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 color that he wants so long as it is black.

Henry Ford (July 30, 1863April 7, 1947) was an American industrialist and business magnate, founder of the Ford Motor Company, and chief developer of the assembly line technique of mass production. By creating the first automobile that middle-class Americans could afford, he converted the automobile from an expensive curiosity into an accessible utility that profoundly impacted the landscape of the 20th century. Ford was an antisemite who promoted The Protocols of the Meetings of the Learned Elders of Zion in the collection of articles known as The International Jew.


Before everything else, getting ready is the secret of success.
Mural honoring Success quote with Elena Ford, great-great granddaughter
Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is the probable reason why so few engage in it.
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.
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.


  • 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


  • History is bunk. What difference does it make how many times the ancient Greeks flew their kites?
  • Jews have always controlled the business [...]. The motion picture influence of the United States and Canada [...] is exclusively under the control, moral and financial, of the Jewish manipulators of the public mind.
  • The only statement I care to make about the Protocols is that they fit in with what is going on. They are sixteen years old, and they have fitted the world situation up to his time. They fit it now.
    • Henry Ford, in an interview quoted in the New York World, February 17, 1921
  • There's just one thing that's permanent in this world, and that's change. And when a man gets too old to change, why, then, he dies. And after that, who knows? Do we go on somewhere else? We'd all like to think so; it seems sometimes as though something inside us was telling us that we do. But if we do live on, then one thing is sure: The fellows who are afraid all the time that they may lose what they've got will lose out over there just the way they lose out here. And the big prizes will keep right on going to the fellows who do their duty and have faith. That's all there is to happiness, according to my way of thinking—just doing your duty and having faith.
  • Money doesn't change men. It merely unmasks them. If a man is naturally selfish, or arrogant, or greedy, the money brings it out; that's all.
    • Interview with Bruce Barton, "It Would Be Fun To Start Over Again," The American Magazine (April 1921)
  • 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
  • But to do for the world more than the world does for you--that is Success.
    • Ford News (March 1926)
  • 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 (August 26, 1928)

The International Jew: The World's Foremost Problem (1920–1922)[edit]

Main article: The International Jew
  • The genius of the Jew is to live off people, not off land, nor off the production of commodities from raw materials, but off people. Let other people till the soil; the Jew, if he can, will live off the tiller. Let other people toil at trades and manufacture; the Jew will exploit the fruits of their work. That is his particular genius. If this genius be described as parasitic, the term would seem to be justified by a certain fitness.

My Life and Work (1922)[edit]

