A Job at Ford's
A summary of the information presented in the video as part of the PBS Series The Great Depression.
Before the onset of the Great Depression, Americans vote Henry Ford the greatest man in history, after Napoleon Bonaparte and Jesus Christ. By 1927, he alone controls the most important business in the most important industry in the booming American economy. Ford's simple American bargain -- high wages in exchange for hard work -- attracts tens of thousands to his giant River Rouge factory near Detroit.
But the bargain begins to unravel when he speeds up the production line and hires a private police force to spy on employees. When the Depression overtakes Ford in 1929, his workers suddenly face a new, grim reality. Unemployment rises ultimately to 50%, machine guns guard Henry Ford's home and hunger marchers die in a bloody battle at the gates of the Rouge.
January 1, 1914: Ford introduces the five-dollar-a-day wage, twice what his workers earned before and twice what they could earn at any other auto company.
1920-1926: After World War I, people stream to Detroit, America's industrial mecca. Half the cars in the world are Model T's, which cost less than a team of horses. Ford, the wealthiest man in America, establishes private social welfare programs, including dancing classes for employees, builds a private police force. His Dearborn Independent begins its first series of anti-Semitic articles.
1927: Ford's River Rouge plant is the greatest industrial complex in history, but Ford must lower wages and speed up his assembly line in order to maintain low prices. Competition from other manufacturers leads Ford to shut down the line. The massive layoffs are a harbinger of the great economic debacle to come.
May 7, 1927: The last Model T rolls off the Ford assembly line.
December 2, 1927: Ford makes a spectacular turn-around with the introduction of the new Model A.
1929: President Hoover opens Greenfield Village, Ford's "museum of rural life." But outside the gates of this model village are signs that American prosperity is beginning to disintegrate -- a rapidly growing gap between rich and poor, a collapsing farm economy, growing unemployment, a great pyramid of debt, unbridled stock speculation. The stock market has begun to falter.
October 29, 1929: On "Black Tuesday," the stock market crashes.
1930: Layoffs sweep the nation as the greatest economy in history collapses. America has no unemployment insurance, no social security, no national relief for the poor. The American Communist Party organizes nationwide demonstrations. Unemployment in Detroit reaches 20%, heading for 50%, but Henry Ford manages to keep his workers on the job. His personal income for the year is 30 million dollars.
August 1, 1931: With a third of Ford dealers out of business and seven other automakers in bankruptcy, Ford stops making Model A's, closes the Rouge plant and lays off 60,000 workers. Detroit reels, paying out more in welfare relief than any city in United States history.
March 7, 1932: Police and Ford security guards open fire on 3000 unemployed workers
marching on the Rouge Plant to demand jobs. Four people are killed, 25 wounded. Henry Ford fortifies his home with machine gun emplacements and stockpiles teargas and ammunition at the Rouge.
David Moore, Ford assembly line employee
Gwendolyn Edwards, Ford windshield plant employee
Ford Bryan, Ford engineer
Paul Boatin, Ford foundry machine shop employee
Roberto Munoz, son of Ford employee
Horace Sheffield, son of Ford employee
Victor Reuther, Detroit resident (later became a U.A.W. organizer)
Francis Immoberstag, niece of Henry Ford
Reynold Wik, Nebraska farmer, Model T owner
Martin Hayden, Reporter, Detroit News
Douglas Fraser, son of Ford employee (later, president, U.A.W.)
Virginia Nicoll, Detroit resident
Anna Kruchen, Detroit Ukrainian Unemployed Council