Henry Ford

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An idealist is a person who helps other people to be prosperous.
Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black.

Henry Ford (July 30, 1863April 7, 1947) was the founder of the Ford Motor Company. He was one of the first to apply assembly line manufacturing to the mass production of affordable automobiles.



  • I don’t know whether Napoleon did or did not try to get across there and I don’t care. I don’t know much about history, and I wouldn’t give a nickel for all the history in the world. It means nothing to me. History is more or less bunk. It's tradition. We don't want tradition. We want to live in the present and the only history that is worth a tinker's damn is the history we make today.
    • Interview in Chicago Tribune (25 May 1916)
  • An idealist is a person who helps other people to be prosperous.
    • Remarks from the witness stand, to a court in Mount Clemens, Michigan (July 1919), as quoted in Thesaurus of Epigrams: A New Classified Collection of Witty Remarks, Bon Mots and Toasts (1948) by Edmund Fuller, p. 162
  • International financiers are behind all war. They are what is called the international Jew: German—Jews, French— Jews, English—Jews, American—Jews... the Jew is the threat.
    • Henry Ford, quoted in New York World, 1919, as cited in: Martin Allen (2002). Hidden Agenda: How the Duke of Windsor Betrayed the Allies. p. 55-56


  • So, while the people are indeed supreme over the written Constitution, the spiritual constitution is supreme over them. The French Revolutionists wrote constitutions too—every drunken writer among them tossed off a constitution. Where are they? All vanished. Why? Because they were not in harmony with the constitution of the universe. The power of the Constitution is not dependent on any Government, but on its inherent rightness and practicability.
    • Henry Ford (1922). Ford Ideals: Being a Selection from "Mr. Ford's Page" in The Dearborn Independent. p. 323; as cited in: William A. Levinson, Henry Ford, Samuel Crowther. The Expanded and Annotated My Life and Work: Henry Ford's Universal Code for World-Class Success. CRC Press, 2013. p. xxix
  • I adopted the theory of Reincarnation when I was twenty six. Religion offered nothing to the point. Even work could not give me complete satisfaction. Work is futile if we cannot utilise the experience we collect in one life in the next. When I discovered Reincarnation it was as if I had found a universal plan I realised that there was a chance to work out my ideas. Time was no longer limited. I was no longer a slave to the hands of the clock. Genius is experience. Some seem to think that it is a gift or talent, but it is the fruit of long experience in many lives. Some are older souls than others, and so they know more. The discovery of Reincarnation put my mind at ease. If you preserve a record of this conversation, write it so that it puts men’s minds at ease. I would like to communicate to others the calmness that the long view of life gives to us.
    • Interview in the San Francisco Examiner (26 August 1928)

My Life and Work (1922)[edit]

Ford, Henry; Crowther, Samuel (1922), My Life and Work, Garden City Publishing Company, Inc.

  • We have only started on our development of our country — we have not as yet, with all our talk of wonderful progress, done more than scratch the surface. The progress has been wonderful enough — but when we compare what we have done with what there is to do, then our past accomplishments are as nothing. When we consider that more power is used merely in ploughing the soil than is used in all the industrial establishments of the country put together, an inkling comes of how much opportunity there b ahead. And now, with so many countries of the world in ferment and with so much unrest everywhere, is an excellent time to suggest something of the things that may be done — in the light of what has been done.
    When one speaks of increasing power, machinery, and industry there comes up a picture of a cold, metallic sort of world in which great factories will drive away the trees, the flowers, the birds, and the green fields. And that then we shall have a world composed of metal machines and human machines. With all of that I do not agree. I think that unless we know more about machines and their use, unless we better understand the mechanical portion of life, we cannot have the time to enjoy the trees, and the birds, and the flowers, and the green fields.
    • p. 1; as cited in: William A. Levinson, Henry Ford, Samuel Crowther. The Expanded and Annotated My Life and Work: Henry Ford's Universal Code for World-Class Success. CRC Press, 2013. p. xxvii
  • I am not a reformer. I think there is entirely too much attempt at reforming in the world and that we pay too much attention to reformers. We have two kinds of reformers. Both are nuisances. The man who calls himself a reformer wants to smash things. He is the sort of man who would tear up a whole shirt because the collar button did not fit the buttonhole. It would never occur to him to enlarge the buttonhole. This sort of reformer never under any circumstances knows what he is doing. Experience and reform do not go together. A reformer cannot keep his zeal at white heat in the presence of a fact. He must discard all facts.
    • p. 2
  • The economic fundamental is labour. Labour is the human element which makes the fruitful seasons of the earth useful to men. It is men 's labour that makes the harvest what it is. That is the economic fundamental: every one of us is working with material which we did not and could not create, but which was presented to us by Nature.
    • p. 9
  • As long as we look to legislation to cure poverty or to abolish special privilege we are going to see poverty spread and special privilege grow.
    • p. 10
  • Failure is only the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently. There is no disgrace in honest failure; there is disgrace in fearing to fail.
    • p. 19. Quotes in: Arch Wilkinson Shaw (1927). The Magazine of Business, Vol. 52, p. 182
  • Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black.
    • p. 72. Chapter IV,  : Remark about the Model T in 1909, ; this has often been paraphrased, e.g.: "You can have any colour as long as it's black."
  • I will build a car for the great multitude. It will be large enough for the family, but small enough for the individual to run and care for. It will be constructed of the best materials, by the best men to be hired, after the simplest designs that modern engineering can devise. But it will be so low in price that no man making a good salary will be unable to own one — and enjoy with his family the blessing of hours of pleasure in God's great open spaces.
    • p. 73. Chapter IV.
  • Money is only a tool in business. It is just a part of the machinery. You might as well borrow 100,000 lathes as $100,000 if the trouble is inside your business. More lathes will not cure it; neither will more money. Only heavier doses of brains and thought and wise courage can cure. A business that misuses what it has will continue to misuse what it can get.
    • p. 157


