Most people know Henry Ford as the founder of Ford Motor Company, one of the largest and most well-known producers of cars in the world. If you paid attention in history class, you may also recall that Ford is largely credited for the creation of the assembly line, the production process that revolutionized the manufacturing world as we know it.
It was through the innovation of the assembly line that Ford was able to accomplish one of his life-long goals was, which was to make a car that was affordable for the common man.
After decades of hard work, Ford eventually succeeded with the Ford Model T, the first vehicle that could be produced cheap enough for a middle-class citizen to purchase.
There is an entirely another aspect to Ford’s life, however, and it largely goes unmentioned. Ford was always looking to innovate and invent, leading to a pretty interesting life.
Below, we’ve listed 10 of the craziest facts about Henry Ford that you never learned about in school, but that you’ll wish you had.
He Grew up on a Farm
That’s right, Henry Ford, the great inventor, actually started out as a humble farm boy. He was raised on a farm with his two brothers and sisters in Greenfield Township, Michigan.
After the passing of his mother, Ford’s father became insistent that Ford eventually would take over the farm on which he was raised. Young Ford has no interest in the farm life, however, and instead set his mind to the engineering field. He left home at the age of 16 to become an apprentice machinist in the city of Detroit, MI.
He Was Close with Thomas Edison
It may serve as no surprise that these two great minds of the early 20th century would find kinship together.
The two actually first came in contact because Ford was working for Edison, as an engineer at the Edison Illumination Company. He began this position in 1891, and he was promoted to the position of Chief Engineer by 1893.
Through his time working at the company, Ford developed a close relationship with Edison. In fact, before forming his own automotive company that he would eventually be known for, he first tried establishing an automobile company in collaboration with Edison, called the “Detroit Automobile Company.”
He Saved Edison’s Last Breath
This fact is more than a little odd. How do you save a breath, anyhow?
Apparently, while Edison was on his death bed, Ford was visiting him, and he wound up capturing Edison’s last breath inside a test tube. You can actually see this test tube that supposedly holds Edison’s last breath on display at the Henry Ford Museum.
While this is without a doubt a strange thing to have collected and saved, there is something about saving the last breath of someone who had such a huge impact on the world that is poetic.
Early in Life, Ford was a Racecar Driver
In addition to making them, Ford loved driving cars, too.
Ford spent a good part of his early adult life as a racecar driver in addition to working on engines and educating himself as a mechanic and engineer. It was probably pretty convenient being able to rely on himself for automotive knowledge and repairs.
He Was Almost a Senator
In 1918, Henry Ford ran for office as a Democrat with the hopes of becoming a senator.
Funnily enough, it wasn’t actually Ford’s idea to run. Rather, the current president at the time, Woodrow Wilson, had convinced him to do it.
Ford wasn’t actually keen to run for office in the traditional sense, however. Mainly, Ford is known for refusing to spend a single cent on campaigning or advertising.
Despite the insistence of Woodrow and his peers that he actually campaign for the office that he was running for, Ford held firm to his belief that if the people wanted him as their senator, they would vote for him either way.
Of course, Henry Ford did not wind up becoming a United States senator. Still, he did impressively well for not spending a single penny on campaigning. He lost by a margin of only 4500 votes — a small number when it comes to voters in an election.
Did Ford Invent the Weekend?
Though this is somewhat up for debate, Ford is largely credited for establishing the common 5-day, 40-hour-a-workweek that most working class citizens in the United States are largely familiar with. This was a change from what had been the typical and prevalent schedule. This previous schedule consisted of 6 days and 48 hours a week.
Ford believed in keeping his employees healthy and happy by giving them the rest they deserved. Ford was also of the opinion that people with more free time spent more money, and thus has a positive impact on the economy.
He’s Been Deified in Literature
This shouldn’t be anything shocking or new to anyone who’s read Brave New World. Still, the fact that Henry Ford has actually been deified is nevertheless amusing.
Brave New World is a satirical novel that focuses on a dystopian future. It replaces the mention of God with Ford in such phrases as “Our Ford” instead of “Our Lord.” Other details are likewise altered, such as changing the traditional crosses into Ts (as in Model-T). The deifying of Ford is sardonic in nature, but this example nevertheless showcases the impact and prevalence of Henry Ford in the days of the early 20th century.
Ford had great dreams and aspirations, but for the most part, he was a practical man. With his main goal being to design a car that could be manufactured and sold at a price affordable to the common man, it’s easy to imagine Henry Ford as a very down to Earth type of man.
Like any brilliant person, however, Ford did not lack for eccentricities.
Perhaps one of the more notable oddities about Ford from his life is the fact that he bought land in the Amazon and attempted to establish a city named, you guessed it, Fordlandia.
The tract of land that was to become the failed Fordlandia settlement was roughly the size of Connecticut and placed smack-dab in the middle of the Amazon jungle, hours away from the nearest town.
It was Ford’s hope to establish a settlement where the primary workflow would be centered around sourcing and producing rubber for tires. The locals he recruited rejected Ford’s factory style working and assembly line processes, however, and Fordlandia quickly failed.
Though not the sole time Ford experience failure, this might very well be the largest instance, proving that despite all his success not everything Ford did was meant to pan out.
He Tried to Build a Flying Car
Ford’s engineering aspirations went beyond just manufacturing cars. After he had succeeded in creating the affordable automobile and establishing his vehicle empire, Ford left the roads behind and set his sights on the sky.
Ford actually became involved in the production of airplanes during the first World War. Ford would not stop there, however. Rather, he became obsessed with the idea of creating a flying car — something that still seems like a thing of the future even in today’s world.
Ford was able to manufacture a prototype of his flying car. During its test-drive, however, it failed, killing its driver in the process. The project was therefore abandoned shortly thereafter.
The 6-Cent Lawsuit
In 1919, Ford pursued a libel suit against the Chicago Tribune. Ford originally sued for $1 million in damages and reparations after the Tribune had labeled him an “ignorant idealist” and an “anarchist.”
This lawsuit took some truly surprising twists and turns. At one point, the Chicago Tribune even attempted to prove his ignorance by asking him history questions in court. Perhaps even more surprising, Ford failed to correctly answer what year the American Revolution took place.
In the end, Ford came out on top — to an extent. Rather than the $1 million Ford had been pursuing, he was granted six cents. Not exactly enough to pay the lawyer fees.
A Legacy That Spans the Years
Henry Ford was by no means a perfect man. Many of his projects failed, and he wasn’t exactly up for any “Father of the Year” awards.
Still, there’s no denying the impact Ford’s work and aspirations have had not only on the United States but the world at large. His goal of creating the first automobile affordable for the common man would forever revolutionize the manufacturing and transportation businesses.
Featured Image via Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain