Henry Ford

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Henry Ford (1919)
Henry Ford's signature

Henry Ford (born July 30, 1863 in Greenfield Township (Michigan) , USA ; † April 7, 1947 in Dearborn , Michigan ) founded the automobile manufacturer Ford Motor Company . He consistently perfected assembly line production in automobile construction , which Ransom Eli Olds had anticipated in a simplified form in 1902 in his automobile company Oldsmobile . His concept of modern vehicle manufacturing not only revolutionized industrial production, but also had a strong influence on modern culture ( Fordism ). In addition to this pioneering work for the automotive industry, Ford remains politically controversial to this day as a temporary publicist of anti-Semitic writings such as The International Jew , which had a great external impact.


Henry Ford (1888)

Henry Ford was born in a small town in Wayne County , near Dearborn , west of Detroit , on the thriving farm of his parents, William Ford (1826–1905) and Mary Litogot O'Hern (1839–1876), who from who immigrated to County Cork in Ireland . Henry was the oldest of six children. In the rural area he could only attend the village school and thus received little education. As a child he was very interested in mechanical details. He showed great craftsmanship and, at the age of twelve, spent a lot of time in his workshop, which he had set up himself. By the age of fifteen he had already built his first internal combustion engine .

In 1879 he left home and moved to nearby Detroit to begin his apprenticeship as a machinist. He worked first at F. Flower & Bros. , later at Detroit Dry Dock Co. After completing his training, Ford found a job at Westinghouse Electric Corporation , where he worked on gasoline engines . After his marriage to Clara Jane Bryant in 1888, he improved his financial situation with his own sawmill .

In 1891 Ford was hired as an engineer for the Edison Illuminating Company , named after founder and director Thomas Alva Edison . He was still on friendly terms with this world-famous inventor in later years. After his promotion to chief engineer in 1893, he now had enough time and money to devote himself to his personal experiments with internal combustion engines. His experiments culminated in the completion of a self-propelled vehicle, the Quadricycle, in 1896 .


After this success, Ford left Edison Illuminating and founded the Detroit Automobile Company with other investors in 1899 . During this time, Ford raced its vehicles against those of other manufacturers to demonstrate the superiority of its models. He won a victory in his Ford 'Sweepstakes' on October 10, 1901 against Alexander Winton , a well-known designer and racing driver. This led to the bankrupt Detroit Automobile Company finding new investors and being reorganized as the Henry Ford Company on November 30, 1901 . Henry Ford became chief engineer, but separated in 1902 in a dispute with his superior Henry M. Leland from the company, which was now registered as the Cadillac Motor Car Company , because Ford could keep its naming rights.

Ford Motor Company

Henry Ford founded the Ford Motor Company on June 16, 1903 with eleven other investors and a capital contribution of US $ 28,000 . At an exhibition, Ford set a new speed record in a newly developed automobile when it covered the distance of one mile on the ice of Lake St. Clair in 39.4 seconds (147 km / h). Convinced of this success, the famous racing driver Barney Oldfield took the car across the country and made the Ford brand a household name in the USA. This new car model was christened by Oldfield 999 after the fastest steam locomotive at the time . Henry Ford was also one of the earliest funders for the Indianapolis 500 race.

The Model T (Tin Lizzy)

Main article: Ford Model T

Ford Model T (1909)
First assembly line production for cars

In 1908 the Ford Motor Company brought their Model T by József Galamb onto the market. In the period from 1909 to 1913 Ford took part in various races with a modified Model T and in 1909 (although he was later disqualified) also won a “coast to coast” race across the USA. Another record was set at the Detroit Fair in 1911 when driver Frank Kulick set a new record for the one mile distance. In 1913, Ford attempted to compete in the Indianapolis 500 race with a converted Model T, but was not allowed on the grounds that the car had to be made an additional 1,000 pounds heavier before it could qualify. Ford left the race, and a short time later got completely out of the racing business, justifying this with its dissatisfaction with the regulations in racing and the increased need for time for its flourishing business with the Model T.

Races were no longer necessary for public relations in 1913 - the Model T was famous and ubiquitous on America's streets. That year Ford introduced assembly lines in its factories, which allowed it to increase production enormously. As early as 1918, every second car in America was a Model T. The design of the Model T, fervently represented and defended by Henry Ford, was maintained until 1927, when the design's popularity had already waned. By then, over 15 million vehicles had been produced. That was a record that would last for the next 45 years.

