Henry Ford (July 30, 1863 in Dearborn, Michigan, USA - 1947) is the founder of the Ford Motor Company. He developed a new method of industrial work that came to be called Fordism; she ensured for a time the pre-eminence of her company in the field of automobile construction.
His parents were William and Mary (Litogot) Ford. He was the eldest of 6 children (4 boys and 2 girls).
His father was a native of the parish of Kilmalooda, County Cork in Ireland. They arrived in America in 1847 and set up a farm in Wayne County (Michigan) near Detroit.
As a child, Henry Ford was very interested in mechanics. At the age of 12, he spent most of his time in a workshop he had equipped himself. So, at age 15, he built his first steam engine.
Later he became an apprentice mechanic in Detroit in the stores of James F. Flower and Bros. then in a factory in Detroit, Dry Dock Co. after completing his apprenticeship in 1882. In July 1891, he was employed as an engineer by the Edison Illuminating Detroit Company. He became chief engineer on November 1, 1893.
On April 13, 1888 he married Clara J. Bryant of Greenfield, Michigan, daughter of Melvin Bryant, a Wayne County farmer. Mrs. Ford died on September 29, 1950 at the age of 84. They had one son, Edsel Bryant Ford, born November 6, 1893.
Ford's car-making career dates back to the winter of 1893 when his interest in internal combustion engines prompted him to build a one-cylinder gasoline model. The first Ford engine was born. A later version of this engine powered a 4-wheeled bicycle. Ford's first automobile left the workshops in June 1896.
On August 19, 1899, he resigned from the Edison Illuminating Company and along with other technicians from the firm, created the Detroit Automobile Company. He took 1/13th of the shares (100 shares) and became the director of the mechanical department. This company went bankrupt a year and a half later.
At the same time, Henry Ford was designing and building several racing cars. With one of these cars, the famous 999 racer, he set a world record for one mile, covering the distance in 39-2/5 seconds on January 12, 1904, on the frozen lake of Sainte-Claire.
On June 16, 1903, Ford helped organize the Ford Motor Company, capitalized at $150,000, including $28,000 out of his own pocket. The first car built by the company was sold on July 15, 1903. Henry Ford owned 25.5% of the shares in the new organization. He became president as majority shareholder in 1906.
Just over a year after the outbreak of the First World War, in December 1915 Ford chartered a ship bringing together the American pacifist intelligentsia and set out to convince Europe to cease hostilities. He succeeded in giving birth to an embryo of a movement, but failed to materialize his ideals and drew ridicule. The project cost him several million dollars.
According to his testimony, during the crossing, two members of the Jewish community with contacts with Zionist circles explained to him that the real issue of this war was the creation of the future state of Israel, and that the parties in conflict were exploited by the international business circles adhering to the Zionist ideology. This meeting led him to adopt a radically anti-Zionist and anti-Judaic position that has been decried as anti-Semitism.
In 1919, Henry Ford, his wife Clara, and son Edsel bought out all other shareholders for $105,820,894 and became the company's sole shareholders. Edsel, who succeeded his father in 1919 as president, held that position until his death in 1943; Henry Ford then took over the post. He was a Freemason.
In the 1920s, Fordism and its corollaries - mechanization, improved working conditions and the development of the economy - made Henry Ford a popular hero in the USSR and sales of Ford vehicles increased tenfold between 1922 and 1925 and many of its vehicles equipped the Red Army during the Second World War.
In the 1920s, Henry Ford took a hostile stance toward Jews. He accused Jews of owning America's biggest corporations. To support his theses, in 1920 he bought a local weekly The Dearborn Independent, in which he published, between 1920 and 1922, 81 articles on "the Jewish Question in America", according to him the "main problem for peace in the world". . The Dearborn Independent was distributed free in the United States through Ford's retail network and at its peak reached 700,000 readers.
Henry Ford then published the articles in a four-volume work entitled The International Jew:The World's Foremost Problem quoted by Hitler in Mein Kampf. At the Nuremberg Trial, Baldur von Schirach, the leader of the Hitler Youth said he was influenced by Ford's reading.
On this question, the historian Pierre Abramovici writes in the article “How US firms worked for the Reich” (Historia, n° 669, September 2002, p. 40-45):
“Henry Ford, the more than seventy-year-old American billionaire, is a sickly anti-Semite. He accused the Jews of having started the Great War and began to attack them in 1916. In 1920, he bought a weekly newspaper, the Dearborn Independent, which provided him with a platform. ". He maintained privileged relations with Nazi Germany:“Henry Ford was decorated in Detroit on July 30, 1938, with the German Order of the Eagle. This distinction, reserved for foreigners, was given to him by the German consul in Detroit, Karl Capp and by his counterpart in Cleveland, Fritz Heiler. On June 26, 1940, he took part in a gala dinner at the Waldorf Astoria in New York, intended to celebrate the German victory over France, after the latter had declared war on him. »
Henry Ford also participated in the German war effort. Still according to Pierre Abramovici:“In 1938, Ford Compagny opened an assembly plant for troop transport vehicles in the suburbs of Berlin. With Opel, a company of German origin, but owned by General Motors, the other major US automaker, Ford will produce nearly 90% of the 3-ton half-tracks and 70% of the heavy and medium-tonnage trucks used by the Wehrmacht. » After the war, the firms ITT and General Motors are made compensate by the American government for the damage caused to their factories partly destroyed by the American bombers. “For its part, Ford snatches a little less than a million dollars for the damage caused to its production lines of military trucks installed in Cologne. Without counting the 38 million francs paid, during the war, by Vichy, after the bombardment by Allied planes of its factory of Poissy in which it produced twenty trucks per day intended for the Wehrmacht. »
In September 1945, when he relinquished the office of President for the second time, Henry Ford recommended his eldest grandson, Henry Ford II, for election to the office. The Board of Directors followed this recommendation.
Henry Ford was a member of the Society of Automotive Engineers, the Automobile Club of America, and the Detroit Board of Commerce.
Together with Samuel Crowther he wrote My Life, and Work (1922), Today and Tomorrow (1926) and Moving Forward (1930) which described the development of the Ford Motor Company' and outlined its social and industrial theories. He also published 'Edison, As I Know Him' (1930), with the same collaborator. LL.D.' Honorary from Colgate University.
Henry Ford was a vegetarian (perhaps under the influence of Edison) and believed in reincarnation.
Henry Ford died at his Fair Lane residence in Dearborn at 11:40 p.m. on Monday, April 7, 1947, following a cerebral hemorrhage. He was 83 years old. Mrs. Ford and family members attended her funeral. At the time of his death, a flood of the Red River, which flows through the floor of Fair Lane, caused a blackout. Old kerosene lamps and candles were the only sources of light in the house, creating a scene similar to his birth in the same area many years earlier.
The funeral service was held at Saint Paul's Episcopal Cathedral in Detroit, and Henry Ford was buried in the Ford family cemetery at Saint Martha's Episcopal Church.