My Life and Work (1922) co-written with Samuel Crowther
  • 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 The Expanded and Annotated My Life and Work: Henry Ford's Universal Code for World-Class Success. (2013) by Henry Ford, Samuel Crowther, and William A. Levinson,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 more intelligently to begin again. There is no disgrace in honest failure; there is disgrace in fearing to fail.
    • pp. 19–20. Quoted in Samuel Crowther, "Henry Ford's Problem," The Magazine of Business, vol. 52 (1927), p. 182
  • Any customer can have a car painted any color 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 color 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.
  • We are not against borrowing money and we are not against bankers. We are against trying to make borrowed money take the place of work. We are against the kind of banker who regards a business as a melon to be cut. The thing is to keep money and borrowing and finance generally in their proper place, and in order to do that one has to consider exactly for what the money is needed and how it is going to be paid off.
    • Chapter 11, Money and Goods,
  • 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 initiated can do with it.
    • p. 110. Chapter XII.
  • Bankers play far too great a part in the conduct of industry...
    • Chapter XII, Money - Master or Servant
  • The average successful banker is by no means so intelligent and resourceful a man as is the average successful business man. Yet the banker through his control of credit practically controls the average business man.
    • Chapter XII, Money - Master or Servant
  • The banker is, as I have noted, by training and because of his position, totally unsuited to the conduct of industry. If, therefore, the controllers of credit have lately acquired this very large power, is it not to be taken as a sign that there is something wrong with the financial system that gives to finance instead of to service the predominant power in industry? It was not the industrial acumen of the bankers that brought them into the management of industry.
    • Chapter XII, Money - Master or Servant
  • My objection to bankers has nothing to do with personalities. I am not against bankers as such. We stand very much in need of thoughtful men, skilled in finance. The world cannot go on without banking facilities. We have to have money. We have to have credit. Otherwise the fruits of production could not be exchanged. We have to have capital. Without it there could be no production. But whether we have based our banking and our credit on the right foundation is quite another matter.
    • Chapter XII, Money - Master or Servant
  • The bankers who do straight banking should regard themselves as naturally the first men to probe and understand our monetary system—instead of being content with the mastery of local banking-house methods; and if they would deprive the gamblers in bank balances of the name of "banker" and oust them once for all from the place of influence which that name gives them, banking would be restored and established as the public service it ought to be, and the iniquities of the present monetary system and financial devices would be lifted from the shoulders of the people.
    • Chapter XII, Money - Master or Servant
  • If the present faulty system is more profitable to a financier than a more perfect system would be, and if that financier values his few remaining years of personal profits more highly than he would value the honour of making a contribution to the life of the world by helping to erect a better system, then there is no way of preventing a clash of interests. But it is fair to say to the selfish financial interests that, if their fight is waged to perpetuate a system just because it profits them, then their fight is already lost. Why should finance fear? The world will still be here. Men will do business with one another. There will be money and there will be need of masters of the mechanism of money. Nothing is going to depart but the knots and tangles. There will be some readjustments, of course. Banks will no longer be the masters of industry. They will be the servants of industry.
    • Chapter XII, Money - Master or Servant
  • Business will control money instead of money controlling business. The ruinous interest system will be greatly modified. Banking will not be a risk, but a service. Banks will begin to do much more for the people than they do now, and instead of being the most expensive businesses in the world to manage, and the most highly profitable in the matter of dividends, they will become less costly, and the profits of their operation will go to the community which they serve.
    • Chapter XII, Money - Master or Servant
  • 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
  • Before everything else, getting ready is the secret of success.
  • The man who has the largest capacity for work and thought is the man who is bound to succeed.
  • If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person's point of view and see things from that person's angle as well as from your own.


  • 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
  • Through all the years that I have been in business I have never yet found our business bad as a result of any outside force. It has always been due to some defect in our own company, and whenever we located and repaired that defect our business became good again - regardless of what anyone else might be doing. And it will always be found that this country has nationally bad business when business men are drifting, and that business is good when men take hold of their own affairs, put leadership into them, and push forward in spite of obstacles. Only disaster can result when the fundamental principles of business are disregarded and what looks like the easiest way is taken. These fundamentals, as I see them, are:
(1) To make an ever increasingly large quantity of goods of the best possible quality, to make them in the best and most economical fashion, and to force them out onto the market.
(2) To strive always for higher quality and lower prices as well as lower costs.
(3) To raise wages gradually but continuously B and never to cut them.
(4) To get the goods to the consumer in the most economical manner so that the benefits of low cost production may reach him.
These fundamentals are all summed up in the single word 'service'... The service starts with discovering what people need and then supplying that need according to the principles that have just been given.
  • Henry Ford in: Justus George Frederick (1930), A Philosophy of Production: A Symposium, p. 32; as cited in: Morgen Witzel (2003) Fifty Key Figures in Management. p. 196
  • 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

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
  • 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
  • There's enough alcohol in one year's yield of an acre of potatoes to drive the machinery necessary to cultivate the fields for one hundred years.
    • As quoted in Biopolymers, Polyamides and Complex Proteinaceous Materials I (2003) by Stephen R. Fahnestock, Alexander Steinbüchel, p. 395

About Henry Ford[edit]