Henry Ford is often said to have said that any customer can get a Ford in the color of their choice - as long as the color is black. For a long time this statement was considered a legend. But there is in his book Mein Leben und Werk in the chapter “The Secret of Production” the sentence: “Every customer can have his car painted as he likes, if the car is only black.” The reason for this may be as follows: Black was the standard color because black was the first industrially produced and long-lasting color. In addition, black dries the fastest, which was a strong argument in favor of this color, since at that time you needed large halls and floors to let body parts dry. Another reason was that it is easier to use just one color in mass production. Not all Ford T's were black, but most of them were.

Henry Ford had a special attitude towards his employees. In January 1914, for example, he introduced the eight-hour day in his company and at the same time raised the minimum wage from $ 2.34 to $ 5.00 per day - well above the level customary at the time ( efficiency wage ). During peak production of the Model T around 1918, that amount increased to $ 6.00. Ford also offered its workers a novel system of profit sharing . According to Ford's own repeated statement, the fact that wages at Ford exceeded the standard by several hundred percent was economic calculation: He did not want to improve the personal situation of his workers, but rather to massively strengthen the purchasing power of the workforce in order to sell mass-produced products such as his cars to guarantee. In doing so, Ford laid the foundations of the consumer society typical of the 20th century. The increased leisure time of the workers should also serve the demand for products and their wear and tear through use.

On the other hand, Ford rigorously opposed union federations within its factories. To forestall union activity, Ford hired Harry Bennett to officially become the customer service manager . Bennett used a variety of intimidation tactics to prevent unions from forming. A sit-in strike by the United Auto Workers union in 1941 finally led to collective bargaining in some Ford plants. Full union organization did not come about until 1945, after Henry Ford and Harry Bennett left the company.

Ford manufacturing (1923)
The first and ten millionth Ford (1924)

On January 1, 1919, Henry Ford passed the chairmanship of the Ford Motor Company to his son Edsel Ford , but still retained a strong influence on the management of the company. While Edsel presided, few decisions were made that had not previously been approved by Henry, and the few others were often reversed by Henry Ford. During this time, Edsel and Henry bought back the shares that had previously been in the hands of other investors. They had to borrow a lot of money to buy it back, but this made them the sole owners of the company. That was the beginning of a period of decline for the company as the post-war recession hit the country shortly afterwards .

Model T sales began to decline in the mid-1920s. This was due in part to the rise in consumer credit offered by other automakers so that consumers could buy their cars. In addition, the models of the competition usually had other new functions and designs that were not available to the Model T. Despite the urging of company boss Edsel Ford, Henry Ford strictly refused to agree to modernizing the Model T with new features because he wanted to keep prices down. Henry Ford also rejected consumer funding plans because he believed they were bad for the economy.

The model A and after

The drop in sales for the Model T finally convinced Henry Ford in 1926 of what Edsel had been advocating for some time: a new model was needed. Henry Ford mainly contributed his technical knowledge, development of the drive system, chassis and other technical requirements to the project and left it to his son to develop a new body. Edsel also succeeded in enforcing a mechanically operated four-wheel brake and a manual sliding gear against the objections of his father . The result was the very successful second Model A , presented in December 1927 , which had been produced more than four million times by 1931.

For a long time Henry Ford had a particular interest in plastics made from agricultural products, including hemp . His Soybean Car , whose body panels were made of a soy-containing plastic, became famous.

Also in the 1930s, the project is Fordlândia , a rubber - plantation and artificial town on a 10,000-square-kilometer area leased in Brazil . The company's aim was to make tire production independent of expensive British rubber from Malaysia . Local workers were lured in with social promises that were so neglected that riots broke out. Ultimately, the mammoth project failed because of the inadequate precautions against plant diseases, which the harvest expected after six years of work fell victim to.

Edsel Ford died on May 26, 1943, leaving a vacancy in the company's chairmanship. Henry Ford advocated that Harry Bennett should take over the position. Edsel's widow, Eleanor Ford, who had inherited her late husband's shares, wanted her son Henry Ford II to take the position. The dispute was resolved when Henry took the job himself at the age of 79. Times were tough for the company - over the next two years the company was losing $ 10 million a month. President Roosevelt even considered a government loan for the Ford Motor Company so that war-critical production could continue.

