford was interested in developing agricultural-based plastics (especially those made from soybeans). This led to the production of soybean-based plastics used for Ford’s various features. One of them was the Soybean car aka Hemp body car in the early 1940s. It was the world’s first plastic car! Despite being much lighter than the usual cars and offering better resistance to impact, it never attracted the public’s attention.
After obtaining funds from William H. Murphy, Ford founded the Detroit Automobile Quality in 1899. But because the cars produced were of inferior quality and a bit more expensive than Ford could hope for, the company was dissolved in 1901.
Ford entered the aviation industry during the World War I, building Liberty Engines. Following the end of the war, Ford resumed its car making business. In 1925 Ford bought the Stout Metal Airplane Company.
Despite one of the pioneers of the automobile industry and even one of the supporters of the Indianapolis 500, Ford actually had no love towards car racing. He saw it as just one of the ways to promote his cars and his company.
Another thing that Henry Ford vigorously hated was labor unions. He felt that the unions’ objective was to restrict productivity in order to foster long-term employment. He saw it as self-destructing because he believed that productivity was the key for economic prosperity. Ford also believed that labor unions were formed to incite socio-economic crisis and therefore maintain their own power.
Ford hired ex-Navy boxer Harry Bennett to quash any labor union activity. While other Ford officials (including Ford’s own son Edsel, who was the company’s president at that time) voiced their concerns, Ford believed that violence and brutality were the only solutions to end any union activity.
Henry Ford stubbornly refused to sign a collective bargaining with any labor union. When a sit-down strike occurred in 1941, Ford was prepared to dissolve the company rather than give in to the workers’ demands. However, his wife threatened to leave him if he did so. She said didn’t want to deal with the possible dire consequences if he destroyed the family business. Ford finally gave in to his wife’s ultimatum, and in June 1941 the company signed a collective bargaining agreement with the union leaders. Among Detroit car makers, Ford was the last to officially recognize the United Auto Workers (UAW).
Henry Ford had been known as an anti-Semite, and during the 1920s he sponsored a weekly newspaper The Dearborn Independent whose material was mostly antisemitic. He also published and distributed a set of anti-Jewish books entitled The International Jew. A pacifist, Ford strongly opposed World War I; he even went on to say that the Jews were responsible for starting it.
These publications had a profound influence on the Germans. Not surprisingly, Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany honored Ford with the Grand Cross of the German Eagle on Ford’s 75th birthday in 1938, a year before the start of World War II. This was the highest honor a foreigner could receive for supporting the Nazi cause.