Henry Ford is known for his world-altering mechanical contributions. But where did he grow up?
Henry Ford was born and raised in Dearborn, Wayne County, Michigan, and grew up on his parents’ family farm. He moved to Detroit at the age of 15 for an apprenticeship, before returning home three years later.
Read on to learn more about Ford’s early life, his time in Detroit, and his lasting impact on mechanical production.
Though remembered as a “revolutionary” who ushered in modernity, Henry Ford began his life on a small farm in Dearborn, Wayne County, Michigan.
He was born on July 30, 1863, as the first surviving son of his parents, William and Mary Ford, though they would go on to have other children.
Henry’s father had arrived in the US from Ireland in 1847 and married his mother in 1861. Their new home, which would become the place of Henry’s birth, was a seven-room, two-story building that was built that same year.
Though Ford was born into an era of industrial expansion, his earliest memories were of a simple life on his family’s prosperous farm. His earliest memory was of his father showing him and his brother a sparrow’s nest in a fallen oak tree near his home.
Ford grew up attending a one-room school and helping his father with the harvest. But his interest in mechanics also began to develop and would soon consume all his attention.
His father gifted him a pocket watch when he was 13, which Ford chose to take apart before reassembling. Without the necessary tools, Ford manufactured his own and began to repair the watches of friends and family.
With his talent emerging, Ford was devastated by the death of his mother in 1876. It was in her memory that Ford later began a restoration of the farm buildings and the place of his birth, as a successful entrepreneur in 1919.
He took care to try to recreate the furnishings faithfully, sourcing original items wherever possible and combing antique shops for exact replicas.
The 1919 restoration was prompted by the extension of Greenfield Road through the family farm. However, Ford would move his childhood home, by transporting it in two parts, to Greenford Village in 1944, possibly due to fears of the effects of increasing urbanization in the area.
His original birthplace is now marked by an engraved stone, at an intersection, which stands in a parking lot on Ford Road in Greenfield. The farmhouse can be visited at its Greenford Village location.
Though Henry Ford’s father had expectations for Henry which would see him assume responsibility for the farm, Henry had other ideas. His interest in mechanical subjects had only increased with the death of his mother and his introduction to steam engines.
Aged just 15, Ford left his birthplace and childhood home to pursue an apprenticeship in Detroit as a machinist, where he continued to realize his passion for machinery.
Armed with three years worth of experience in Detroit, Ford returned to his family’s farm where he used his skills to help repair farming machinery, take occasional work in Detroit, and continue to explore steam engines.
The Ford Motor Company
Whilst Ford became an engineer in Detroit with the Edison Illuminating Company, his fascination with combustion engines endured and he began working on various prototypes, supported by investment from supporters.
In 1903, Ford established the Henry Ford Motor Company and introduced the Model T vehicle on October 1, 1908. His desire was to build a car for “the great multitude”, and he focussed on affordability,
Ford would revolutionize methods of production within factories by establishing an assembly line. It was this that enabled him to produce affordable automobiles, and lots of them.
Learn more about Henry Ford’s early life and legacy in the YouTube video below.