Most Americans start their day in the following way. They wake up, walk into the garage, open their car door in a drowsy haze and speed off to work—only to curse loudly after realizing they’ve forgotten their briefcase on the kitchen table.
We take this frustration for granted today, but 107 years ago—it was revolutionary.
That’s because exactly 107 years ago today, Henry Ford and his team of engineers drove (HA!) America into the age of modern manufacturing. They implemented the first moving assembly line, thereby reducing the number of steps required to construct complex machinery. His pioneering creation was called the Model T.
Ford was quoted saying, “I will build a car for the great multitude. It will be large enough for the family, but small enough for the individual to run and care for. It will be constructed of the best materials, by the best men to be hired, after the simplest designs that modern engineering can devise. But it will be so low in price that no man making a good salary will be unable to own one, and enjoy with his family the blessing of hours of pleasure in God's great open spaces.”
By reducing the money, time and manpower needed to build cars, Ford was able to sell his Model T for hundreds less than any competitor. (Eventually, the car cost around $300—less than $5,000 today.) For the first time in history, quality vehicles were affordable to the masses, giving everyone the freedom to forget their briefcase on the kitchen table.
Further, more cars meant higher demand for infrastructure. Families began to move farther from coastlines. Suburbs were developed. “Vacations” became less extravagant. And true “freedom” became accessible for the first time in history.
By the 1920s, other manufacturers had caught on to the streamlined assembly process—and their timing was perfect. Many Americans wanted more than a sturdy, affordable car. They wanted style, speed and luxury.
In 1927, production of the Model T came to an end, but Ford’s breakthrough manufacturing procedures live on to this day and serve a valuable role in American history.