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Henry Ford’s Own Story

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Henry Ford’s Own Story
Chapter XII
LEARNING ABOUT ELECTRICITY

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Return to Henry Ford’s Own Story - Chapter XI - BACK TO DETROIT

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Chapter XII - LEARNING ABOUT ELECTRICITY

FORTY-FIVE dollars a month and a twelve-hour- a-day job for these Henry Ford had traded his big, pleasant home, with its assured comfort and plenty, and his place as one of the most prosper ous and respected men in Greenfield. The change would have been a calamity to most men.

Henry Ford was happy. The new job gave him a chance to work with machinery, an opportunity to learn all about electricity. His content ment, as he went whistling about his work after Gilbert left, would have seemed pure insanity to the average person. Forty-five dollars a month !

"You see, I never did bother much about money," he says. "My wages were enough for food and shelter, and that was all I wanted. Money matters always seemed to sort of take care of themselves, some way. It s always that way. If a man is working at something he likes, he s bound to work hard at it, and then the money comes. Worrying about money is about the worst thing a man can do it takes his mind off his work."

His philosophy apparently justified itself.

In the months that followed sub-station A had no more breakdowns. Now and then Manager Gilbert inquired how the new man was getting along. "A wizard at machinery had some trouble with the dynamo last night, and he had it fixed in no time," he heard. Or, "Say, where d you get him? He knows more about this plant than the man that built it."

Ford himself was not in evidence. The man ager, quitting work at about the time Ford arrived at the sub-station for the night shift, did not see him again until one day at the end of three months the engine at the main plant stopped. The engineer in charge looked at it and shook his head.

"Can t do anything with it till to-morrow," he said. "We ll have to take it down." It was late in the afternoon, and the engine was needed to keep Detroit lighted that night. Gilbert, remembering the reports of the new man, sent for Ford. He came and fixed the engine.

It was all in the day s work, as far as he was concerned. He went back to sub-station A and forgot the incident. He does not remember it now. Gilbert remembered it, but he did not go out of his way to pay any attention to Ford. He simply forgot about the mechanical work of sub station A. He knew Ford would take care of it. A manager spends his time and thought on the poor workmen ; a good man he leaves alone.

When Ford had been with the Edison Com pany six months, drawing his forty-five dollars regularly and handing it to Mrs. Ford to pay the landlady, he knew the Edison plants from the basements up. He had become enthusiastic over electrical problems. In his idle time, after his twelve hours work at the sub-station, he was planning the batteries and spark-plugs for his gasoline engine.

About that time a shift in the force left vacant the place of manager of the mechanical depart ment. Gilbert sent for Ford.

"Think you can handle the job?" he asked him.

"Yes, I can handle it," Ford said. Gilbert gave him the job. When he drew his pay at the end of the month he found he was getting $150.

"Now," he said to himself, "I ve got to have a place of my own, where I can work on my gasoline engine at night."

"Now we can have a home of our own, and get away from this awful boarding-house," Mrs. Ford exclaimed, when he told her the news, and he, contrasting the supper he had just eaten with memories of her excellent cooking, heartily agreed. Besides, it seemed to him that paying rent was wasting money. He proposed to buy a lot and build on it.

They talked it over, walking up and down De troit s wide, tree-shaded streets in the evening. Next morning early Mrs. Ford put on her hat and went down to the real estate offices. Before night two hustling young city-lot salesmen had interviewed Ford at the Edison plant, and when he came home that night another one was waiting on the boarding-house steps.

That week was a busy one. Ford worked from six in the morning to six at night in the Edison plant, hurried home to find Mrs. Ford waiting, bright-eyed with eagerness to tell him of the lots she had seen that day, and before he had finished his supper he was snatched away from it to hear an enthusiastic salesman describe still other bargains in Detroit real estate.

Impatient to be at work on his drawings for the gasoline engine, he was taken from end to end of the city to inspect homesites. He was ex periencing that agony of all workers, being obliged to spend so much time preparing a place to work that there was none left for the work.

"This thing has to stop," he said in despera tion to his wife one evening. "I ve been inquir ing around a little, and I think the best place to buy is out on Edison avenue. Put on your hat and we ll go out and decide on one of those lots we saw last Saturday."

They went out and looked them over. On one of the lots was an old shed. Ford examined it.

"If this place suits you, we ll take it," he said. "This shed will make a shop without much fix ing. I ll build the gasoline engine here."

Mrs. Ford looked about at the scattered little houses and bare lots. It was spring; the grass was beginning to sprout, and the smell of damp earth and the feeling of space reminded her of the country. She liked it.

"All right, let s buy this one/ she said.

A few days later they signed the contract. The lot cost seven hundred dollars, fifty dollars down and the rest in monthly payments. Ford drew from the savings bank two hundred dollars, his bank balance at the time he left the farm, and bought lumber. After that he spent his evenings building the house.

While he hammered and sawed Mrs. Ford was at work in the yard. She set out rose bushes, planted a vegetable garden behind the shed. The neighboring women came over to get acquainted, and asked her to come in some time and bring her sewing as soon as she got settled. After those six months in a dreary boarding house it must have been pleasant to her to see the beginnings of a home and a friendly circle again.

"This seems to be a nice neighborhood ; I think we re going to enjoy it here," she said later to her husband, holding the lantern while he nailed down the floors, long after dark.

"That s good glad you like it," he answered. "I wish the place was finished, so I could get to work."

Meantime, at the Edison plant, he was making his first experiments in applying his machine-idea to the managing of men.

Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

Source:  Wikisource


Go to Henry Ford’s Own Story - Chapter XIII - EIGHT HOURS, BUT NOT FOR HIMSELF


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