In this episode, CarStuff's Scott Benjamin joins the show for a discussion of Henry Ford's early years, inventions and innovations. Yet as Ford's success grew, his willingness to change did not - and ultimately a darker side of his personality emerged.
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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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Welcome to stuff you missed in history class from house up works.
well welcome to the past and carried out. He and I have another special guestwick needed at this time now Scotland, but thanks for joining us. Thank you very much. I pursued for those of you who don't Artie. No Scott is the coast of the car stuff pie cast.
I guess you may have heard of just a general automotive export to I'd, say by pushing you fell. It goes without saying that sky is gonna, be talking with us today about an aspect of automotive history. Here this is a Europe. This is a topic that when, on the surface, you may not think it's all been interested. You think you know everything about this guy, but when you really started the deep into it I mean I think you can attest this. It become. He becomes very interested he's a fascinating guy, and I mean, if you haven't already looked at the title, we're talking about Henry Ford and I just have to point out two: I've done a few eighties guest house now with
lean on maternity leave and most people have had a few topics they have considered, but Scott, you are sure you wanted to talk about Henry Ford and I can really see why now I mean he has a fascinating legacy. Certainly we can talk all about that, but he's also just a weird guy there's a lot of weird stuff to talk about. You will get the weird stuff for sure, but you're here
some ways normal for normal, in a way that no industrialists would be, if you can say that, but but then he does Kenneth take her left hand turned somewhere along the way.
and we're gonna explore all aspects of the head because there's some stuff that any even taking notes like I started to diagnose. I realise that I'm gonna have to like ten twelve page
Notes- and I said I'm just gonna- stop I'm going away from a brilliant writing a book about this, gave it a Navy idea that, after it seems like lilies interesting enough to do that, he really is, and I think before we get too much into the positives. Affords life and the negatives just get a few myths out of the Lasher Scott? Did Henry Ford invent the car? No did he invented moving assembly line? No, we did that are so. How did he get so mixed up with those two thing? Well, because his car, his quarters cycle that he did build, was built in eighteen. Ninety six and you gotta admit that early early on and automotive history, yeah that's right around the time when eurobonds was put together, his car or in Germany,
right right, the very beginning of the internal combustion engine and people with the idea that I'm gonna make a moving vehicle instead of esteem the worthless carry. I saw him in his early early on. It was not the first, it wasn't the greatest. You know the time, but it became that way and merely he didn't invent the assembly line which he gets a lot of credit, for. I think a lot of people say that thinking that that's the truth, but it was actually another name legal recognises name as a ransom. Eli old scenario is are ultimately, I presume exactly of automobile. He actually had an assembly line. It wasn't him an automated assembly line.
It was a manufacturing facility for vehicles, of course, but he put them together in mass snack quite is as fast as Henry did, because Henry incorporated moving belts and further automation, perfected what ransom olds had already created and that that what he just said perfecting perfecting the car or at least making it fill it, something that could be produced on a massive scale fixed easily perfecting the assembly line.
That's why we're still talking about for today. That's what made his name that's, what made his legacy and will go into all of that more, but that perfection offers certainly extended to other aspects of his life in that, I think, is a law that responsible for some of the weirder heard, store, airy eccentric, he's a pizza, perfectionist, he's kind of a tyrant, I'm sure he's pretty famous now written. This comes up a lot more now, his well known as being Anti
There are some some shady sides sore and you said: Anthea smoke overload, people reasoner eyebrows cause; they never heard they never heard of it. It rights. It is kind of a more recent thing. You'll hear with four legacy is not quite the folk hero that I think he must have banned during his own day. True, you look
start at the very beginning with the scarlet third didn't: how did he get going? How did he take these ideas that other people were thinking of but make them into something? Well really revolutionary? You know he was, he was kind of a tinkerer. You know here he.
