DEARBORN - Born July 30, 1863, Henry Ford spent the majority of his 83 years thinking, creating and improving. In many ways he was the epitome of the global brand promise we use today, tirelessly pushing for progress on many fronts every day that he was able.
The Ford historical archive is home to hundreds of photos the company’s founder. Each image provides a sense of what Henry Ford, a man with a larger than life reputation, was really like.
Of course there are images of him working – both in shops and on farms, demonstrating products and testing the latest and greatest to emerge from the research and development labs.
A chronology of his manufacturing accomplishments also can be seen in these pictures. From the early days of the Quadricycle, the Ford 999 and the Model A on through to the Model T, Fordson tractor and the B-24 Liberator Bomber plane used in WWII, it’s impressive how many machines Henry Ford had a hand in producing.
Just as prevalent as the work-related shots are pictures of Henry Ford seemingly having a good time, taking in fresh air on camping trips and dancing or chatting up community members during one of his many legendary birthday celebrations.
Thomas Edison and Charles Lindbergh appear frequently with Henry Ford in the photos, but pictures with children, a set of the population Henry Ford held in high esteem, are just as common. Despite his celebrated status and infinite list of accomplishments, Henry Ford always had time to listen to the cares and opinions of the youngest among us.
Dutiful activity is a theme throughout the photo collection. It is apparent some action was paused in order to capture just about every image. Even in photos featuring the founder of Ford Motor Company relaxing there is an undeniable look of sharp concentration that remains present across his face.
From making a case for modern transportation to nearly single-handedly creating the middle class, the life of Henry Ford had a universal impact that is still strongly felt today, especially wherever the iconic Blue Oval is on display.
Born July 30, 1863 to William and Mary Ford in Springwells Township, Mich., Henry was the oldest of six children.
Young Henry Ford
An appreciation for machines and engineering started early for Henry Ford. By the age of 12, he had established his own small shop and eventually became a machinist’s apprentice with James F. Flower and Bros. in Detroit.
Henry and Clara
Henry Ford married Clara Bryant in 1888 and is quoted as saying, “The greatest day of my life, was the day I married Mrs. Ford."
Henry and Quadricycle
The Quadricycle was the first “horseless carriage” developed by Henry Ford. The creation was completed in 1896 and it used four bicycle tires and was ethanol-powered.
Henry Ford in Model A
Sales of the Model A began in 1903. The first 19 letters of the alphabet were used to name vehicles – many of which were experimental iterations that never intended for public sale.
Henry and 999 race car
Pioneering the sport of car racing, Henry Ford developed the Ford 999. He set the world speed record of 91.37 MPH driving the 999 on frozen Lake St. Clair in January of 1904.
Henry Ford helps farmer plow a field in a Fordson tractor in 1918. Henry Ford did not enjoy farm work; fortunately he was given the ability to develop machines that made this work easier.
Henry and Henry Ford II
Henry Ford and grandson Henry Ford II in 1920. Henry Ford II took over the reigns as president of Ford Motor Company in 1945.
Edsel and Henry in 1921 with a Model T. Built between 1909 and 1927, the Model T started out with an introductory price of $825 and ushered in a new era of mass production.
Henry Ford V8
Stamping the number on the first V8 engine in 1932.
Henry and little girl
Henry Ford once said "Trouble with the world today is people don't go to children enough. I don't like old people. I stay away from them." (Detroit Times, Paul Gallico interview, Jan. 11, 1938)
Edsel and Henry Ford visiting the construction site of the Rouge tool and Die shop in 1938.
Inspecting the landing gear of a P-40 fighter jet in 1940. During World War II, Ford Motor Company built more than 8,600 B-24 Liberator bombers.
Hitting soy plastic bumper
Ever eager to prove the benefits of new technology, Henry Ford takes a powerful swing at a soy plastic trunk panel to demonstrate its resiliency in 1941.
Ford, Edison, Firestone on step
Always in good company, here Henry Ford is catching up with Thomas Edison and Harvey Firestone.
Henry Ford and Charles Lindberg
Charles Lindberg and Henry Ford sharing a conversation.
Taking a breather
At first glance, Henry Ford looks quite relaxed in this shot, however closer inspection reveals his ever-present expression of determination.
In his 83 years, Henry Ford earned every accolade awarded to him. The energy, creativity and undying curiosity that took him so far continues to encourage people to demand more of themselves even to this day.