Henry Ford introduced the Model T. and changed everyman and the landscape of America forever.
1. At the beginning of the twentieth century, car ownership was something only the rich could afford. Most of the cars were so complicated that they had to be accessorized with a chauffeur who was also a trained mechanic in order to keep them on the road. Henry Ford’s dream was to build a car that the American worker with an average income could afford to drive and maintain. “I will build a car for the great multitude,” Henry said. “No man making a good salary will be unable to own one and enjoy with his family the blessings of hours of pleasure in God’s great open spaces.” Ford’s dream became reality, and in 1908, the first model Model T was produced.
2. The Model T featured interchangeable parts, which meant it could easily be repaired by farmer-mechanics with a few simple hand tools. If the radiator sprung a leak, you added an egg to stop fluid loss. The light- weight chassis made it possible to push the car out of muck or a tight spot that would have held a heaver car captive, an important feature for farmers who traveled muddy farm roads.
3. The Model T, or Tin Lizzy as she was soon nicknamed (for reasons unknown), could reach speeds of 40 miles per hour and averaged 20 miles to the gallon. Gasoline was 25 cents to the gallon. But before we become all misty eyed comparing gas prices in 1908 to current gas prices, consider that 93 years ago, while Americans paid just 25 cents per gallon, adjusting for inflation, they were paying the equivalent of $3.70 per gallon in 2013 dollars and their income levels were hardly on par with today’s average salaries.
4. The Model T sticker price, when it was introduced in 1908, was $850, but by 1924, the price had dropped to $260. This drastic drop was made possible by Ford’s invention of the moving assembly line, which made it possible to produce uniform automobiles quickly and at lower costs.
5. The biggest downside to the assembly line was the devaluation of the craftsman, who was no longer a prerequisite for production. Craftsmanship, creativity, and experience soon gave way to the lesser skills needed for mass production—dexterity, speed, and concentration.
6; The Model T had became what we now refer to as a pop culture icon. It was featured in countless movies and songs and fostered a sexual revolution a half century before the pill. “Most of the babies of the period were conceived in a Model T, and not a few were born in them,” wrote American author John Steinbeck. The Model T became such a staple of American life that it was routinely part of comic routines and included in joke books.
7. The Original Ford Joke Book, published in 1915, included “The Twenty-Third Ford Psalm”:
The Ford is my auto, I shall not want another.
It maketh me to lie beneath it.
It soureth my soul.
It leadeth me in the paths of ridicule for its name sake.
Yea, though I ride through the valleys, I am towed up the hills.
And I fear much evil for thy rods and thy engines discomforteth me.
I anoint thy tire with patches. Thy radiator runneth over.
I prepare for blow-outs in the presence of mine enemies.
Surely if this thing follow me all the days
Will dwell in the bug house forever.
8. The best way to describe the automobile phenomena that overtook America after the Model T is to compare it to how we’ve experienced the growth of the internet throughout the last two decades.,
9. In 1923, the Model T began a steady decline. Historians believed this may have been because Ford wasn’t comfortable with America’s new prosperity, which ironically, he had done so much to create.
10.On May 25, 1927, the Chicago Cubs beat the St. Louis Cardinals, Charles Lindberg took to the skies on his infamous flight into history five days earlier, and the Ford Corporation retired the Model T. It was also in this year that General Motors overtook Ford to become the world’s largest car maker. As opposed to Fords philosophy of “one size fits all,” under CEO Alfred Sloan, General Motor’s philosophy was “a car for every purse and purpose.”
Next, I will introduce you to Alfred Sloan and Earl Harvey. Two men who believed Americans should have more color choices for their automobiles than basic black.
Thanks for coming along for the ride.
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