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Henry Ford: Triumph of an Idea

Jeffrey Syken

On the surface, he was a simple man from a simpler time with simple values that reflected his rural background, but Henry Ford changed the world immeasurably. He had a natural affinity for machinery and a farm-bred logic that would culminate in the creation of his first car which he called the Quadracycle. It would be the first of many millions more to come.

With the internal combustion engine, the horse-drawn carriage gave way to the horseless carriage which was, in reality, just the former without the horse. Early automobiles evolved as play-things for the wealthy since they were beyond the means of the average working man. Ford changed all that when he introduced the assembly line and standardization of parts with the Model T at his Highland Park plant. It had a twenty-horsepower engine, multiple body styles and was rugged enough to handle the poor road conditions of the day. They were produced by the millions instead of the hundreds or, at best, thousands had he not had the vision to mass produce motor cars and trucks.

Henry Ford proudly claimed: “You can have a Model T in any color you want, as long as it’s black.” Despite the limited color selection, the Model T was mass produced and made the automobile affordable to the average American. The rise of the car and truck led to economic expansion, road building and in the post-WWII years, suburban expansion. Ford Motor Company contributed significantly to the American war effort in both world wars and their farm vehicles made the farmer’s burden easier and more productive. At the same time, their truck lines brought the products of a nation to market. His simple idea of making the car affordable to the masses was a triumph of American ingenuity.

This course includes a multiple-choice quiz at the end, which is designed to enhance the understanding of the course materials.

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