Henry Ford Abandons Edison – 8/15/1899

US History |

In 1899 Henry Ford resigned his position as the chief engineer at the Edison Illuminating Company. He worked at the main plant for Edison, and decided that the electric field was not actually for him. He wanted more time to concentrate on his true passion and the thing that would make him famous: creating and perfecting automobiles. 

Henry Ford sought out to become great from an early age. And everyone knows what legacy he left. The Ford Motor Company still exists today and it’s not a stretch to say that most of you reading this article have owned or currently own one of his cars right now.

He left his family’s farm in Dearborn, Michigan, at age 16. Due to financial constraints he had to work in the machine shops of Detroit in order to help support his family. In 1888 he married Clara Bryant. Their son Edsel was born in 1893. Ford was made chief engineer at Edison Illuminating Company that same year as his smarts and ingenuity were rewarded. He was in charge of keeping the city’s electricity flowing. Ford was on call 24 hours a day and had no regular working hours. His position sounds a lot like positions at modern start-up companies today. There is no boundary between work and life.

Ford liked this deal because he had a lot of freedom, and when not working could tinker away at his real goal of building a gasoline-powered vehicle. He completed his first functioning gasoline engine at the end of 1893. He worked on vehicular engineering in his spare time and created his first horseless carriage, called the Quadricycle in 1896.

Ford was awarded his first patent in the summer of 1898. He filed under the name of his investor William C. Maybury who was serving as the mayor of Detroit at the time. The patent secured ideas and intellectual property for the carburetor he built the previous year.

Ford had produced his third car by the next summer and it was a much more advanced model than his two previous efforts. The car was truly innovative it had a water tank and brakes, among other new features that had been previously unexplored. With the mayor of Detroit on his side Ford was able to go with his instincts and assemble a group of investors who went on to contribute $150,000 to establish the Detroit Automobile Company in early August of 1899. Ford ended up leaving Edison on August 15th to devote all of his time to creating the car of his dream.

He turned down a considerable salary offer of $1,900 per year, which adjusted for inflation would amount to six figures today.

The Detroit Automobile Company was won of around 60 different companies trying to break into the auto industry. It wasn’t until 1903 that Ford broke away and created his own company and of course the legendary Model T, one of the first pseudo-modern automobiles. It’s no secret that this deal gave birth to the Ford Motor Company, one of the most incredible companies and car manufacturers in the world. 

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Amanda Miller

Contributor & Chief Coffee Maker

Being from San Diego I have always gone to the Ocean and wrote my thoughts onto paper. Since a young girl writing has been my passion and now I love being creative with what I love. In school I started early writing for my middle school paper and have learned so much since then. I now have an opportunity to do what I love and work from home every day you can't beat it. I look forward to writing some great content for you all and to see the feedback I get in the process. My favorite topic is positive stories showing people helping others.