Technology as symbol & as system;

Ford factory as system,

Other auto systems of infrastructure & support.


Europe interest in steam for road transport. 

1769 Nicholas Cugnot - French govt experiment with steam tractors pulling cannon. 

1801 Richard Trevithick (Britain) - steam carriage, 12 mph. 

1805 Oliver Evans (US) - steam-powered dredge "Orukter Amphibolos" (amphibious digger).


Britain political dispute - 1865 Locomotive Act or Red Flag Act - 2 mph in town, 4 mph highway - not repealed until 1896. 

France, corps of civil engineers, good roads;

1890s "bicycle craze" - "safety bicycle" (low wheels, gears, pneumatic tires) - League of American Wheelmen.

Bicycle manufacture - experience with special machine tools, sheet metal stamping, steel-tube frames, ball bearings, pneumatic tires, chain drive & differential gearing.

Opel in Germany, Peugeot in France, Morris in Britain, Pope & Willys in US.


what type of power?

1870s, French experiments with steam cars; buses in Paris;

1898 Francis & Freelan Stanley - Locomobile or “Stanley Steamer” best-selling car in US 1900, under $1000 - made 5000.

Steam – advantages & disadvantages;

improvements - late 1800s lightweight, high-pressure steam engines, automatic controls & flash boiler.


electric car - experiments 1890s France,

1897, 12 electric taxis in New York. 

Pope Manufacturing Company by 1898 made 500 electric & 40 gas autos. 

Electric – advantages & disadvantages;


internal combusion –

advantages & disadvantages –

"you can't convince people to sit over an explosion."


Specific driving conditions;



Internal combustion engine - Otto, Daimler & Benz.

Karl Benz commercially feasible gasoline car - 1893 car, 3-horsepower engine, sold 1,132 cars by 1898, 509 in France, 334 in Germany, 120 England, a few in US.    

Paris world center of auto production, turn of century,

over 130 different auto manufacturers by 1901, including Darracq, Delahaye & Renault - skilled labor & metal-working firms, upper-class market. 

1895 auto race Paris to Bordeaux back to Paris, 732 miles - 22 cars started, nine finished, eight internal combustion.  One 15 mph. 

1898 auto show in Paris. 

French auto production 320 cars in 1896, 16,900 in 1904. 

World's Fairs & public expositions. 

Charles & Frank Duryea Mass. bicycle mechanics - Scientific American - first successful US gas car 1893.

1895 first US auto race - 55-mile course, Chicago Times-Herald - 6 cars started (two electric, three Benz, one Duryea). Duryea 55 miles, just under 8 hours

1895 magazine Horseless Age. 

Duryea car $1500.

1896 produced 13 "Buggy-aut"s


US early auto makers - mechanics, carriage makers or bicycle makers. 

1899 thirty US manufacturers, 2500 motor vehicles,

hundreds of other experimental makers;

shift from electric & steam to gas, from New England to Midwest. 


Ransom Olds - first large-volume US producer of gas cars - one-cylinder, three-hp, tiller-steered, chain-drive, curved-dash car $650

1901 Roy Chapin Detroit to NY, ten days, average speed 14 mph.  Olds 5,500 cars 1904. 


1900 auto show, NY Madison Square Garden.

long-distance trips & races,

1903, San Francisco to New York. 

1909 Alice Ramsey - 41 day trip, publicity stunt,

1906 San Francisco earthquake,


1904, US overtook French auto production.

1910, 458,500 motor vehicles registered in US.

engine under hood, larger & more powerful engines, differential gear on rear axle, smaller wheels & wider pneumatic tires, steering wheel, shock absorbers, headlights, folding top. 

1912 Charles Kettering - self-starter.


Buyers – wealthy, businessmen, doctors.

1905 need of making lower-priced cars for middle-class market.

Alanson Brush - 1906 Brush Runabout, $500 - wood body.



Henry Ford –

"a car for the great multitude," combining quality & reasonable price.

inexpensive but powerful & sound.

precision compatible with mass production. 


Henry Ford –

myth vs. reality.

Engineer & machinist with Detroit branch of Edison Illuminating Company.

1896 Ford "quadricycle" - 8-mile run Detroit to Dearborn. 

1899 financial backing - Detroit Automobile Company - failed in one year.

1901 Cleveland auto maker Alexander Winton. 

1901 Henry Ford Company;

1902 racer 999 - 70 horsepower - bicycle racer Barney Oldfield "might as well be dead as dead broke." – new speed records.  

1903 Ford Motor Company - $28,000 in capital,

1904, sold 658 autos, profit of $150 each.  

1905 larger building - 300 workers, 25 cars per day.

1908 Model T - four cylinders & 20-hp - heat-treated steel - $825 for runabout.

"No car under $2000 offers more & no car over $2000 offers more except the trimmings."  First year, sold over 10,000,.

Reliability & simplicity - manuals & diagrams.


mass production –

1910 plant Highland Park, Michigan.

machinist Walter Flanders, engineer Charles Sorensen,

machines arranged in sequential, logical order of production.

Special-purpose machine tools & precise gauges.

customized system of power transmission.

1910, assembly teams, parts brought by handtruck.

"moving the work to the man". 

April 1, 1913, test assembly line in flywheel department.

old system, one man 40 per day; new assembly line 95 flywheels per worker per day.

August, 1913, final stage of auto assembly;

conveyor belts & gravity slides;

cut assembly time for chassis from 12.5 hours to 1.5 hours. 

1916 River Rouge, 115 acres.


Ford's work force skilled workers (machinists, engineers) & unskilled assemblers & machine-tenders. 

Skilled US, Britain, Germany; unskilled workers southern or eastern Eur.  

Charlie Chaplin - Modern Times.

370% labor turnover

1914 $5 day

Sociological Dept, Ford English School.


Model T 1916 $345 for runabout - 739,000 cars in 1916.

1.5 million cars per year 1920s. 

Model T withdrawn 1927, over 15 million, price as low as $290.


mid 1920s, car making leading US industry,

tremendous demand for steel.

revolutionized petroleum industry –

rubber, glass, service;


Model T image problem - "you can get a Model T in any color as long as it's black."

1920s, search for style & status.  

General Motors manager Alfred Sloan - annual model change, colors, move customer up to more expensive line. 

Flexible mass production,

1927 Ford Model A.


Ford worshipped in Soviet Union. 

1929, Muncie, Indiana:, "Why on earth do you need to study what's changing this country?  I can tell you what's happening in just four letters:  A-U-T-O!" 

Home design, city layout, lifestyle (recreation).

idea of US prosperity & consumerism.

"machine Age" in America.