< Go to Homepage

Henry Ford’s Workers Actually Hated the Assembly Line

History By
Part of the production line at Ford's Highland Park factory, Detroit, Michigan, USA, c1914. The factory, 4.5 miles from the centre of Detroit was the first to make use of assembly-line techniques, in the production of Henry Ford's famous Model T. Designed by Albert Kahn, the plant opened in 1910. (Photo by Oxford Science Archive/Print Collector/Getty Images)
Part of the production line at Henry Ford’s Highland Park factory, Detroit, Michigan, circa 1914. The factory, 4.5 miles from the center of Detroit was the first to make use of assembly-line techniques. Designed by Albert Kahn, the plant opened in 1910. (Oxford Science Archive/Print Collector/Getty Images)

 

On December 1, 1913, Henry Ford fully implemented his moving assembly line. It was an innovation that would transform not just the auto industry, but industry in general. It reduced both the time and labor required to complete a car. Oh, and his workers absolutely hated it.

There were many reasons to hate it. Suddenly teams no longer assembled entire cars. Now workers just focused on a single task. For veterans of the earlier process who were regarded as skilled laborers, this was a big step back. Finally, there was a surrendering of control, and not even control to another human. The frustration was summed up by a worker in the 1920s who declared: “The machine I’m on goes at such a terrific speed that I can’t help stepping on it in order to keep up with the machine. It’s my boss.”

Henry Ford, (1863-1947), Thomas Edison, (1847-1931), American inventors, additional permission required for use.for information contact Superstock., Edison, inventors, Thomas alva Edison, Thomas, Henry, Ford, famous people, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, indus
Henry Ford (1863-1947) and Thomas Edison (1847-1931). (Getty Images)

 

Of course, there were upsides too. More workers were needed. (In 1913, Ford hired more than 52,000 of them.) Wages improved too. Suddenly workers could make $5 for an eight-hour day, when the usual rate was about $2.25 for nine. (Of course, Ford could afford to be generous: His net worth at the time of his death would be approximately $200 billion today.) Ultimately, those who joined Ford knew they made a trade-off: better pay, less freedom. To read more about this transformational moment, click here. To see assembly lines in action, watch the video below.

RealClearLife Staff