Journalism and anti-Semitism

Anti-Semitic work published by Henry Ford on the so-called "Jewish question" (1922)

After Henry Ford had largely withdrawn from the business of the Ford Motor Company, he devoted much time to the publication of a newspaper, the Dearborn Independent , which he had bought in 1919. In the eight years that followed, the paper distributed anti-Semitic articles, including the Protocols of the Elders of Zion , a forgery by the Tsarist secret service that was directed against Jews , Socialists , Liberals and Freemasons . The American Jewish Historical Society describes these ideas propagated in his name during this period as "anti-immigrant, anti-labor, anti-liquor and anti-semitic" (against immigrants , against workers, against alcohol and against Jews).

These articles were also directed against Ford himself, as he had already been promoted to master at Palestine Lodge No 357 in Detroit on November 28, 1894 and was to remain a regular member there for almost 53 years. On November 21, 1928, Ford was made an honorary member of Michigan's oldest Masonic Lodge , Zion Lodge No 1 , where his brother-in-law, William R. Bryant, was chairman of the lodge in 1932. In September 1940, Ford received the 33rd AASR degree in New Jersey , an administrative degree .

In addition, several anti-Jewish articles were published under Ford's name in the Independent , which were sold in four volumes in the early 1920s under the title Der Internationale Jude - Ein Weltproblem ( The International Jew, the World's Foremost Problem ). It was the conspiracy theory represented that world Jewry have a geheimbündlerisches formed plot to using his power in business and high finance the world domination to gain. Jews are allegedly responsible for corruption in business, trade unions and sports as well as for the First World War, the Russian Revolution and the American Civil War. In January 1922 the newspaper's anti-Semitic campaign was initially suspended (Ford was said to have ambitions for a presidential candidacy for which he would also have needed Jewish votes), but was resumed in 1924. Reports of the pogroms in Russia have been labeled as fakes. The articles had been written by a variety of authors, including Ford's longtime personal secretary, Ernest G. Liebold . None of the articles were authored by Ford himself, but being the publisher it was his responsibility to publish them. Parts of these articles were included in the American edition of Adolf Hitler's book Mein Kampf .

The use of quotations from The International Jew by the CDU - MP Martin Hohmann led to the Hohmann affair in 2003 . The book The International Jew was reprinted in Iran in 2008.

Repeated public appeals, not least from President Woodrow Wilson , to stop his anti-Semitic incitement were initially unsuccessful. It was only under the pressure of a defamation suit by the lawyer and farmer activist Aaron Sapiro and the journalist Herman Bernstein , represented by Samuel Untermyer , that he apologized for the publisher's inflammatory pamphlets in a public statement on June 30, 1927. He also banned the publisher Theodor Fritsch in Leipzig To sell, print, and distribute writings identified as author or editor by Henry Ford . The remaining edition of the book The International Jew had Ford destroyed in the USA. Theodor Fritsch refused, however, to withdraw the approximately 10,000 copies of the book in German and Spanish from circulation, and justified this with economic losses. Ford closed the Dearborn Independent in December 1927.

He was a member of the America First Committee , an isolationist movement that tried to prevent the United States from participating in World War II in 1940/41 . On January 7, 1942, Henry Ford wrote an open letter to the Anti-Defamation League , denouncing hatred against Jews and expressing his hope that anti-Jewish incitement would stop forever. His works are still used by some groups, most of them can be found on historical revisionist or neo-Nazi websites.

Henry Ford and National Socialism

In Hitler's office of the NSDAP - party headquarters in Munich . Hung a large portrait of Ford on the issue of the Detroit News that the American Industrial meant to him, Hitler said in 1931: "I regard Henry Ford as my inspiration."

Heinrich Himmler wrote in a letter in 1924 that Ford was "one of the most valuable, weighty and ingenious champions". The Reich Youth Leader Baldur von Schirach also affirmed the influence of reading Ford in his testimony at the Nuremberg Trial :

“The decisive anti-Semitic book that I read at the time and the book that influenced my comrades […] was Henry Ford's book ' The International Jew '. I read it and became an anti-Semite. This book made such a big impression on me and my friends back then because we saw in Henry Ford the representative of success, but also the representative of progressive social policy. "

Rumors that Ford had contributed to the rise of the NSDAP through generous donations were denied early on by Hitler and cannot be confirmed. The honorable mention of Ford in Mein Kampf (“one big big one, Ford, is still independent today”) was removed from the 1931 new edition.

