Henry Ford

Perhaps one of the most interesting self- made American men was Mr. Henry Ford. It started with an article I read in an old magazine, The American Magazine, dated July 1928.  The title was “Wages Will Go Up and Prices Come Down says Henry Ford”, an interview by William S. Dutton. [ pg 15-17,111-113]
         Ford was sixty-five when he was interviewed by Dutton. Ford believed that a man is in training until age forty. If he quits then or retires, he is a failure. Ford did not believe he was successful, as his only success was an assembler of tools. His philosophy of money was interesting.
         Money is but only a tool and Ford believed when it becomes other than a tool in its use, then it becomes a menace. Ford’s statement, “Non productive private fortunes do not exist anymore. Once they cease to produce, they disappear.” Raw tools of the industry would include a pile of coal. A pile of money is also a raw tool of the industry.
         He was asked about charity workers. What were Ford’s thoughts about giving away large amounts of money to charity? He went on to explain how his factory, which he referred to as his “machine”, worked. Ford owned everything to make his machine work. To produce cars, he converted ore to steel, then sand to glass, then hemp to burlap, then cloth into artificial leather, then waste paper and rags into binder board and slag into cement, and he even owned the rubber plants to produce his automobile tires. Ford Motor Company was a vertical industry. Henry Ford explained that nobody could possibly know how high men’s wages eventually would climb and likewise nobody could predict just how cheaply goods could be produced. He spoke of equations and that it may be possible to double wages and to half costs or to quadruple wages and to quarter costs. We can not predict what the possibilities will be. Ford went on to say that costs are no nearer to the bottom than wages are to the top. Ford knew that the two movements, wages upward and costs downward will do more to abolish poverty than all the professional charity agencies combined. 
         On the subject of charity once again, Ford believed that Prosperity is not the product of charity, but of industry, not of receiving but of producing. Money has little to do with prosperity because it in itself does not produce. “Money represents an earned right to participate in the general production. If everyone partook and nobody produced, what good is money?”(pg 17) Ford said many people confuse money with wealth. You can use real wealth but you cannot use money because you can only accept it in exchange of uses. Real wealth gives values to money: money gives no value to wealth. Let every man produce one useful thing, or reclaim one idle acre more and wealth increases.
         Ford asked if it was efficient for business to pay high land taxes in a congested city and have people that cannot afford their rent. It was better for business to move into the country where land costs were lower with better living conditions. Ford said that money to buy his vehicles came from people, not Wall St, not the Banks and not Capitalists. 
         Until interest is earned, no profit can be made. Ford’s belief that once a person invested in one of his autos, they should be paying less for their second car they buy from Ford and it should be a better car also. He felt that the money customers invested with Ford Motor Co. also paid men’s wages and to keep his “machine” running. He did not want the customer to carry the extra expense of added interest on their own hard earned money. He felt the customer paid once so they should not be charged again. 
         Henry Ford lived rather simply. His payroll to keep his machine working was one million dollars per day. If anyone ate up his money, it would be the machine, Ford explained. Upon a recent visit to his winter home in Fort Myers , FL, I was surprised he only went there two weeks each year, a testament to hard work ethics. 
         Ford was the master of efficiency, as you will read later in this piece. I recall a story in Studs Terkel’s book, Hard Times, about an assembly worker in the Ford plant. The worker arrived to work a very long first day. He was not told to bring a lunch or a pair of gloves. Once inside the factory, the gates locked behind him, and if one arrived 5 minutes late, they were docked one hour’s pay. The worker thought there might be a lunch wagon, but instead went hungry on his first day at work which was longer than today’s eight hour day. His job was to sand fenders all day, which he did bare- handed with no gloves. 
         Ford refused to think of himself as a success. His statement, “Any man who thinks he has done something, hasn’t many more things to do. More men are failures on account of success than on account of failures” [Ford]
        Having researched the design and cost breakdown which Ford had spent much time considering, I read with great interest the manual Ford Model A/AA Truck Owner by A.G.McMillan. The manual was originally written during the years of the Great Depression, late 1920’s. Ford was intrigued with making sure his truck was versatile and he marketed it well. He designed Baker’s delivery trucks, garbage trucks ,ice trucks, taxi’s ,ambulances , police patrol vehicles ,heavy duty express road service trucks (tow trucks), Coal trucks, Hydraulic trucks, stock trucks for moving livestock, stake trucks (with wooden stakes on the sides), Long bed trucks, Panel body trucks , and Funeral coaches. He had two basic types of AA trucks which were All American (all metal) and Line Construction Bodies (telephone & telegraph trucks, light & power trucks)
        Ford claimed there were four reasons why a Ford Truck meant Efficiency and Economy. #1 Complete Line of Equipment (With a large number of Fords in operation meant a greater number of manufacturers) #2 Lower prices on Equipment (Greater production meant lower cost of Ford equipment) #3 Better repair service ( With a large amount of Fords on the road meant for more repair centers everywhere) #4 More rapid delivery ( National distributing eliminated delays)
                    The manual was full of diagrams showing weight distribution of freight as well as comparison charts showing cost efficiency of his trucks versus the use of horse teams. Comparisons included time breakdowns and cost breakdowns. It took 4 teams (8 horses) and 4 men to keep pace with a Ford truck with a total cost of $1200.00 for equipment per year however the Ford truck cost $675.00 per year. A Ford truck would work 24 hours per day with only 15 minutes of care whereas horses will not stand more than eight hours per day. It takes forty acres to feed eight horses but a Ford truck only uses gas and oil. Stormy weather does not impact a Ford however in stormy weather, men and horses stand idle. 
        There was also a diagram which showed the costs per mile. The price of eight horses and four wagons was $1200.00 per year less $675.00 for the Ford Truck. The initial savings there was $525.00 In addition to those savings, cost of operating eight horses and four wagons per year $1292.64 and the cost of operating a Ford Truck was $270.21. Those savings were $1022.43 with a total savings comparison of $1547.43 for the first year.
        The next comparison was between a Ford six-wheel 2 ½ ton unit and an existing 2½ ton truck ( name of truck was not mentioned). The Ford truck appeared more solid, less bulky and streamlined in comparison to the competitor’s truck. Maybe one of the differences in appearance was Ford’s use of load distribution. 60/40 load distribution meant that 60 % of the weight was over the front axle while 40% was over the rear axle.
        The cost of Ford’s six wheel 2 ½ ton truck was $982.00 and the truck in comparison cost $3478.00.  The running cost of gas, oil and lubrication was broken down for each vehicle. The Ford truck got 10 miles to the gallon where the comparison truck got 7 miles to the gallon. So the average truck cost per mile was calculated for the comparison truck to 0.165 and the Ford truck was 0.086 per mile. Depreciation, Maintenance and Fixed costs were all figured into calculations. Comparing costs of those two trucks, a savings of $3720.00 was what the consumer could expect the first year if they purchased a Ford Truck.
         The design of Ford’s trucks was also broken down into diagrams and lists. Each truck had 66 drop forgings for maximum strength and minimum weight. Each truck came equipped with shatterproof glass on the front windshield. The only vehicle Ford manufactured that also included a shatterproof rear windshield was the ambulance. Also to reduce rivets, there were over 611 electric welds for safety and strength. Ford trucks were designed for easy adjustment. Ford owned the world’s largest Industrial unit. His plant in Dearborn, Michigan had a casting foundry, a glass plant, pressed steel and spring buildings, rolling mill, open hearth cement plant, and also had investments in the rubber industry to produce his tires. A diagram depicted 500 Ford coal cars bringing coal to the rouge plant. The rouge glass plant had an annual capacity of 10,000,000 square feet. 500 gallons of old paint were reclaimed daily. Power plant consumed 2200 tons of coal daily. Rouge plant covered 1,096 acres.
        Coke ovens produced an average of 3,300 tons of coke, 50, 000,000 cubic feet of gas, and 40,000 gallons of refined light oil every 24 hours. 2,500 barrels of Portland cement produced daily. Approximately 95 miles of railroad sidetracks were in the Rouge plant. James Newton, author of Uncommon Friends  relayed a story told by Edison’s son about The Rouge plant losing power once. Hoping to restore power quickly, Ford was reluctant to wait for the electric company to set poles, and instructed his own men to run power lines along the telephone poles. He told his men that he would deal with the telephone company later. Newton was a close friend of Edison, Ford and Firestone. In 1932, Newton and a newspaper reporter met Ford for an interview concerning his business philosophy. Newton mentioned there were two Ford model A’s in the driveway. Ford told Newton he had driven one from Detroit while his assistant drove the other. After the reporter left, Ford mentioned to his assistant, “Should we show Newton what we have here?” They proceeded to open the hood so Jimmie Newton took a look at the first V-8 engine. It was two months later when the world would see the V-8. Ford wanted to test drive the V-8 himself and if one of the vehicles broke down, they could just tow it using the other Ford Model A, rather than have it towed to a garage and spill the beans about the V-8.
         Ford Motor Company’s assets were one billion dollars during the late 1920’s.Ford employed 269 thousand men including factory workers and dealers. Plants and equipment worth 293 million dollars with a production of 18 million cars and trucks (3 million model A’s) Ford also made sure that he had schools for mechanics to become certified to work on his vehicles. There were 22,800 trained mechanics that graduated from these schools and became employed in Ford service stations. In addition, Ford employed 17, 734 salesmen, 5,877 dealers and 1,334 fleet –owner mechanics. There were 35 branches which were Ford headquarters for that territory
         In the early 20’s, there was a recession and Ford was producing many cars. He was smart with finance and managed to keep his company from being taken over by big bank creditors. Demand was low at this time. One way he managed to save his company was to ship his cars to the dealerships with a bill of lading and sight draft attached. The dealership had to pay for the vehicles when they were delivered. Either they paid for the vehicles or they lost their dealerships. The author, Newton, explained that in those days, having a Ford dealership afforded one considerable status in a small town.   
