On New Year’s Day of 1910, Henry Ford started producing Model T’s at what was then the world’s largest auto factory – the Highland Park Ford Plant. It was an airy complex that would change the world with his new ideas – the moving assembly line, and more than doubling his workers’ pay to the unheard of sum of $5.00 a day.
The assembly line made mass production possible and the unexpected result of boosting his workers’ paychecks meant they could buy his cars and everything else under the sun. Other companies had to compete for the same workers and his employee’s twofold pay increase drove wages up around the country, which stimulated demand.
This true “trickle down” phenomenon gave birth to the modern American Dream of home ownership, plentiful high paying jobs, decent schools and a pathway to citizenship for those willing to do a hard day’s work. There are still lessons to be learned.
“Mass production and the $5.00 day gave the country an enormous boost; it simply made consumers out of almost everyone, in terms of automobiles. The automobile industry was so important to the economy that as it went, the economy seemed to go,” said David Lewis, professor of Business History at the University of Michigan.