started out really mean humble situation. He was a farm boy from Detroit, born in the middle, the civil
are one of those things that just it's hard to wrap your mind around on this, yet
born in the sore died in the nineteen forty such a different world exit
Nick. You can imagine the world that he started life in and then when it ended up to be in the late forties when he'd when he passed away, how dramatically different was knows because of,
emerging in part to him. He owes its thanks, burn him executive. It's almost entirely to him really at that in some ways
you he was born, just as I did, try it on a farm spend about fifteen years, their say and the nets. This is weird, though, he's little key events led to the person that Henry became his dad gave him a watch, and course he knows. I think a lot of boys do this a detour apart via what made at work, but he was able to put a very together and tear it apart and put it back together and get to know the inner workings of machinery, and he really like machinery, I think, even locally. He would in a work on other people's watches. He became have a local repairman last I ran so that aside, and we had this interesting and machinery he he his mother died when he was relatively young unease about sixteen when she died
Father was Conniston uneasily in the farm and he said wives only really hanging around, because I love my mother and his dad was shocked by this. They did leave. He went to become an apprentice at a machine shop in Detroit. He walked to Detroit, yet which is Craig,
I mean I, I understand you just walk in there with thy. Nothing. Really the closing your back and saying you. I want to start a new life.
They walked to the right, becomes a machinist apprentice. Yes, Orkut dry dock facility, which is on Atwater Street Detroit. You could still go down this dry dock facility. There there's a brewery down there. Now that I've been to a few times and then he eventually went back and farm help that is dead but Kennedy you know involved in the steam machines that run the farm canal knows when he took it.
growing up and not yet. This is not new technology, but its technology in your maiden was new to his farm, but he really enjoy the steam machines and
that is something I would want to pursue and
He actually went to Westinghouse in their steam engine division and became a servicemen Lego repairman for them. So this kind of keeps his this. This is not humble beginnings, but it is in a way as whole begins he. He was very fascinated with machinery and how things worked Thea,
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oh yeah, you, your mentioning his he's still tinker
yet how many fields this farm locomotor, which is essentially an engine attached to a mowing machine gun about prototype tractor and then it goes back to Detroit.
Gets a different kind of job, one that you're not really you're, not expecting him to take this tracking. Those who work for the Edison company and, of course Thomas Edison, is a great hero of has remained the hero is throughout his
if, by his new job with Edison company was to supervise the electrical service unit, a make sure everything was running properly, so it meant that he was.
Boys on call and if you're always on call. Of course, we have a lot of downtime infer forties, not just whiling ways, hours he's still tinkering he's working on new.
pension, yeah we're talkin like eighteen. Ninety two, ninety three somethin like that by eighteen, eighty three. He was promoted to chief engineer of
Ah the Edison illuminating company, as I said that word
Edison illuminating company. You don't ever comes Edison at the helm, anyhow
time and money, like you, said any source tinkering in his grudge any builds the quad recycle. Oddly enough now he was workin here he was fascinated with the internal combustion engine
They made this little tiny, single saunter motor that he built on his enough kitchen table how many businesses start in your kitchen table.
I think that this one might so he built a citizen
says well one: are you put it any called the quad recycle because it had bicycle tyres? He just made a really crude body for this thing, but dolphins,
origin and finally got the thing on the road in eighteen. Eighty six and was just thrilled with results in us is thirty three years old. At this point, it is, is the chief engineer it this company run by Edison.
he went to a yet. It was a seminar. Wasn't meant to seminar in New York met Thomas Edison himself them the of the president of the company
and Edison encouraged him to continue on with his work because he was beaming about his is latest invention and edison. Yeah yeah he's against stick with it that something
Kindred, saw. The exact line. Edison has always looking for new projects.
