The Franklin Institute Logo
Case Files logo

Henry Ford: Revolutionizing the Auto Industry/Industrial Leadership, 1928

Wider Pursuits

The Model T Ford had been introduced in 1908 and, as Henry Ford advanced his mass production methods, 15 million cars were sold before this model was discontinued in 1927 and production switched to the Model A. Reflecting this success, the original Highland Park factory was replaced by the huge Rouge River plant in 1917. The company shareholders resisted this diversion of funds to plant expansion and their resulting lawsuit against Henry Ford was judged valid. (By 1920, in his authoritarian fashion, Henry Ford had bought out these shareholders.)

During this period, with the plant functioning well and his son, Edsel, now president of the company, Ford ceded some control and turned his attention to wider pursuits. His pacifist stance during World War I caused his brilliant original partner, James Couzens, to leave the company and his suppliers, the Dodge Brothers, ended their arrangement and began their own car manufacturing company.

In 1915, Ford financed a well-publicized peace ship, the Oscar II, which sailed to neutral European countries in an effort to end hostilities by "continuous mediation;" it failed to prevent the United States joining the combat in 1917. In 1918, he purchased The Dearborn Independent and used it to publish attacks blaming the mythical "International Jew" for financing wars. He retracted these comments in 1927. President Woodrow Wilson encouraged Ford's candidacy for the United States Senate in 1918 but his opponent's personal attacks led to his defeat.

Ford and Edsel created the philanthropic Ford Foundation in 1936 to "strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation and advance human achievement."