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


In 1891, Ford left the farm again, this time for work at the Edison Illuminating Company in Detroit as night engineer. In his spare time at the Edison Illuminating Power plant and in his Detroit apartment, he switched his attention and began building experimental gasoline-powered engines. The first Ford vehicle, the "Quadricycle," an improvement on previous gasoline-powered vehicles, resulted from this work and was built in June of 1896 in a nearby garage.

The Quadricycle consisted of a toolbox seat mounted on a chassis, in front of the engine which powered the four bicycle wheels via 10 feet of bicycle chain. Its two-cylinder engine generated four horsepower and a top speed of 20 mph; it had no brakes and no reverse gear drive and it "stopped" by breaking down on its maiden trip through Detroit.

Ford's enthusiasm endured and he was encouraged by the support of Thomas Edison who now favored the gasoline-powered over the electric-powered version of the horseless carriage.

A second Ford model followed in 1898 and by August of the following year, Ford obtained sufficient financial backing to resign from Edison and become superintendent of the new Detroit Automobile Company. This enterprise lasted just one year, beaten by the conflict between rapid profit and hopes of backers vs. output capabilities. One successful model (a delivery wagon) was manufactured in that time.