Here. So uneasy he's stick with it. The other thing that thing to go for an end Henriette she built two or three of these prototype vehicles. Now what I can't really interesting about these prototypes has and something because of course, other people were building machines like this to at the time he would sell them.
so when he finished one he would sell it to finance his next project, whereas the other guy might just think. I built this amazing machine. I'm gonna hold on to it and show everybody here so that first quarter cycle- if you can imagine what that's worth him, affords the first car he sold it for two hundred dollars to some guy. You look down the road or what they sold for two hundred dollars and then he built
war, and then he decided that he wanted to buy back the original. So he owns the original and then eventually announced on display in the Henry Ford Museum. It's good. He he rescued at length of
Eddie exert with your registry room to part with it. First invention will kind of a shrewd decision. Now I mean clearly he was thinking about the future, not what he was gonna build neck. He needs fit that perfectionism that we keep on mentioning deciding to sell his invention to go on to build a better one that really defines the next stage of his career, because in eighteen ninety nine he has enough interest in his work in and of bankers to form the Detroit Amabel Company, which was eventually the Henry Ford Company, and he essentially was dumped by his investors because he was still a fast with the tinkling stage. Here.
ready to say alright, let's just get this car to market, you know I'm ready to go on and he wanted to make something better. He was he was almost like, oh and want to build this by hand. Myself, though,
his mentality in this. This is where a pair of the cat named willing, William H, Murphy and Murphy, was a wealthy investor and ate and, like you said, they form their company, the o that company, though, without a business six months later, and that's because of this dispute between Murphy and forward and how things were going to be run and it just didn't work out and in other words we just talked about this recently on car suffers more effect, but there were hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of defunct car companies in a rather the car companies that went defunct any just in the United States in this timeframe. So it was an unusual for somebody to start up a car company with really nothing just more than a grudge and at an idea- and I don't even know if they actually produce these vehicles are not a mean in six months and also how they could have produced the planning stage that point, but they did. As you said,
on the contrary, to create the Henry Ford company. So here's a company and again this was out to me again with Murphy, as backer said, he is willing to stick with after a little that long. I dont know what happened like what happened. They they shut down one company after six months, and then they open up again with Henry Ford name on the on the Marquis with Murphy back, and I thought that was strange, but I guess again they bought it. Heads and four decided that the products were too expensive and is not what we want to produce, so he dumped on the company took his name along with him and Murphy. This is this is interesting, Murphy rename the company
Cadillac Automobile company, so they managed to have some staying power too. I think they're doing or even without for yet another thirty one hour, even today,
forward. Meanwhile went off to eventually start a second company, although at this point he had already raised capital from Detroit wealthy citizens and they weren't really ready to sponsor him again.
After the last tobacco semi was raising money from were just ordinary folks Nan. He started the Ford Motor Company. I think it was incorporated in nineteen o three
In the end, there is well Henry Change, the name in eighteen o three, because it was originally called Ford and Malcolm some company, and now from sun. I guess was a coal merchant. In Detroit he was it a dealer, some kind of coal dealer, which is I'd United Senate
sorry one of his backers actually had his name in the end. There is well Henry Change, the name in eighteen o three, because it was originally called forward and Malcolm some company and Malcolm sent. I guess, was a coal merchant. In Detroit he was a dealer, some kind of coal dealer, which is I'd United Senate professionally in Detroit any.
but a happen. So he and- and one of the other investors is surprised back at me- was the dodge brothers.
