Henry Ford
Founder, Ford Motor Company
  Be ready to revise any system, scrap any method, abandon any theory, if the success of the job requires it.
About the Innovator

When Henry Ford was 16, he left the family farm where he was born and raised. It would be nearly a quarter of a century before he founded the Ford Motor Company in 1903, and another five years before he launched a transportation revolution that would sweep the world with his Model T.

Obviously, Ford's success was far from instant. Years of hard work preceded his accomplishments. He worked in a machine shop. He worked evenings repairing watches. He was a night shift foreman in an electricity generating plant. Even when Ford finally decided to follow his entrepreneurial bent, he had difficulties. He founded two companies that failed before the success of Ford Motor Company.

Ford's was not the first automobile, nor was his factory home to the first assembly line. His great innovation was to develop a reliable car that people wanted to buy, and then continually refine his manufacturing process so that his car became ever-more affordable to ever-greater numbers of customers. By putting the automobile within reach of the masses, Ford took a toy for the rich and transformed it into a practical means of transportation for millions of people.

By the time production ended in 1927, more than 15 million Model Ts had been manufactured, and the automobile's place in the modern world had been firmly established.

Why He Innovated

There is a prophetic story of how the 13-year-old Henry Ford got a pocket watch for his birthday, and then proceeded to take it apart. He simply wanted to know how it worked. It was a character trait that marked the rest of Ford's life. He wanted to know how things worked and, just as important, why they didn’t work.

Ford was interested in every aspect of life around him. He explored innovative forms of education which, in time, lead to the founding of the Edison Institute, known today as The Henry Ford. In a single location, Ford brought together dozens of buildings and millions of artifacts. It was one of the largest collections of its kind ever assembled, as well as a bold and ambitious new way for people of all ages to discover and explore the richness of the American experience for themselves.

Henry Ford took inspiration from the past, saw opportunities for the future, and believed in technology as a force for improving people's lives. To him, technology wasn't just a source of profits, it was a way to harness new ideas and, ultimately, further democratize American life.

The Complete Curator Interview on Henry Ford

Enthusiastic, knowledgeable and witty, Bob Casey, The Henry Ford's retired curator of transportation, is a renowned authority not just on motorized transportation, but on Henry Ford himself. Indeed, Casey is the author of what many regard as the definitive book about the Model T, titled "The Model T: A Centennial History."

 

Casey admits that he is fascinated with the way Ford approached life.

 

"He was one of these people who didn't take a job because he knew how to do it," says Casey during this lengthy video interview. "He often took jobs because he didn't know how to do them, and they were opportunities to learn. It's a very gutsy way to learn."

 

Casey speaks extensively about Ford, the tinkerer, the man who insists on getting his hands dirty as he searches for the keys to why things work the way they do.


Watch the Complete Interview
Download the Interview Transcript (PDF)
 

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