         Model AA panel delivery trucks could be special ordered with the name of the business information lettered onto the vehicle. Ford calculated costs of carrying freight and broke the figures down into pounds weight per 100 gallons. He used milk, oil, gasoline, eggs, and calculated what the weight would be with empty racks versus full racks. Ford calculated what it would cost to carry weights per bushel of apples, potatoes, rhubarb, tomatoes, barley and also showed how to distribute loads when carrying the freight. Weights per bushel of apples (50 lbs), tomatoes (55 lbs), clover (25 lbs), limes (80 lbs) charcoal (20 lbs), as this information would be important to a delivery man. 
         Ford also considered the most efficient method of frequent delivery vehicles. He called it a Step-n-Drive Drop Frame Truck.  A driver would sit when driving using pedals. Near the 1st stop, the driver would fold his seat up instantly and stand while using a single combination clutch and brake pedal. When checking his work load, he only needed to turn around to enter from behind the seat, rather than go to the back of the vehicle, to retrieve the goods/parcel. This provides the convenience of wagons with the motorized speed, covering greater territory.
         Ford also had a three way dump body vehicle. These would work from side to side & out the back (cost 250 dollars) Coal bodies included a high lift -1 ton for 750 dollars) and a 2 ton (1000 dollars) The coal body truck’s side and bottom were made from 10 gauge steel with no seams, rivets or bolts.
         Ford had a vertical hoist on some trucks that was mounted to frame on back of cab, He also had two hydraulic hoists, on the Model A (hand operated) and Model AP (Operated by truck motor) Of interest was the Hackney CO2 refrigerated bodies. One was used strictly for non frozen, such as fish, dairy and meat deliveries. The other Hackney CO2  delivery vehicle was strictly for frozen goods such as ice cream. Having read about Ford’s reasoning behind dry ice versus ice for deliveries, it all made perfect sense. The argument was about cost. Dry ice weighed half the weight of ice. Therefore an important characteristic of dry ice would be, no moisture to soak, no repainting or replacing metal parts due to corrosion. Dry ice turns from a solid to a gas with no drip. The cost of using Dry Ice would save a delivery truck for one year approximated between 900 and 2500 dollars. 
         Ford trucks had two important efficiency accessories. One was a Governor, which once installed, was used on a vehicle to prevent strain from excessive speed. A governor cost 17.50 to install and it took 20 minutes to do so. It prevented racing in lower gears. It limited speed & expense but not power. It worked because power from gas velocity transmitted to rod and spring through gear sector and rack. The 2nd forces manifold vacuum on same rod & spring from pressure from a piston. It stops speeding and leads to longer engine life. The other was a recorder, which kept accurate records of a trucks activity per hour. Perhaps this was the beginning of the idea behind the GPS.
         Ford’s trucks had a variety of uses, including elevated towers for public utility vehicles which included ladders( primitive early crane), post hole diggers, hoist and winches(for telephone companies and contractors), engines with greater power (to pull boats , heavy cruisers or flatbed), adapted with advertising(giant milk bottle mounted on back, or giant camera-specifically for advertising purposes), demonstrating type vehicles (may show an oil burner inside, so a salesman could demonstrate door to door), folding seats( for delivery of passengers),  window bars (armored vehicles), clothes racks ( for laundry and dry cleaners), centrifugal pumps ( could be easily mounted for painters, contractors- and they also came with ladder carriers)
         Taxicabs came equipped with silk curtains. Ambulances came equipped a medicine chest, heater, fan, thermos bottles, wash basin, and a stretcher. Funeral hearses came equipped with green mohair casket stops.
         Each vehicle was listed with Operating Cost Analysis charts, which included based on an average of 85 miles per day, Cost Per Mile, Cost Per day, Cost Per Year. Ford even figured in depreciation. He listed Ford Fleet Owners of many national companies owning 200 or more of his Ford trucks. American Telegraph and Telephone Company & subs owned by far most at 8207 units. Swift company & subsidiaries came in second owning 2957 units.  
         I visited Ford’s summer home in Fort Myers and was told a great story about the man. One day a delivery driver came on the Edison/Ford property, and was stopped at the gate by none other than Henry Ford, although the delivery driver was unaware it was Mr Ford. Ford then proceeded to ask the driver all about his truck, what he liked and what he did not like. The driver shared his experiences about the vehicle with Ford and finally drove off to make the delivery. Asked what held the delivery man up, he explained a man had interrogated him at the gate. It was then he learned it was none other than Henry Ford himself.

Reprint permission with author’s permission @ fiddlinsuz@roadrunner.com

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