James Couzens was right when he proclaimed, on more than one occasion, that his business partner Henry Ford was a genius. Today there are many stories and examples that support that assertion by Mr. Couzens but it is important to understand the impact Mr. Ford’s genius and accomplishments have had on our lives. Without that understanding, we cannot appreciate Mr. Ford’s genius in the same way that people of his generation did.
From a young age Henry Ford was a tinkerer. He was always interested in how things worked and how he could make them work better. As a young man he repaired watches, first at a little workbench by the windowsill in his parent’s farmhouse, then a few years later while working evenings from the back room of a jeweler’s shop in Detroit.
Even in those days Henry envisioned producing a product that anyone could afford. His first concept was for a pocket watch that he hoped could sell for just 30 cents each. He figured he would have to produce about 2, 000 watches each day, or over a half million a year, to meet this low price point. In the end he came to the conclusion that there was not enough demand to sustain that level of production. Even so, Henry’s dream of mass production and low prices would stay with him and the fruition of that vision would change the way we live today.
Henry Ford’s life spanned an era of dramatic change:
- From the Civil War to World War II.
- From candlelight to electric light.
- From farm to factory.
- From horses to automobiles.
Abraham Lincoln was president when he was born and Harry Truman was president when he died. America would be completely transformed during Henry Ford’s life time. Much of that change would come about as a result of what he did to bring his vision of mass production into being.