| The First Model T
October 1, 1908
Ford’s name is indissolubly associated with both the history of the automobile and the modernization of American industry. It was Ford’s engineering skill, business acumen and resourcefulness that were largely responsible for transforming the automobile from a rich man’s luxury to a universal necessity. Brought up on a farm, Ford early wearied of the drudgery of farming. As an apprentice in a Detroit machine shop, he discovered a natural talent for machinery, and possessing an inventive mind, he determined to “lift farm drudgery off flesh and blood and lay it on steel and motors.” Pursuing his “most conscious ambition,” Ford turned first to making a motor-driven tractor for the farm, but soon discovered that “people were more interested in something that would travel on roads than in something that would do the work of the farms.” And so, he built a steam car, and ran it with a kerosene-driven boiler. But how to make it safe and cheap enough that every man could afford it? Ford solved that problem by substituting gasoline for steam. By 1893 his first motor car was on the road. Running at an astonishing twenty miles per hour, it signaled the creation of America’s largest and most successful industry. With the introduction of the immortal Model T, the Age of the Automobile had begun. By World War I, the name Henry Ford was the most familiar in America; by the time Ford died in 1947, the automobile was the central material fact of American life - social as well as economic.