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
  • He draws upon his subconscious mind.
    • Thomas Edison, as quoted in The Living Age, Vol. 312 (1922), p. 742
  • Only workers are forbidden to be internationalists. It’s perfectly proper for J. P. Morgan and Henry Ford; for the bankers, the munitions trusts, the chemical companies. It’s proper for scientists, stamp collectors, athletic associations, musicians, spiritualists, people who raise bees, to be internationalist – but not workers. Only the clasped hands of the workers across the boundaries are struck down in every country.
  • One of the strangest demonstrations for peace at that time was the Ford Peace Party which chartered a ship, the Oscar II, known as the Peace Ship. It sailed on December 4, 1915 and its slogan was: "Get the boys out of the trenches by Christmas." Henry Ford paid all the expenses of the trip, it was rumored. The pilgrims for peace numbered about 30 determined souls, including Miss Addams, Miss Balch, Miss Beckenridge of Chicago and amazingly enough William C. Bullit of Philadelphia. The roster of prominent, honest Americans who stood squarely for peace and for keeping us out of war was impressive, including statesmen, ministers, professors, labor leaders, women leaders, writers, editors and even capitalists. However, we of the IWW took no part in any of these pacifist activities. To us it was a grim joke to see an anti-union exploiter like Ford a participant in a peace movement. We were suspicious of non-working-class elements of all sorts and held ourselves aloof from them. Yet, it was the IWW that bore the full impact of wartime prosecution as soon as war was declared.
  • 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
  • we feel that we don't want abstract equality rights, we want material equality. That means the redistribution of the wealth in this society. And that means that people like Nelson Rockefeller and Henry Ford or the Bishop Estate or Dillingham or whatever, they have to redistribute the wealth that they have robbed from the poor working people of the world. I mean, they made if off our backs. Henry Ford, he made the first Model T. After that, who made all the other cars. So it wasn't him, it was the people who work in the automobile factories, who sweat in 100 degree temperatures; who risk industrial accidents for a lousy $150 a week. And he makes millions every year. And he ain't produced shit. I mean, he just sits behind his desk and writes papers, either that or signs checks. That's the reality of the way society functions. And what we say, we do want a redistribution of that wealth-spread it among the people it's been robbed from. Return it to the people it belongs to.
  • the IWW's positive side, certainly it was militant, it was courageous, that it fitted the period, that it belonged to the pioneer days and that it fought for the interests of the poorest, the most lonely, the most despised, those that the AFL couldn't organize, the foreign born, the women, and as the Negroes began coming into industry, the Negroes. Of course, I should say that when we first started in 1905, there were not too many Negro workers in the north. They came up later. Henry Ford was responsible for bringing a great many of them, on all kinds of false pretenses and the steel industries brought them up also to act as strike breakers. However, they were very susceptible to the organization put forward by Foster and others.
  • The model for us rich guys should be Henry Ford. When Ford famously introduced the $5 day, which was twice the prevailing wage at the time, he didn't just increase the productivity of his factories, he converted exploited autoworkers who were poor into a thriving middle class who could now afford to buy the products that they made. Ford intuited what we now know is true, that an economy is best understood as an ecosystem and characterized by the same kinds of feedback loops you find in a natural ecosystem, a feedback loop between customers and businesses. Raising wages increases demand, which increases hiring, which in turn increases wages and demand and profits, and that virtuous cycle of increasing prosperity is precisely what is missing from today's economic...
  • 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, [The Shape] 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," indicating that it was a paraphrase rather than an actual quote. Ford wrote at length in My Life and Work (1923) against the dominance of finance over industry, including a remark in Chapter XII, quoted above, which is very similar to the attributed statement.
  • Stopping advertising to save money is like stopping your watch to save time.
    • The earliest published incident of this yet located is in "32 Mystical Connections for Advertising Buffs" by Ram Ray, in Ideate with June A Valladares (2005) by June A Valladares, p. 154; the earliest attributions to Henry Ford yet located date to about a decade after that.
  • My best friend is one who brings out the best in me.
    • Actually due to Harris Weinstock: "My best friend is the man who can bring out of me my best, and your best friend is the one who tends to bring out the best in you" (May 1914) Attributed to Henry Ford as early as 1948.
  • Any man who thinks he is going to be happy and prosperous by letting the government take care of him should take a close look at the American Indian.
    • Possibly said by Hugh Allen, printed in Reader's Digest (January 1967)

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