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invested in the original Ford Motor Company, so so you know by nineteen o three when it's just Ford Motor Company, that's gonna, telling that you'll Henry's starting to you know, pushes way, ran a little bit and will come back to the died rather than
minute, but with this new company in nineteen o eight for launched the model t which he called quote a motor car for the great multitude- and I think most people- I mean married- even seen a model t b c mon now and then
But do you want to give us description because I'm sure you know maybe some of our international audiences and is familiar with the model t just immediate, essentially with like a black box and wheels, but what made it so remarkable time was remarkable was that it was affordable. That's probably the biggest thing ensues thee every man's car here in United States as a counterpart. To that
in Europe that will talk about later, but this was the every man scarring than states. It's really very
simple in design and you'll, find that you have you look at a multi. It's not it. Doesnt have a lot of frills too. It is very simple. Like you mention
the box on wheels, mostly you'll, see them in black and there's an infamous quoting from him. He could have any colors lies with black that was made around nineteen fourteen, so we're talking about six years in a production and production went from nineteen o eight nineteen, twenty seven, so good significant amount of time when it was only made in black from the factory prior to that point, you can actually get them in several different colors
sure nothing alot of people. Now you can guide and there's a lot of different colors you get so there was a I'm sure was a cost saving measure at that point, when he says we're just get a lot of black pain,
european everyone, these things black. There can be no customers at this point and they sold Gittha sold for eight hundred and twenty five dollars. Initially in nineteen o eight, which is about twenty two thousand dollars, that's not terribly cheap, but it's on the lower end. Ok, I mean, if you, if you're going to do like TAT
money. By the time you get around to nineteen twenty seven, I'm sorry by nineteen. Sixteen, when sales were approaching like five hundred thousand per year, is thinking wildly popular prices went down all the way down to about three hundred and
he dollars and that's only like around seven thousand- maybe eight thousand dollars today. So you can see where this would be very, very an economy, cars extremely appealing for everybody and in it it put the nation on Wheels- and I address this such as they can.
But I had to think of like if you gotta IKEA and you see a walk or something and you bought it last year and it was eight dollars and now it's four dollars anything. How do they do that work is exactly the same. Henry Ford figured out a way to scale has production. Yet this is that this is a thing about these someone this sort. This is where a mule excited
this is where he he would watch these some. Unless you do, you have people the watch tat. He would do himself, but he would perfect and and
chief corners here in their reverie. Could and just make things more efficient in English, tiny, tiny, the link criminal ways and that brought about savings, and he did, he truly did and he could see the pricing he passed through savings onto his is sales base and he knew that if he could, even if he could drop the price the vehicle he saw more vehicles are very shrewd about this. You he still make a profit. He knew that if you
increases sales, and sometimes this is astounding we think about it now. Sometimes his sales numbers for the multi year over year were more than one hundred percent increases from the year prior, which, if he has a untapped mark at people who have no car yeah, no car would never have been able to buy a car even the year before when his prices were very slightly higher. It's now within their reach, an if you, but if you don't anything above the Maltese, in addition to just that, it was great
get around town to vehicle or get out to the country. Vehicle people would use these as a stationary motors on farmed. Now we talk about the the steam engine than he had on the farm. I was telling you seen exec admonishing peopled by multi and they would attach auxiliary belts to them. They would do no other DR saw mills. They would use them as snow plows. Do damage everything anything and everything you could do with it with a motor. It would use them to power power. The house, it was just the way to get electrocuted like almost way to get electricity like a generator yeah and in a way all her fast and gene drive it out to get more feel if you needed to boost is an incredible machine and and really open alone, people's eyes line, and you are talking about a minute ago thing. You know it this way- for people to get up and go get up and go to the country.
ever yet really did start to change. How people thought about the country, how people thought about their lives, people who travel would have been far beyond their reach just a few years earlier, suddenly felt like they could go
anywhere and that in turn, change just the way cities were made up and made suburbs possible in made for huge development booms in California in Florida, in eighteen, twenty it effective industries, oil, glass, steel d, Artagnan timber earlier and even change things like agriculture. I'd never thought about it like this, but with so few were horses needed with all these cars you needed less acreage devoted to hay crop. Imagine the senator conditions in a city how much more sanitary it is to have it. I know they're burning
he'll. I understand that but versus having a horse, you could understand. I'm talking out. We can get the picture ethically, have heard stories of horses being just left dead in the streets in Chicago major cities and that's the kind of conditions that he was trying to change.
