If there’s one day that created the modern 20th Century Detroit, it
would be Jan. 5, 1914. On that day a century ago, Henry Ford shocked the
nation by introducing the $5-a-day wage for Ford autoworkers.
$5 Day roughly doubled what Ford and other industrialists had been
paying their workers. Although it astonished and angered his peers, Ford
calculated — correctly as it turned out — that paying so much would
allow his workers to buy their own Ford cars, and reduce what had been a
costly level of turnover in the company’s factories. It would create a
loyal workforce that would boost productivity and profits to new
The new wage rate set off seismic shifts in American
society. A tidal influx of job candidates from the South and around the
world flowed into Detroit. Factory jobs became prized, helping turn
America into the world’s industrial colossus. Detroit and America were
never the same.
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