Ford Motor Company was involved in building the German armed forces before World War II . In 1938, for example, a production plant in Berlin went into operation, the only task of which was to produce trucks for the Wehrmacht . Ford produced a total of 78,000 trucks and 14,000 tracked vehicles for the Wehrmacht. Before the German Wehrmacht marched into the Sudetenland , it received an express delivery of 1,000 trucks from Ford. The Ford works were spared from the Allied bombing until the end of 1944 and were only slightly damaged afterwards. There, forced laborers from concentration camps were used, which the SS borrowed for four Reichsmarks per day .

In July 1938, Henry Ford was awarded the Eagle Shield of the German Empire . Ford was the first American to receive this award. It was the highest distinction that the German Reich bestowed on foreigners during the Weimar Republic and the time of National Socialism . The medal was given "in recognition of the pioneering work [Ford] in making cars available to the masses." The award was accompanied by a personal message of congratulations from Adolf Hitler ( Detroit News , July 31, 1938). In the same year Ford was awarded the Grand Cross of the German Eagle Order.

In 1940 Ford's autobiography Success in Life was published. Mein Leben und Werk or only Mein Leben und Werk in German in the 33rd edition; the number of copies can be estimated because the first post-war edition in 1952 states “166. – 195. Thousand".

The Ford Foundation

Henry Ford and his son Edsel founded the Ford Foundation in the state of Michigan in 1936 , with a comprehensive charter to promote the common good of the people. The foundation, initially only set up locally, grew considerably and by 1950 had also expanded its focus nationally and internationally.

The last few years

After the end of the Second World War, the aging Henry Ford handed over the chairmanship of the Ford Motor Company to his grandson Henry Ford II on September 21, 1945 and went into retirement. He died of a cerebral hemorrhage on April 7, 1947, at the age of 83 in Fair Lane, his estate in Dearborn, and was buried in the Ford Cemetery in Detroit .


  • Editor: The International Jew. The World's Foremost Problem. 4 volumes, Dearborn, Michigan, 1920-1921. German: The International Jew. A world problem. 2 volumes, Hammer-Verlag, Leipzig 1921–1922.
  • with Samuel Crowther: My Life and Work (1922). German: My life and work , trans. by Curt and Marguerite Thesing. Paul List Verlag, Leipzig 1923; later editions under the title Success in Life. My life and work . - autobiography
  • with Samuel Crowther: To Day and to Morrow . (1926). Dt :. The great today, the greater tomorrow , over. by Curt and Marguerite Thesing. Paul List Verlag, Leipzig 1926.
  • with Samuel Crowther: Moving Forward . (1930). Dt .: And still forward . 1930.
  • Edison as I knew him . (1930). German: My friend Edison . Paul List Verlag, Leipzig 1931.



  • Adolf Saager : Henry Ford. Become - work . Wagnerische Verlagsanstalt, Stuttgart 1924
  • Heinz Sponsel: Henry Ford. From sheet metal for everyone to dream car for everyone . Mohn, Gütersloh 1960
  • Steven Watts: The People's Tycoon: Henry Ford and the American Century . Vintage Books, New York 2006, ISBN 0-375-70725-5
  • S. Tyschkus: Henry Ford. The founder and pioneer of mass motorization . In: Expansion, Illustrated monthly issues for technical professions. Issue 4/1978, pp. 233–241, Verlag Pi. Christiani, Konstanz 1978

Interviews with Henry Ford in book form

  • Fay Leone Faurote: Philosophy of Work . Translation of Else Werkmann . P. Aretz, Dresden 1929 (Original title: My Philosophy of Industry )
  • Ralph Waldo Trine: Masters in Life. Four conversations with Henry Ford . 2nd Edition. Drei Eichen Verlag, Munich and Engelberg 1982, ISBN 3-7699-0386-2


  • Upton Sinclair : On the assembly line. Mr. Ford and his servant Shutt. Rowohlt, Reinbek 1993 a. ö., ISBN 3-499-15654-7 . First March-Verlag, Berlin 1983. Most recently Area-Verlag, Erftstadt 2004, ISBN 3-89996-029-7 (Original: The Flivver King ). Further German issues under the titles: (The) conveyor belt. A novel from FORD America. Friedrich Oetinger, Hamburg 1948 & Association / Aktion 1974 (this one with Vorw .: U. Sinclair and the American labor movement) - Autokönig Ford. Malik-Verlag 1938
  • Aldous Huxley : Brave New World . A novel of the future. Piper, Munich 1960. (The novel is set in the fictional world in 632 "after Ford". Seven Ford supervisory boards share world domination. Not only cars, but also people are now produced on the assembly line. People pray: "Thank you Ford "or" Praise be to Ford at the wheel ".)

