Henry Ford was one of the most brilliant entrepreneurs in
creating the automobile assembly line, it was his controversial
characteristics and unorthodox approach towards administrating the
Ford Motor Company which resulted in the conglomeration of one of the
most successful corporations in the world. At the turn of the century
everything was booming! The growth of the economy and stock market
increased the job opportunities as well as morals. As a result of
this industrial revolution, out of the woodwork came a humble yet
driven man, Henry Ford. Between the five dollar/day plan, his
policies on administrating the company, and his relations with his
customers, Ford was often presented as a suspicious character. This
controversial behavior epitomized the success of the company, it did
not lead to his own downfall as many suspect. The Anti-Semitic
accusations, and the belief that Ford was taking advantage of his
customers, were by far overshadowed by his brilliance and strong hand
in running his company.
Of course, there were not always supporters of Henry Ford. If
fact, there were many critics, critics who believed that Henry Ford
was so controversial that it prevented the potential of Fords from
becoming greater than it is today. By the mid twenties the Fords was
already the worlds most successful automobile company, but their great
reputation would soon decline. Fords $5/day plan for all employees
signified the overwhelming success of the company. Many believed this
success was short-lived with the new policies dealing with the workers
which soon followed. With the need to increase production and lower
costs, in the mid 30s Ford cut all Ford workers wages in half.
Workers were expected to work faster, and harder. Department heads
were ordered to ban all talking and whistling while work was in
progress. All of this was a ploy by Ford to make sure he knew every
move of his workers, he was very possessive. Secondly, Ford began to
fire older workers and hire younger workers. His ideology was that
the younger workers could work more productively and more efficiently.
Which in turn would send more money flowing into his pockets. What
resulted was quite humorous in fact. Black hair dye became a hot
seller in the Detroit area . Older workers tried to disguise their
age by dying their hair black. Fords manipulation of his workers was
immoral and unjust. There was no industrial democracy, workers were
forced to do what they were told or would be out of a job.
Henry Fords controversial behavior reflected badly on himself
and on the Ford Motor Company. The Anti-Semitic views expressed by
Henry Ford could never be denied. It was common knowledge in fact
that Henry Ford was prejudice. He wrote an article in the Dearborn
Independent expressing his ideas that Jews were the cause of many
peoples problems. Henry Ford was sued by a man by the name Aaron
Sapiro in the early 1930s. Sapiro had evidence that Ford threatened
himself with Anti-Semitic sentiments. Ford was recorded as saying,
Sapiro is a shrewd little Jew. The bible says Jews will return to
Palestine, but they want to get all the money out of America first.
Sapiro should be kicked out because he is trash..The result of the
trial was humiliation for the Ford company and Henry Ford himself.
After a hung jury in the first trial, the case was dropped when Ford
wrote a lengthy retraction and apologized for his statements. Fords
was declining in profits and production among the worlds best. All
as a result of Henry Fords ego. Thus, by 1931 Ford lowered in the
ranks, controlling only 28% of the market 2nd to GM with 31%.
Henry Ford was the godfather of the automobile industry in the
early 1900s. The development of his River Rouge plant was considered
Cathedral.Hundreds waited month after month in front of the
employment building hoping to be hired. To foreign immigrants it
meant hope and a successful future. The River Rouge plant employed
over 50,000 employees. Pols, Lithuanians, Germans, almost every
western Europe country could be represented at the Ford Plant. Like a
father Henry Ford began educational programs, teaching his illiterate
employees how to read English. Company picnics, and dinners were all
part of Fords policies that were so unusual, yet so brilliant at that
Of the most controversial actions of Ford was his hiring of
criminals. In fact it was said that, thousands of former criminals
were taken on the Fords payroll over the course of the years, all at
Mr. Fords Requests.Not only was this a highly questionnable
decision, but it startled everyone. It was odd, especially when there
was such a demand to work at Fords. Why would Henry Ford want to take
the risk of hiring potentially dangerous felons? Nobody would be able
to answer this question better than Fords right hand man Harry
Bennett. Bennett has said that Henry Ford was very sympathetic
towards criminals, even that he would try and, in a sense,
rehabilitate them. Not only did the new workers please Henry Ford,
but they also helped the company itself. Fords controversial new
policy of hiring criminals not only surprised the River Rouge workers,
but it swept across the nation. Many news articles were printed
concerning Fords policies. In effect Ford was receiving free
advertising. Whether it was his intent or not, Fords ideas,
sometimes eccentric helped market the company for the good.
