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Henry Ford’s Own Story

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Henry Ford’s Own Story
Chapter XXIV
"THE GREATEST GOOD TO THE GREATEST NUMBER"

Return to Henry Ford’s Own Story
Return to Henry Ford’s Own Story - Chapter XXIII - FIGHTING THE SELDON PATENT

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Chapter XXIV - "THE GREATEST GOOD TO THE GREATEST NUMBER"

THE response to that first Christmas gift from the Ford company to its employees was another proof of Ford s theory that friendliness pays. In the following month the production of cars broke all January records. Salesmen, with a new feel ing of loyalty to the firm, increased their efforts, worked with greater enthusiasm and their orders jumped.

The fight with the association still raged in the courts and in the newspapers, but the factory wheels were turning faster than ever before. More cars were pouring out, more people were buying. That year the Ford organization made and sold , cars. Ford had made good his prophecy that the new factory would produce , cars in one year.

The phenomenal growth of his business had begun. His own fortune was doubling and doubling again. America had produced another self-made millionaire.

Ford himself believes that any one who will pay the price he has paid can make a financial suc cess as great.

"Poverty doesn't hold a man down," he says.

"Money doesn't amount to anything it has no real value whatever. Any young man who has a good idea and works hard enough will succeed ; money will come to him. What do I mean by a good idea? I mean an idea that will work out for the best interests of every one an idea for something that will benefit the world. That s the kind of an idea the world wants."

This country has produced hundreds of men whose lives prove this statement men who have built railroads, telephones, telegraph systems, great merchandising organizations. These men have subordinated every personal pleasure to their work. They have exhausted their minds and bodies, driven themselves mercilessly, used every ounce of energy and ability, and won.

The tragedy for them and for our country is that in winning the fight most of them have lost their perspective on it. They themselves have become absorbed by the machine they have built up. The money they have amassed usually means very little to them, but business is their passion. With millions upon millions piling up to their credit, they continue to hold down wages, to pro tect their profits, to keep the business running as it has always run.

That business has been built only because fun damentally it was for "the greatest good to the greatest number," but in the long fight they have lost sight of that fact. Let a new project arise which is for the general good and "it will hurt business!" they cry in alarm.

Ford kept his viewpoint. Partly because of his years on the farm, where he worked shoulder to shoulder with other men and learned essential democracy; partly because most of his work had been in mechanics rather than in business, but most of all because he is a simple, straight-think ing man, the tremendous Ford organization did not absorb him,

He had applied his machine idea first to an en gine, then to a factory ; in time he was to apply it to society as a whole.

"That Christmas present of ours is paying bet ter dividends than any money we ever spent," he said to Couzens with a grin. "First thing we know, the men ll be paying us back more than we gave them. Look here." He spread on Couzens desk a double handful of letters from the men.

"They like it," he said soberly. "Some of them say they were worrying about Christmas bills, and so on. Those checks took a load off their minds, and they re pitching in and working hard to show they appreciate it. I guess in the long run anything that is good for the men is good for the company."

In the months that followed he continued to turn over in his mind various ideas which oc curred to him, based on that principle.

The Ford employees and agents now numbered tens of thousands. They were scattered all over the earth, from Bombay to Nova Scotia, Switzer land, Peru, Bermuda, Africa, Alaska, India everywhere were workers, helping Ford. Black men in turbans, yellow men in embroidered robes, men of all races and languages, speaking, think ing, living in ways incomprehensible to that quiet man who sat in his office in Detroit, were part of the vast machine out of which his millions poured.

He thought it over that great machine. He knew machines. He knew that the smallest part of one was as necessary as the largest, that every nut and screw was indispensable to the success of the whole. And while he brooded over the mighty machine his genius had created, the thought slowly formed itself in his mind that those multiplying millions of his were the weak spot in the organization. Those millions represented energy, and through him they were drain ing out of the machine, accumulating in a useless, idle store. Some way they must be put back.

"Everybody helps me," he said. "If I'm going to do my part I must help everybody!" *

A new problem filled his mind. How should he put his money back into that smooth, efficient organization in such a way as to help all parts of it without disorganizing it? It was now a part of the business system of the world, founded on financial and social principles which underlie all society. It was no small matter to alter it.

Meantime, there were immediate practical necessities to be met. His business had far outgrown the Piquette avenue plant. A new factory must be built. He bought a tract of 276 acres in the northern part of Detroit and began to plan the construction of his present factory, a num ber of huge buildings covering more than forty- seven acres.

In this mammoth plant Ford had at last the opportunity, unhampered by any want of capital, to put into operation his old ideas of factory man agement. Here 1800 men were to work, quickly, efficiently, without the loss of a moment or a mo tion, all of them integral parts of one great ma chine. Each department makes one part of the Ford car, complete, from raw material to the fin ished product, and every part is carried swiftly and directly, by gravity, to the assembling room.

But Ford's new idea also began to express it self here. He meant to consider not only the efficiency but the happiness and comfort of his men.

The walls were made of plate glass, so that every part of the workrooms were light and well ventilated. One whole department, employing men, was established to do nothing but sweep floors, wash windows, look after sanitary conditions generally. The floors are scrubbed every week with hot water and alkali. Twenty-five men are employed constantly in painting the walls and ceilings, keeping everything fresh and clean.

That winter the Christmas checks went again to all the employees. Ford was still working out a real plan by which his millions could help; meantime, he divided his profits in this makeshift fashion.

The following year the company moved to its new quarters. In that atmosphere of light and comfort the men worked better than ever before. Production broke another record 38,528 cars in one year were made and sold.

"And the automobile world is waiting to hear the next announcement from Henry Ford," said a trade journal at that time. "Whether or not he has another sensation in store is the livest topic of discussion in Detroit manufacturing circles nay, even throughout the world."

Henry Ford was preparing another sensation, but this time it was to be in a larger field. He had startled the world, first, with a motor car, next with a factory. Now he was thinking of broad economic problems.

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 XXV - FIVE DOLLARS A DAY MINIMUM


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