22 artifacts in this set
To combat German submarine attacks on U.S. cargo ships during World War I, Henry Ford suggested the mass production of submarine chasers. Ford Motor Company accepted a government contract to build these "Eagle Boats" and began production at its partially developed industrial complex along the Rouge River in 1918. By late 1919, Ford had completed 60 Eagle Boats for the U.S. Navy.
Ford Motor Company's River Rouge Plant was conceived as a site for the mass manufacture of Fordson tractors. For a time, it was actually called the Fordson Plant. This photograph shows a tractor assembly line at the Rouge in 1923. To make way for production of the Model A in 1928, tractor assembly was discontinued and relocated to Cork, Ireland.
This is the first Model T engine built at Ford's Rouge factory. The Rouge never built complete Model Ts, but it did make nearly every part that went into them. The parts were shipped back to Ford's Highland Park plant for assembly into finished cars. Not until the Model A, introduced in 1927, were cars fully built at the Rouge.
In 1924-25 the Ford Motor Company ran a series of sixteen dramatic advertisements in the Saturday Evening Post and Country Gentleman magazines. The effectiveness of the ads was due in large part to the specially commissioned artwork that accompanied the descriptive text. This painting, one of two created for the 11th ad, conveys the heat and scale of the Rouge blast furnace operation.
In 1927 Ford Motor Company commissioned Charles Sheeler to do a series of documentary photographs of their River Rouge industrial complex near Dearborn, Michigan. The conveyors move coal and coke to the pulverizing building and screening stations. Coke made from coal is used in the steelmaking process of the Blast Furnaces. This vigorous photograph shows Sheeler's ability to form a compelling image from a complicated scene.
The 1928 Model A was the first automobile completely built at the Rouge, Ford Motor Company's massive factory complex in Dearborn, Michigan. While Model T engines and parts had been manufactured at the Rouge for several years, final assembly of the cars themselves remained at Ford's Highland Park plant. The Model A brought new significance to the growing Rouge factory.
This photograph shows Ford Motor Company's River Rouge Complex in 1930. Completed in 1928 along the newly dredged River Rouge, the Rouge Plant was the largest, most efficient manufacturing complex of its time. It quickly became an icon of modern industrial efficiency.
In the final stages of assembly, the body of a 1931 Ford Model A is lowered onto its chassis. Ford's assembly line resembled a river system. Smaller lines or "streams" fed components -- frames, engines, wheels, bodies -- to the larger final line. All the parts came together in this main "river" line where the car took shape in its completed form.
The world's largest integrated factory, the Ford River Rouge Complex, was completed in 1928. It quickly became an icon of modern industrial efficiency. The vast Rouge Plant serves as a backdrop for Henry Ford -- founder of Ford Motor Company -- and his son Edsel Ford -- Ford Motor Company president -- in this 1933 photograph.
Henry Ford believed in providing employment opportunities to individuals with disabilities. Workers who were blind or visually impaired could sort ammeter gauges or assemble valve bushings by feel, for example, while amputees could operate push-button machines with no difficulty. It was estimated that Ford Motor Company employed as many as 13,000 people with disabilities in 1927.
Henry Ford's last great automotive innovation was his introduction of a low-priced V-8 engine for 1932. Starting under $500, it was an exceptional value. Ford Motor Company's V-8 outsold its four-cylinder engine by a wide margin, and the four-cylinder unit was retired for 1935. The 1932 V-8 engine design remained in production until 1953.
The River Rouge plant's growing importance to Ford Motor Company was confirmed in 1928 when the automaker moved its administrative headquarters from Highland Park to the Rouge's grounds. The four-story administration building, designed by Albert Kahn and faced with white limestone, housed purchasing, sales, advertising, and accounting offices, in addition to office suites for Henry Ford and Edsel Ford.
Ford Motor Company's assembly line was, in fact, a series of separate assembly lines. Engines, like this V-8, were put together in one stream. Frames were fitted with axles, wheels and driver controls in another. Bodies were assembled in another stream. All these lines flowed into the final assembly line where the major components were combined into complete automobiles.
Ford Motor Company refused to recognize the United Auto Workers (UAW) labor union. On May 26, 1937, men from Ford's Service Department (left) attacked labor organizers (right) Robert Kanter, Walter Reuther, Richard Frankensteen, and J.J. Kennedy on a pedestrian overpass at Ford's Rouge Plant. This "Battle of the Overpass" came to symbolize the struggle to unionize Ford. The UAW ultimately succeeded in 1941.
Quality control is an important element in any factory. Here, workers at Ford's Rouge plant inspect radiator grilles for defects. Flawed grilles are removed from the overhead conveyor, repaired, and then returned to the stream to make their way toward the main chassis assembly line.
Starting in 1931, Henry Ford invested much money and research into soybeans. Ford viewed the crop as a bridge between agriculture and industry, and he used soybean oil and soybean-based plastics in Ford Motor Company vehicles. At the Rouge's processing building, soybeans were crushed and mixed with a chemical that extracted the soybean oil.
This diagram illustrates how the massive River Rouge Plant turned coal, iron ore, limestone, rubber, and sand into iron, steel, tires, glass, and finished automobiles.
Tank Assembly Changeover at Ford Motor Company Rouge Plant, Gear and Axle Building, Dearborn, Michigan, 1943
Ford Motor Company repurposed its assembly lines to meet military manufacturing needs during World War II. The last peacetime automobile rolled out of Ford's massive River Rouge plant in 1941, and focus shifted to the wartime production of aircraft engines and military vehicles. The Rouge manufactured M-4 tanks through 1943 and continued producing M-4 engines and armor plates until war's end.
Ford Motor Company and its employees contributed to Allied efforts in World War II in numerous ways. The company built trucks, tanks, aircraft engines, gliders, and B-24 bomber airplanes. Ford workers purchased war bonds with their earnings, either independently or through a payroll deduction program.
Completed in 1928, Ford Motor Company's River Rouge Complex was the largest, most efficient manufacturing complex of its time. It quickly became an icon of modern industrial production. This poster depicts the vast Rouge Plant just after World War II, when Ford added an aircraft engine plant, armor-plate building, magnesium smelter and foundry, and naval training station for defense contract work.
Ford beat General Motors and Chrysler to the market with the first all-new postwar car from the Big Three. The 1949 Ford was a personal triumph for company president Henry Ford II. It represented his successful efforts to rebuild the automaker after the deaths of his father, Edsel Ford, and grandfather, Henry Ford.
Ford Motor Company brought its central Rotunda building from the 1934 Century of Progress Exposition back to Dearborn and, from 1936 to 1962, recreated the excitement of a World's Fair exposition on its home turf. This souvenir book commemorated Ford's 50th Anniversary in 1953. The Ford Rotunda reopened then, with renovations that included a geodesic dome designed by Buckminster Fuller.