Henry Ford (July 30, 1863 – April 7, 1947) was an American industrialist, the founder of the Ford Motor Company, and sponsor of the development of the assembly line technique of mass production. Although Ford did not invent the automobile or the assembly line, he developed and manufactured the first automobile that many middle class Americans could afford. In doing so, Ford converted the automobile from an expensive curiosity into a practical conveyance that would profoundly impact the landscape of the twentieth century. His introduction of the Model T automobile revolutionized transportation and American industry. As owner of the Ford Motor Company, he became one of the richest and best-known people in the world. He is credited with “Fordism”: mass production of inexpensive goods
coupled with high wages for workers. Ford had a global vision, with consumerism as the key to peace. His intense commitment to systematically lowering costs resulted in many technical and business innovations, including a franchise system that put dealerships throughout most of North America and in major cities on six continents. Ford left most of his vast wealth to the Ford Foundation and arranged for his family to control the company permanently.Ford was also widely known for his pacifism during the first years of World War I, and also for being the publisher of anti semitic texts such as the book The International Jew.His father gave him a pocket watch in his early teens. At 15, Ford dismantled and reassembled the timepieces of friends and neighbors dozens of times, gaining the reputation of a watch repairman.Ford was devastated when his mother died in 1876. His father expected him to eventually take over the family farm, but he despised farm work. He later wrote, “I never had any particular love for the farm—it was the mother on the farm I loved.”In Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1932), society is organized on “Fordist” lines, the years are dated A.F. or Anno Ford (“In the Year of our Ford”), and the expression “My Ford” is used instead of “My Lord”.Upton Sinclair created a fictional description of Ford in the 1937 novel The Flivver King.Symphonic composer Ferde Grofe composed a tone poem in Henry Ford’s honor (1938).Ford is treated as a character in several historical novels, notably E. L. Doctorow’s Ragtime (1975), and Richard Powers’ novel Three Farmers on the Way to a Dance (1985).Ford, his family, and his company were the subjects of a 1986 biography by Robert Lacey entitled Ford: The Men and the Machine. The book was adapted in 1987 into a film starring Cliff Robertson and Michael Ironside.In the 2005 alternative history novel The Plot Against America, Philip Roth features Ford as Secretary of Interior in a fictional Charles Lindbergh presidential administration.The British author Douglas Galbraith uses the event of the Ford Peace Ship as the center of his novel King Henry (2007).Ford appears as a Great Builder in the 2008 strategy video game Civilization Revolution.In December 1999, Ford was among 18 included in Gallup’s List of Widely Admired People of the 20th Century, from a poll conducted of the American people.In 1928, Ford was awarded the Franklin Institute’s Elliott Cresson Medal.In 1938, Ford was awarded Nazi Germany’s Grand Cross of the German Eagle, a medal given to foreigners sympathetic to Nazism.The United States Postal Service honored Ford with a Prominent Americans series (1965–1978) 12¢ postage stamp.