  • The provision of a whole new system of electric generation emancipated industry from the leather belt and line shaft, for it eventually became possible to provide each tool with its own electric motor. This may seem only a detail of minor importance. In fact, modern industry could not be carried out with the belt and line shaft for a number of reasons. The motor enabled machinery to be arranged in the order of the work, and that alone has probably doubled the efficiency of industry, for it has cut out a tremendous amount of useless handling and hauling. The belt and line shaft were also tremendously wasteful – so wasteful indeed that no factory could be really large, for even the longest line shaft was small according to modern requirements. Also high speed tools were impossible under the old conditions – neither the pulleys nor the belts could stand modern speeds. Without high speed tools and the finer steels which they brought about, there could be nothing of what we call modern industry.
    • Henry Ford and Samuel Crowther (1930). Edison as I Know Him. Cosmopolitan Book Company. p. 15
  • The average man won't really do a day's work unless he is caught and cannot get out of it. There is plenty of work to do if people would do it.
    • Quoted in The Zanesville Sunday Times-Signal [Zanesville, Ohio] (15 March 1931): On reasons for the Great Depression
  • Let them fail; let everybody fail! I made my fortune when I had nothing to start with, by myself and my own ideas. Let other people do the same thing. If I lose everything in the collapse of our financial structure, I will start in at the beginning and build it up again.
    • February 11, 1934; quoted in: Peter Collier, ‎David Horowitz (2001). The Fords: An American Epic. p. 108
  • Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it.
    • As quoted in The High School Teacher, Vol. XI (1935), p. 60

Attributed from posthumous publications[edit]

  • You can't build a reputation on what you are going to do.
    • As quoted in International Encyclopedia of Prose and Poetical Quotations (1951) by William S. Walsh
1960s and later
  • A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business.
    • As quoted in News Journal [Mansfield, Ohio] (3 August 1965)
  • When I see an Alfa Romeo go by, I tip my hat.
    • As quoted in Alfa Romeo. I creatori della Leggenda (1990) by Griffith Borgeson
  • You will find men who want to be carried on the shoulders of others, who think that the world owes them a living. They don't seem to see that we must all lift together and pull together.
    • As quoted in Wisdom & Inspiration for the Spirit and Soul (2004) by Nancy Toussaint, p. 85

About Henry Ford[edit]

  • He draws upon his subconscious mind.
    • Thomas Edison, as quoted in The Living Age, Vol. 312 (1922), p. 742
  • If there is any certainty as to what a businessman is, he is assuredly the things Ford was not.
    • John Kenneth Galbraith, as quoted in Forbes Greatest Business Stories of All Time (1997) by Daniel Gross, p. 79
  • I regard Ford as my inspiration.
    • Adolf Hitler, attributed in Bill McGraw, "Forced Labor and Ford: History of Nazi Labor Stares Ford in the Face", Detroit Free Press, 21 December 1999, p. B1; as cited in Timothy W. Ryback, Hitler's Private Library: The Books That Shaped His Life, p. 71 & footnote p. 275.
  • "Progress" is for the convinced ochlocrats a consoling Utopia of madly increased comfort and technicism. This charming but dull vision was always the pseudoreligious consolation of millions of ecstatic believers in ochlocracy and in the relative perfection and wisdom of Mr. and Mrs. Averageman. Utopias in general are surrogates for heaven; they give a meager solace to the individual that his sufferings and endeavors may enable future generations to enter the chiliastic paradise. Communism works in a similar way. Its millennium is almost the same as that of ochlocracy. The Millennium of Lenin, the Millennium of Bellamy, the Millennium as represented in H. G. Wells's, "Of Things to Come," the Millennium of Adolf Hitler and Henry Ford — they are all basically the same; they often differ in their means to attain it but they all agree in the point of technical perfection and the classless or at least totally homogeneous society without grudge or envy.
    • Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn writing under the pen name Francis Stewart Campbell (1943), Menace of the Herd, or, Procrustes at Large, Milwaukee, WI: The Bruce Publishing Company, pp. 35-36
  • It will take a hundred years to tell whether he helped us or hurt us, but he certainly didn't leave us where he found us.
    • Will Rogers, as quoted in Henry Ford and Grass-roots America (1972) by Reynold M. Wik, p. 195


  • It is perhaps well enough that the people of the Nation do not know or understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning.
  • Variant: If the American people knew the corruption in our money system there would be revolution before morning.
    • Attributed to Henry Ford by Charles Binderup (March 19, 1937), Congressional Record—House vol. 81, p. 2528. The quote is preceded by "It was Henry Ford who said, in substance, this", which indicates that this is likely just a paraphrase, not an exact quote. What Ford had written in "My Like and Work" (p. 179) was:
      • The days are fast slipping away when the fear of credit curtailment will avail, or when wordy slogans will affright. The people are naturally conservative. They are more conservative than the financiers. Those who believe that the people are so easily led that they would permit the printing presses to run off money like milk tickets do not understand them. It is the innate conservation of the people that has kept our money good in spite of the fantastic tricks which financiers play-and which they cover up with high technical terms. The people are on the side of sound money. They are so unalterably on the side of sound money that it is a serious question how they would regard the system under which they live, if they once knew what the initiate can do with it.

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