Michigan: Auto Nation

By Lauren Gamber Premium

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henry ford museam Michigan model t

Washington, D.C., April 27. His 1921 Model T Ford polished to a mirror like finish, Ernest A. Franke, elderly Washingtonian, drove to the White House executive offices to day with intentions of showing the ancient model to Henry Ford.


Michigan’s own Henry Ford, born in Greenfield, is credited with inspiring business and societal transformations like mass production, franchising, and the rise of the American suburb.

While working as an engineer for the Edison Illuminating Co. in 1896, he built a self-propelled vehicle he called the Ford Quadricycle. He started the Detroit Automobile Co. in 1902, and following a dispute with financial backers, established the Ford Motor Co. the next year.

In 1908, Ford debuted the Model T: affordable at $825, easy to drive and cheap to repair. The moving assembly belts he introduced in 1913 (following a suggestion by his employees) further drove down prices, to about $360 in 1916. Ford also took the unconventional step of limiting employees’ work week to 40 hours and raising wages to $5 per day, ensuring his workers could afford the cars they produced.


Ford opened a museum and restored historical village in 1929 to display his collection of antiques and share stories of American ingenuity. Today, The Henry Ford in Dearborn includes the Museum of American Innovation, Greenfield Village, Ford Rouge Factory Tour and the Henry Ford Academy high school. Learn more and view digital exhibits at their website.

To get started in your Michigan genealogy research, check out our Michigan State Guide and Michigan Fast Facts and Key Resources.