Henry Ford, the Automobile, and Mechanization
Frameworks for America's Past
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Henry Ford changed the auto industry

   Henry Ford did not invent the automobile, but he is famous as the first person to develop a way to make affordable automobiles.  He did that with the moving assembly line, shown below in a Ford factory in Detroit.
   On an assembly line, each worker does just a small part of the assembly.  Each worker adds a new piece as the frame of the auto moves slowly past.  As a result, workers became very good and quick at doing their task.  The photo is from 1924.

Looking back at his first automobile

   This photo from 1924 shows Henry Ford standing next to his first automobile design, and with the very successful Model T.  The Model T, on the left, was first built in 1908.  It continued in production until 1927.  It had a 20 horse power four cylinder engine, and a top speed of about 45 miles per hour.

Autos changed America forever

Affordable automobiles created tremendous change in American society.  The photo shows Washington, D.C., in 1918.  Notice that trolley cars were still the main way people got around the city.  Within 40 years, the trolley system would be gone as the automobile took over city streets almost completely.

Now that's a real car!

This photo shows a Ford factory and assembly line in the 1930s.  The car is a 1936 Ford Model 68.  The sleek design and styling made it a car that collectors still value highly even today.

Mechanization was changing farms just
as it was changing factories

Mechanization means the use of machines to help improve or speed up production.  Machines used in automobile factories to make parts are one example.  Mechanization was also advancing rapidly on American farms in the 1920s.

   Tractors were one of the machines that increased the amount of food grown on America's farms.  In 1917 Henry Ford and his son started a new company to build reliable tractors and sell them at affordable prices.  Farms using tractors and other farm machines became much more productive.  A farmer could plow, plant, and harvest crops much more easily than before.

   This photo shows a tractor pulling a plow to get a field ready for planting.  It would have been very difficult to plow a farm this size with horses.

All images are from the Library of Congress. 
Some have been edited or resized for this page.

Copyright Notice

   Copyright 2009, 2016 by David Burns.  All rights reserved.  As a guide to the Virginia Standards of Learning, some pages necessarily include phrases or sentences from that document, which is available online from the Virginia Department of Education.  The author's copyright extends to the original text and graphics, unique design and layout, and related material.