PBS Explores the Life, Achievements of Henry Ford

Article excerpt

After watching PBS' "American Experience" on Henry Ford, you see what he was really about.

Control.

He controlled his company, he controlled his workers, and he controlled his "everyman" image as much as he could.

Like many controllers -- and inventors -- he changed the world.

As director Sarah Colt shows in her two-hour documentary (tonight at 9, PBS), Ford, born in 1863, the oldest son of a farmer in rural Michigan, was expected to follow in his father's footsteps. He disliked farming immensely. His parents let him go to Detroit to pursue his engineering talents.

Ford became obsessed with the idea of building automobiles, then a rich man's toy. He wanted to make them for everyone.

In 1896, he built a gas-powered car, called a "quadicycle." It intrigued many people but problems with his investors forced him to close his first company.

In 1903, he incorporated one of American's greatest brands, the Ford Motor Co. He experimented with new versions until he found the one he considered to be perfect: the Model-T, in 1908.

Ford was quoted as saying that buyers could have the Model-T in any color as long as it was black. Ms. Colt's documentary points out that the first Model-T was green. The initial price was $850, considerably cheaper than other automakers, and was "remarkably durable" -- which was good considering the state of the roads at the time.

Consumers gobbled it up. Suddenly, everyone could travel, and travel they did.

Ford implemented the concept of a production line where a worker did the same job on each car, which then moved to the next worker, and the next. …