Henry Ford (July 30, 1863 - April 7, 1947) was the founder of the Ford Motor Company and is credited with contributing to the creation of a middle class in American society. He was one of the first to apply assembly line manufacturing to the mass production of affordable automobiles.
Ford was born on a prosperous farm in Springwells Township (now in the city of Dearborn, Michigan) owned by his parents, William and Mary Ford, immigrants from County Cork, Ireland. He was the eldest of six children. As a child, Henry was passionate about mechanics, preferring to tinker in his father's shop over doing farm chores. At 13, he saw a self-propelled vehicle, a steam powered thresher, for the first time.
In 1879, he left home for the nearby city of Detroit to work as an apprentice machinist, first with James F. Flower & Bros., and later with the Detroit Dry Dock Co. In 1882, he returned to Dearborn to work on the family farm and became adept at operating the Westinghouse portable steam engine. This led to his being hired by Westinghouse company to service their steam engines. Upon his marriage to Clara Bryant in 1888 Ford supported himself by farming and running a sawmill.
In 1891, Ford became an engineer with the Edison Illuminating Company, and after his promotion to Chief Engineer in 1893, he had enough time and money to devote attention to his personal experiments on internal combustion engines. These experiments culminated in 1896 with the completion of his own self-propelled vehicle named the Quadricycle, which he test-drove on June 4 of that year.
After this initial success, Ford left Edison Illuminating and, with other investors, formed the Detroit Automobile Company. The Detroit Automobile Company went bankrupt soon afterward because Ford continued to improve the design, instead of selling cars. Ford raced his vehicles against those of other manufacturers to show the superiority of his designs. With his interest in race cars, he formed a second company, the Henry Ford Company. During this period, he personally drove his Quadricycle to victory in a race against Alexander Winton, a well-known driver and the heavy favorite on October 10, 1901. Ford was forced out of the company by the investors, including Henry M. Leland in 1902, and the company was reorganized as Cadillac.