Henry Ford is accredited for producing an affordable car, paying high wages to his employees, and creating a middle class in America. However, there were many facets to the famous industrialist that we know as Henry Ford. He was involved in creating companies that made everything from airplanes to charcoal, but more importantly, he was ahead of his time in promoting equality and education for minorities while his prejudice against a certain group of people hurt his empire. After Henry had established his automobile company, he put his mind to work on other projects.
For example he employed a higher number of minorities and people with disabilities than any other company during that time. (Wood, pg. 334). Ford introduced the “Five-Dollar-Day” incentive plan in an effort to reduce his high turnover of employees since work on the assembly line was repetitive and monotonous. Many workers were losing interest and he didn’t want to lose his best ones to other companies. No employee was excluded from the pay rate except women under the age of twenty one until 1916 (Wood, pg. 164).
His company employed more African Americans than any other company during that time period. “By the late 1910's, black workers were being hired into a wide variety of jobs at the Ford Motor Company, including skilled machinist and white-collar positions” (Watts, pg. 491). Ford's black employees were also primarily in the more dangerous positions. Other companies like General Motors and Chrysler had a combined black workforce that totaled one third of their employees, much less than Ford's.
Ford was also on the forefront in hiring people with physical or mental limitations, and even criminals. “Over 1,700 cripples were in the employ of the company at the outbreak of the World War I” (Marquis, pg. 111). For example, it was discovered a blind man who was assigned to count nuts and bolts was doing the job of two able bodied men. In another example, men that were injured on the job and bedridden were given work to do while in company infirmary (Ford, pg. 109 and 110). Ford was an equal opportunity employer long before the government made it the law. Ford implemented English language programs for his immigrant employees. He also established schools for the children of his employees in the Dearborn Michigan area, including black children. “As he told a journalist in 1914,”Foreign laborers cannot become American citizens, learn to spend more money for living and efficiently enjoy freedom and citizenship unless they can speak, read, and write English” (Watts, pg. 214). Although he only made it through the eighth grade in school, he was a major advocate of education. He had thirty-eight employees fired because they refused to learn English in 1919. All workers who couldn't read, speak, or write English were expected to attend the classes. “The object of education is not to fill a man's mind with facts; it is to teach him how to use his mind in thinking” (Ford, pg. 249).
In addition to educating employees in basic skills he also published a pamphlet on the evils of tobacco entitled, The Case Against the Little White Slaver. With the help of Len G. Shaw, a writer for the Detroit Free Press, they acquired testimonials from leading figures in the areas of science, sports, and industry leaders. Ford added his opinion on the subject as well and was the first public figure to attack cigarettes. He soon banned smoking on all of his properties; even customers were not allowed to smoke on company property. He included articles and stories from magazines and health journals. One of Ford's quotes on the matter was, “It is evident beyond question that the use of tobacco by the young man is injurious to his health” (Watts pg. 306-07).
In the book Tobacco: A Cultural History of how an Exotic Plant Seduced Civilization, it mentions Thomas Edison was joined in