Carmaker Henry Ford and his mighty contribution to Allied Victory, by Con McGrath
Henry Ford was a leading industrialist throughout the early 1900s and created the first mass produced automobiles. Ford held many strong convictions on religion, history, politics, and war. These convictions led him to oppose both World Wars at their outbreak in line with his general pacifism, but he then eventually stood behind his own country as the United States entered the wars.
The carmaker extraordinaire was born July 30, 1863 to William and Mary Ford in Greenfield Township, Michigan, USA. Henry’s father William was born in Ballinascarthy near Clonakilty, in West Cork, and was the son of Thomasine (née Smith) and Jonathan ‘John’ Ford.
It was in 1847 that John (Henry Ford’s grandfather) left famine-stricken Ballinscarthy with his family for America. In Michigan John bought a farm from an old acquaintance from West Cork, Henry Maybury. Incidentally, residing on the adjacent farm was another Cork man, Patrick Ahern from Fair Lane off Shandon Street in Cork City. This family would play a part in the subsequent story of John’s son William.
Said William, aged 21 when he left Ballinascarthy, went to work farming on his father’s farm, while also using his carpentry tools which he had brought over from Ireland.
On April 21, 1861, William married Mary Litogot, she was an orphan (a daughter of Belgian immigrants) and had been adopted by Patrick Ahern and his family. William and Mary had eight children, six of whom survived into adulthood.
Their son Henry was ambitious and interested in mechanical objects. He experimented with machinery while still helping on the family farm. When aged 25, Henry married Clara Jane Bryant, the daughter of a neighbouring farmer, on April 11, 1888. In the home he built for his wife on a 40-acre tract his father William gave him, Henry drew his first diagram of a gasoline engine, which he was convinced was destined to replace the noisy steam engine.
Henry soon realized that he could not build his engine on a farm, but needed the superior mechanical equipment that could be found in a city such as Detroit. So in 1891, the young couple moved to Detroit, where Henry found employment as a machinist.
At home in his kitchen Ford experimented and tested his engine idea, with the engine clamped to the sink, the spark plug connected to the ceiling light socket, and the oil cup tended by his wife. With his gasoline engine a success, Ford’s next ambition was to make his engine drive a four-wheel carriage. Motor vehicles were being produced by hand in Europe, but there was no commercial manufacturing of any motorcar.