5 Myths About Henry Ford

That "Liberal" Wage Hike
1927: Henry Ford (left) and his son Edsel (right) stand next to the first and the 15-millionth Ford. (Courtesy of the Ford Motor Company)

This is perhaps the most persistent Ford myth. It's true, Henry Ford raised wages to a level unheard-of at it the time: Assembly line workers had the potential to earn $5 a day. But it wasn't so they could buy their own Model Ts, as is widely repeated. Ford wasn't a liberal champion. He didn't particularly care about his workers' individual economic situations. He just wanted his workers to stop getting fed-up and walking off the line mid-shift, which cost the factory in wasted time, reduced or lost productivity and the headache of constantly hiring and training new employees. After the pay increase, productivity and quality improved, turnover was reduced and Ford was satisfied he'd made a sound investment [source: Leef]. However, with that increase, workers had to agree to a code of conduct that applied on the job and on personal time. They couldn't drink, gamble, or allow their wives to work outside the home. Immigrants had to learn English. Ford even employed a committee who would make home visits to ensure these standards were met.

So even though Henry Ford invented methods that changed manufacturing forever, his 'big brother' approach to employee management wasn't one that was especially celebrated — or widely adopted.

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