In 1914 Henry Ford hired John R. Lee to update the companies
labor policies. $5/day was to be split into half wages and half
profits. Ford employees would only receive profits when they met
specific ezdards of efficiency and were cleared by the sociology
On January 5, 1914 Henry Fords announcement of the
incredible $5 dollar/day plan swept the newspapers across the nation.
The Detroit Journal announced, The surprise of the labor leaders and
the consternation of manufacturers,, Henry Ford announced on Jan 5,
1914 that a minimum wage of $5 dollars/day would be instituted
immediately in the Ford plants, along with a profit sharing plan for
all male employees.
Not only did Henry Fords new deal shock the nation, it sent a
tremendous number of workers to Detroit. For the next ten years
people would do anything to become a worker of one of Henry Fords
plants. It was unheard of to be offered $5/day by any automobile
company. In fact the average salary for most was a mere $2.50/day at
GM and Chryslers.But Henry Fords $5/day plan was truly an
illusion, it allowed for greater control of his workers. It was said
that The 5 dollar/day plan was an important early attempt at
implementing a corporate welfare program. Ford wanted to see his
company prosper, his employees were a part of this company.
The development of the Sociology department would allow Henry
Ford to exploit his employees private lives. Employees were advised
by investigators on how to live in order to receive his/hers share of
the profits.The result of this was a tight knit community with no
corruption. This department also monitored the daily happenings in
the plant. In fact, the department had over 1000 informers who would
notify the department if any stealing or illegal plans were taking
place. Social workers conducted extensive interviews on subjects
ranging from household finances to sexual patterns. It was stated at
that time that, the intrusion into workers lives, in the minds of Ford
officials, was a small price to pay for increased wages, efficiency,
production, and in the end profits for the Ford Motor Company.
Many felt that this socialist system was infringing upon the
democratic rights of the workers specifically the right to privacy.
Observers claimed that workers were forced to act like robots in order
to keep their jobs, but this was not the case. Henry Ford created the
stability and order that any corporation needed to succeed in the
early 20th century. Some may say that Ford was a sort of father to the
workers he employed. After all, a father is always harshest to the
ones he cares for most. And that was what Henry Ford was.
The financial success was extraordinary. By 1914 Fords had
over 600 cars daily rolling off the assembly line. Between 1914 and
1921 earnings soared from 25 million to 78 million.All of Fords
efforts and expectations came to a pinnacle when, at the close of
1923 there were 6,221 passengers cars in the city of Detroit, one for
every 6.1 persons. Of these 6,221 cars, 41% were Fords.
Henry Ford was not a greedy man, his sometimes unorthodox
behavior and policies epitomized the success of the company.
Throughout the depression he offered a sense of hope for his
employees. By offering jobs to outcasts he became very controversial,
but he had reasons. Ford wanted his workers to be moral citizens,
people that could offer The Ford Motor Company loyalty, leadership,
and trust. A result of this was the financial success of the company.
Henry Ford knew what he had to do in order to accomplish his goals.
Ford knew he might not always be accepted in the community, he also
knew that this was the risk he had to take. It was all clear when he
said, Were going to expand this company, and you will see it grow by
leaps and bounds.How amazing that his prophecy has came true!
American Decades 1910-1919 New York: Gale Research Co., 1996.
A contemporary survey on the backround of Henry Ford, and the Ford
Collier, Peter. An American Epic.New York: Summit Books Co.,1987.
A chronological study of the political and financial success of the
Lacey, Robert. Ford, The Men And The Machine. New York: Ballantine
Books Co., 1986. A more personal study of the Ford family and the
contraversy surrounding the success of the Ford Motor Company.
Marcus, Paul: Ford: We Never Called Him Henry. New York: Tom Doherty
Associates Co., 1951, 1987. A primary piece of literature related by
Harry Bennett offering personal insights in the life of Henry Ford,
including conspiracy and controversy.
The Annals of America. New York: Encyclopedia Britannica. Co., 1976.
A primary source referring to the financial success of the Ford Motor
Company as well as the financial policies administered.
The Great Depression (no other info available)An interesting
presentation offered by past employees of the Ford Motor Company
re-telling the triumphs and demise of the Ford Motor Company.