Dec. 1, 1913: The Ford Assembly Line Begins Production

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A common myth is that Henry Ford invented the automobile; in reality, he made it available to the rising middle class. 

The Model T ("Tin Lizzie") was introduced to the world in 1908.

This was the first moving assembly line ever, utilizing conveyor belts inspired by Chicago meatpacking plants.

After much trial and error, the Highland Park, Michigan assembly plant opened in 1913. By dividing the process into 45 steps, each of which one person was responsible for, a car could now be built in 90 seconds.

However, after time, workers found the assembly line work boring and began to leave for other companies.

In response, Henry Ford introduced the $5 workday, more than doubling the worker’s daily wage. Not only did this keep his employees loyal, it also allowed them to purchase the very product they were employed to build.

This large-scale production combined with higher wages is termed “Fordism.”

In 1908, the Model T sold for $825 ($23,350 today); by 1925 it sold for only $260 ($7,360 today), making the car more affordable everywhere and giving the middle class in America a real means to purchase on a large scale.

This burst of new travel opportunity would pave the way to the average worker’s lifestyle of commuting, highways and long-distance vacations.

In 1914, Ford produced more cars than all other automakers combined; by the time Ford made its 10 millionth car, half of all cars in the world were Fords.

Although the Model T was retired in 1927, the dam had burst and the assembly line remains the main mode of production across factories today.

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