Henry Ford created the first inexpensive mass-produced automobile -- the Model T -- and revolutionized American industry by developing and refining the assembly-line method of manufacturing. Henry Ford began his working life as a machinist, then became an engineer with the Edison Illuminating Company. (He and Thomas Edison
remained close friends for decades.) In his spare time Ford tinkered with creating a motorized vehicle, and in 1896 introduced the Quadricycle, a four-wheeled cart with a gasoline engine. In 1903 the Ford Motor Company was founded, and in 1908 Ford introduced the Model T. Ford proved to be a marvel as both businessman and marketer, and by 1924, 10 million Model T cars had been sold. As founder and head of Ford Motors, Henry Ford became one of the world's richest people, and the popularity of Ford cars helped make Detroit the auto-making capital of America. Though Henry Ford was a driving force behind the success of automobiles, he didn't invent them; he was one of several people who built their own motorized cars. (Historians often cite Germany's Karl Benz as the creator of the first true automobile, in 1885-86.) Henry Ford?s personal opinions were sometimes controversial. He wrote dozens of articles alleging that a Jewish conspiracy that was threatening America, and ran them in his newspaper, The Dearborn Independent
, during the early 1920s. Later he had these published in four volumes as "The International Jew: The World's Foremost Problem." His relations with Adolf Hitler
in the period before World War II were also attacked; as late as 1938, Ford accepted the Grand Cross of the German Eagle from Hitler's government, though Ford protested that he was not a Nazi sympathizer. Nonetheless, Henry Ford remained one of the world's most famous and influential businessmen until his death in 1947. After Ford?s death, much of his fortune was used to create the philanthropic Ford Foundation. Ford Motors continues to be an automotive giant, and has been run and managed by a long line of Henry Ford's heirs, including his son Edsel Ford, grandson Henry Ford II, and great-grandson William Clay Ford, Jr.