Henry Ford: On the Way to the Model T
20 artifacts in this set
This photograph shows Henry Ford, age 33, with his first gasoline-powered vehicle in October of 1896. He built the Quadricycle with help from some friends in a shed behind a house he and his wife, Clara, rented.
Henry Ford's third automobile company, formed in 1903, set up shop in a former wagon factory on Detroit's Mack Avenue. Ford's small crew assembled Model As from components made elsewhere. As sales increased, the original building was enlarged to two stories. By 1905, Ford Motor Company had moved to a larger facility on Piquette Avenue.
Henry Ford Driving the Sweepstakes Racer Against Alexander Winton, Grosse Pointe, Michigan, October 10, 1901
This photograph shows Henry Ford in his race car, "Sweepstakes," as he begins to pass Alexander Winton during a 10-mile race at Grosse Pointe, Michigan, in 1901. Winton's car was faster, and his experience greater, but he had engine problems and lost to the upstart Ford. With the win and backing of new investors, Ford began his second automobile company.
This photograph, showing Henry Ford behind the wheel of his first race car, the 1901 "Sweepstakes" racer, was taken on West Grand Boulevard in Detroit, Michigan. Ed "Spider" Huff is shown kneeling on the running board while holding on to the side of the car and staring forward.
These four pages are the original Articles of Association which established the Ford Motor Company on June 16, 1903. It provided the company name, the purpose for which it was formed, the place of operation, the amount of capital stock, the term of years the company would exist and the names of the stockholders. Note, Henry Ford was not president.
Ford Motor Company's first checkbook kept by Secretary James Couzens, shows the struggling company's transition. Their bank account started with $14,500 on June 26, 1903. It sunk to $223.65 by July 10 after 60 checks. Then on July 15, they sold their first car for $850. From then on, the balance kept increasing and the company was off and running.
In 1906 Ford Model Ns were assembled on the third floor of Ford Motor Company's Piquette Avenue factory in Detroit. Cars were put together by crews moving from vehicle to vehicle. No one had yet conceived of the moving assembly line. Behind the rows of cars are engines, stored on their noses to conserve space.
Henry Ford strikes a regal pose in his office at Ford Motor Company's Piquette Avenue Plant around 1908. Ford was probably working on the design of the new Model T at this time. Henry's offices were always neat and tidy because Henry was rarely in them. He spent most of his time out in the factory.
The Quadricycle was Henry Ford's first attempt to build a gasoline-powered automobile. It utilized commonly available materials: angle iron for the frame, a leather belt and chain drive for the transmission, and a buggy seat. Ford had to devise his own ignition system. He sold his Quadricycle for $200, then used the money to build his second car.
This is Henry Ford's first race car. After his first auto company failed, Ford turned to racing to restore his reputation. He raced "Sweepstakes" against Alexander Winton on October 10, 1901, and, to everyone's surprise, the novice Ford beat the established Winton. The victory and resulting publicity encouraged financiers to back Ford's second firm.
Henry Ford hired a fearless bicycle racer named Barney Oldfield to drive "999." Although he had never driven a car, Oldfield not only mastered it but also won his first competition. He went on to become America's first nationally famous racing hero, known for his thrilling exhibition races and the trademark cigar he chewed to protect his teeth in a crash.
After his first two attempts at commercial auto-making failed, Henry Ford found success with the Ford Motor Company, established in 1903. The firm's first product, the Model A, was conventional by the standards of the day. It featured a two-cylinder engine mounted under the seat and rear wheels driven by a chain.
The Model B was Ford's first four-cylinder car and the first to have the engine mounted up front in the European manner. Design difficulties delayed production of the Model B and, although conceived much earlier, it went on the market long after the two-cylinder Model C. Priced at $2,000, the Model B was the most expensive Ford yet, and sold poorly.
Two-seater runabouts like this 1906 Ford Model N were favored by middle-class Americans who could afford one. They were fast and rugged. Most runabouts featured one- or two-cylinder engines and bicycle-style chain drives. But this Ford Model N offered four cylinders and a shaft drive, plus it cost less. At $500, it became the bestselling car in America.
Introduced in 1906, the Model K moved Ford Motor Company into the high-price market -- something Henry Ford didn't like. The six-cylinder, $2,500 Model K cost five times as much as Ford's four-cylinder Model N. Production of the Model K ended in 1908 with the introduction of the Model T. Affordable cars for the mass market were Ford's future.
The Ford Model S was a composite of the Models N and R. The Model R had used the engine and chassis of the hot-selling Model N, but added running boards, a wider body, and larger wheels. When Ford ran out of Model R bodies and wheels the company put the new running boards on the Model N and called it the Model S.
Henry Ford's third automobile company, formed in 1903, set up shop in a former wagon factory on Detroit's Mack Avenue. Ford's small crew assembled Model A cars from components made elsewhere. Within 18 months, Ford Motor Company moved to a larger facility on Piquette Avenue. This building is a replica about one fourth the size of the original Mack Avenue plant.
After building this massive racing car in 1902, Henry Ford was reluctant to drive it. He hired a bicycle racer named Barney Oldfield, who would win many races at the controls of the Ford "999." Both men built careers on the car's success--Oldfield became America's first nationally famous race driver and Ford gained support for his next venture: Ford Motor Company.
For Henry Ford, this Model N represented his ideal of "raising the automobile out of the list of luxuries, and bringing it to the point where the average American citizen may own and enjoy his automobile." A forerunner to the Model T, it proved to be a strong seller from 1906 to 1908.
Clara Ford, wife of Henry Ford, and Myrle Clarkson, a secretary at the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant, drive a Model N past the plant. The Model N was the low-priced but smaller predecessor to the Model T. The Model T was designed and first built in this building, at the corner of Piquette Avenue and Beaubien Street in Detroit.