Web links

Commons : Henry Ford  - Collection of Pictures, Videos and Audio Files

Individual evidence

  1. Christoph Gunkel: Henry Ford's lost jungle city. In: Spiegel Online . February 11, 2010, accessed May 12, 2018 .
  2. ^ William R. Denslow, Harry S. Truman: 10,000 Famous Freemasons from A to J, Part One . ISBN 1-4179-7578-4
  3. Hadassa Ben-Itto : "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion." Anatomy of a forgery. Berlin, 2001. p. 92 ff.
  4. Karl Pfeifer commented: “The German writer Oskar Maria Graf , who fled to the USA in 1933, remembers in his autobiography in the winter of 1920/21 that he met Adolf Hitler in a Munich pub who raved about Ford: 'There', he said and stopped Henry Ford's book 'The International Jew': 'You have to read this. There are also honest Americans who think just like us. Ford is the largest automobile manufacturer in America and is a pure Aryan…. Read this once ... 'Ford was also the only American quoted in' Mein Kampf '. In keeping with Ford, Hitler noted: 'It is the Jews who control the American Union's stock market forces'. Some believe that to this day. ”Source: hagalil.com , accessed November 18, 2008
  5. Fair pulls anti-Semitic US book from event. ( Memento of March 24, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) In: The Windsor Star. Ontario, Canada, November 15, 2008
  6. ^ Henry Ford - automaker and anti-Semite. “Henry Ford, born in Greenfield Michigan in 1863, is a very divided personality. He was one of the most prominent Americans of the 1920s, his name stands for industrial pioneering work, progress and success. On the other hand, he was very reactionary and known across the country for his anti-Semitism, which he used to preach in his own newspaper, the Dearborn Independent. ”Source: hagalil.com, accessed November 18, 2008
  7. Hadassa Ben-Itto : "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion." Anatomy of a forgery. Berlin, 2001, p. 94 f.
  8. ^ Victoria S. Woeste: Henry Ford's War on Jews and the Legal Battle Against Hate Speech. Stanford UP, Stanford 2012, pp. 300-307.
  9. ^ Henry Ford's Letter of Apology. ( Memento of December 3, 2008 in the Internet Archive ) In: Website of the Anti-Defamation League. Retrieved October 20, 2012.
  10. ^ Ralf Georg Reuth : Hitler's hatred of Jews. Cliché and reality. Piper Verlag , Munich 2009, p. 226 f.
  11. Quoted from Armin Pfahl-Traughber : The anti-Semitic-anti-Freemason conspiracy myth in the Weimar Republic and in the Nazi state . Edited by Anton Pelinka u. Helmut Reinalter (= comparative history of society and the history of political ideas in modern times. Vol. 9). Braumüller, Wien 1993, p. 39. See also: Elite anti-Semitism in Nazi continuity. ( Memento from July 30, 2017 in the Internet Archive ) In: Graswurzelrevolution . December 2003
  12. ^ Baldur von Schirach before the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg on May 23, 1946; quote here. According to Pfahl-Traughber: The anti-Semitic-anti-Masonic conspiracy myth (note 4). P. 39. See also: Elite anti-Semitism in Nazi continuity. ( Memento from July 30, 2017 in the Internet Archive ) In: Graswurzelrevolution. December 2003
  13. ^ Sven Felix Kellerhoff : The NSDAP. A party and its members. Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 2017, p. 193 f .; Christian Hartmann , Thomas Vordermayer, Othmar Plöckinger, Roman Töppel (eds.): Hitler, Mein Kampf. A critical edition . Institute for Contemporary History Munich - Berlin, Munich 2016, vol. 2, p. 1619.
  14. ^ Michael Dobbs: Ford and GM Scrutinized for Alleged Nazi Collaboration. In: Washington Post . November 30, 1998
  15. https://www.biography.com/people/henry-ford-9298747