There was a time before Henry Ford became Henry Ford, an industrialist so well-known that his name was synonymous with consumerism and efficiency in Aldous Huxley's satirical novel "Brave New World." On July 23, 1903, his new Ford Motor Co. introduced the Model A, seen here. At the time, Ford was one of many trying to establish himself in the new automobile business -- though he had a vision of a car for everyone, not just rich people.
Ford was born on a farm in 1863, just north of Detroit in what is now Dearborn, Michigan. Always a tinkerer, by the time he was a teenager he'd moved to the bustling city and started work at a machine shop.
In 1890, Ford constructed his first car in this workshop. He was still learning the nuts and bolts, so to speak, and he took a job in an electrical plant in 1891 to expand his knowledge of machinery and systems. Within five years, he was chief engineer of the local Edison Electric Illuminating Co.
When he wasn't at Edison, Ford was working on a new vehicle -- the Quadricycle. He finally completed a working version in 1896 and drove it through Detroit.
Ford's first factory was at the corner of Mack Avenue and Bellevue Street in Detroit, just northeast of downtown. The city, an established logging port and manufacturing center, was a natural home for the auto industry. Within a year, Ford had moved to a larger plant on Detroit's Piquette Avenue. It is now on the National Register of Historic Places.
Ford's 1903 Model A, with a base price of $750, was enough of a success to allow the company to grow. Here, a family proudly sits in one while women look on from the side of the road.
Ford introduced the Model T, one of the most significant cars in history, in 1908. The affordable Model T made the automobile a product for "the great multitude," in Ford's words, and it also made him a very wealthy man. He built a new factory in Highland Park, Michigan, that employed thousands of people and produced hundreds of thousands of the cars.