And he did dramatically and an even thinking about people. I don't know just your your personal life. I've always learned about forward in conjunction with the american teenager and in our being able to have your bo instead of come visiting. You and your parents parlor go out for a drive or something just dramatically shaking up the social fabric of the United States and we'll talk about that a little bit more to because some of them,
came to bother Henry Ford Lunch video. It also took up his bank account it dead. He may I could. You became the wealthiest member you want. Organization of work is hitting Rockefeller was the wealthiest. I believe he was number two in line, but the wealthy second, while these man in America, if not in the world. At that point, it became part of what they call millionaires club, which a hard imagining others this fifteen year old, who walked to Detroit, become an apprentice in. It was now in this millionaires club with his old
I'll, tell us Edison and hurry Firestone Harvey Firestone, his Firestone tyres, you, the rubber entire company, but these guys
they were their powers in the use of aid, the three absolute heads of american industry at the time, so you can imagine what is like in the three these guys got together, create
they they would go hunting and fishing and near they would they work together. They vacation together, they head winter estates in four Myers together
call them that the millionaires club, because they would all they were genuinely friends out of a brain trust likely. Yes, yes, it is
Just in your turn that he's now in the side, this extreme extremely different lifestyle and police attacks
little bit about how he gets to that real upper level, because in the middle of his growth, when his company is doing really well, the maltese felling well he's ready to expand hugely too to the site that he eventually dies, but some of his shareholders that Ford Motor Company are not interested in that because it seems like it might not pay off
it seems, like the shareholders, might not make money initially and so we said, remember the Dodge brothers. Finally, the Dodge brothers were two of his shareholders, took him to court over his plans to expand. They won because I think the judge role well. It is your job to make your shareholders some money and Ford, which was furious about this, that his his idea
could be manipulated by his shareholders and decided to find a way out of that essentially to get complete control. Yes, we took measures in his own hands and he be premature to control the company. When I say took control I mean he really took control fee, reorganise you completely reorganized it and in others it is like a little story here that I read in Time Magazine Time magazine trend. I remember back to something I read a long time ago, but that the basic visit part history shows us that this is an employee in old time. Right now- and this is from the nineteen seventy Thy thanks Odin, but but back in one hereford- is making just a pile of cash on the multi and was widely successful. He couldn't really at that point imagine
being from that their design was making money. That was there was what worked and the refinements ever be made were nothing more than cosmetic that no twenty eleven model, no twenty Twond, no designing a new car entire know exactly so. Ford walks into the story is from this old timer that and he's there for walks into this design studio and-
The engineers have, and I dont know how this happens, but they surprised him with a with a prototype of what the new model t should look like an imagined.
The big red boughs and assure you exactly what he was. He can have looked at the vehicle and paste around it and he was
How can a steaming within Europe could tell he wasn't happy with it so they had created. They tried to perfect his design. He didn't like that. He open one of the doors and ripped it off the hinges. With his bare hands, get he got in the car. He kicked out the windshield. He I mean he just destroyed every bit of that car I mean by handing the rage, he imagined it's almost
You only have stories like those the mother that list the car off the child or terrorism Taylor Honour string exactly it was. It was just like this. This rage drove him to this. This incredible superhuman strength and he destroyed by hand this card at these guys and telling them all the time you are using them screaming to them. Why wouldn't work and what was that about this? And now they never ever,
began. Ok, though, I think at that point some warning bells are probably going offer people. This is a clear turning point in the story of the story of for its light tearing off the card worries I mean come on, that's something and unhinged person.
dive. Symbolic is it in some happier, though, that is clearly the perfect point to leave off on this. First part of our episode,
and next time. Where have you getting into some of the stranger structure, but also some of the wording style jack to not just word control in one of our favorite episode, he's gonna come up few readily India
we're, not gonna. Let you get a little weird sounds get pretty weird. I mean that's a good thing as their stay tuned. Until then,
If you want email left with some more afford related history, I mean don't, go too crazy. We're gonna be talking about a lot more stuff. Next time you can find us at his reply, cast a discovery, dot, com or often twitter and missed in history, and we aren't Facebook and we have loads of Otto article about cars. Current cars altered the thing anything and everything got at its most of it, though, go check it out all day,
age. W W W got how step on the dot com for more or less and thousands of other topics does. It has therefore start com.
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