Henry Ford, founder of Ford Motor Company, passed away at age 83 on this day in 1947 at his estate in Dearborn, Michigan. The cause of death being a cerebral hemorrhage. But, to get to the end, we must start at the beginning. Born July 30, 1863, Ford grew up in small town outside of Detroit, Michigan on a family farm. After his father gifted him a timepiece, he took it apart and put it back together, gaining an understanding of its mechanics. He’d later move to Detroit to become an apprentice machinist and later became a steam engine repair man. After gaining more experience in engines and electrical devices, h Edison Illuminating Company hired him as an engineer in 1891. After a promotion in 1893, he found himself with enough money and time to begin experimenting with automobiles and gas engines. This work led to the Quadricycle, first driven in 1896. Just three years later, he founded his first automobile company, but it isn’t the Blue Oval known today.
The Detroit Automobile Company
Henry Ford founded the Detroit Automobile Company on August 5, 1899. It operated out of the manufacturing plant at 1343 Cass Avenue and Amsterdam in Detroit, with Henry as manager. While Ford focused on innovation, his investors began to lose confidence in his ability to bring a vehicle to market. Ford refused to put a car into production unless it met his exceedingly high standards. While this caused bemoaning among the money men, they continued to offer more funds for development, confident Ford could turn a profit. To their appeasement, the first Detroit Automobile Company vehicle, a delivery truck, finally left the factory in January of 1900.
While the new truck received praise in local media, it hardly met Ford’s expectations. It was heavy, hard to handle, difficult to manufacture and ultimately unreliable. Ford wanted more money and more time to perfect his vehicle. This was something his investors were unwilling to provide. After producing just 20 vehicles by November 1900, the company dissolved, with investors never seeing a return. Ford, not ready to give up on his dream, turned to racing to build his reputation and gain new capital.
Henry Ford Company
In 1901 Henry and his associate Ed “Spider” Huff completed work on a 26 horsepower, two cylinder racer. In testing it clocked in at more than 75 miles per hour, a phenomenal speed at the time. The vehicle became known as the Ford Sweepstakes car, named after the type of race he built it to participate in. An October 10, 1901 event at the Grosse Pointe Race Track pitted Ford against seasoned racer Alexander Winton from Ohio. Winton who was also operating one of the largest car companies, was favored to win, but Ford had his hometown out to cheer him on.
The 10 lap race around the mile long dirt track was anything but dull. Winton pulled out to an early lead, but as Ford grew more comfortable at the tiller, he soon gained ground. The crowds cheered when Ford overtook Winton on the 8th lap. Ford held off the veteran automaker and won the race. Ford had demonstrated his capabilities as an engineer, and was once again approached by investors.
After founding the Henry Ford Company in November of 1901 following the racing success, he was soon at odds with his new investors over manufacturing intent. Just five months later, in March 1902, Henry again found himself out of his own company. While the Henry Ford Company was being reorganize into Cadillac, Henry was probably uttering “The third time’s a charm!”
Ford Motor Company
At 39, intent on building a car for the masses, Henry founded the Ford Motor Company on June 16, 1903. It’d been seven years since he debuted his Quadricycle. Now, with new investors, including John and Horace Dodge, who believed in his goal and his skills, he raised the equivalent of $800,000 to start the new business. With shop set up on Mack Avenue in Detroit, Ford began production of the 1903 Ford Model A. Ford built 1,708 cars at the facility before the company moved to the Piquette Avenue plant. It was there that Ford would cement his success and conquer his dream with the development of the Ford Model T. The car carried Ford for nearly 20 years, until its successor, the new Ford Model A, came to market in 1927. The third time was indeed the charm and the rest, as they say, is history.