On October 1, 1908, Ford Motor Company introduced one of the first mass production automobiles on the market – the Model T. The Model T’s low price helped make automobiles accessible to the masses for the first time. By the time Ford stopped producing the Model T in 1927, it had produced more than 15 million cars. All those automobiles changed the landscape of America. We’ve searched through our archives to find news clippings illustrating how the Model T helped change the world.
Henry Ford built his first car in a home workshop in 1896. Seven years later, he formed the Ford Motor Company. The company made at least eight automobile models, but they were expensive and difficult to maintain. For example, this 1906 advertisement for a Ford Model K shows a price tag of $2700 (nearly $90,000 in today’s dollars). Ford wanted to design a lower cost-automobile, accessible to families, that was easy to operate and maintain.
The Model T was the answer. The Model T, nicknamed the Tin Lizzie, was one of the first automobiles built on a production line. Since the components were mass manufactured, costs went way down. Suddenly, owning an automobile was within reach of many Americans. Ford sold more than 6,000 Model T’s in the first year, and the price tag was $850. To demonstrate the vehicle’s durability and the freedom it provided, Henry Ford embarked on a 10-day hunting trip driving a brand new Model T. He traveled more than 1300 miles without mechanical difficulty except for punctured tires. Many of those miles were on unimproved roads.
With each passing year of production, costs to produce a Model T continued to decline. By 1915, Ford had sold nearly half a million Model T’s. Many of them cost about half of the original price in 1908. With more automobiles on the roads, communities across the country grappled with how cars might share the road with horses and buggies. Filling stations popped up, and traffic signals were installed to help manage the chaos on city streets.
Meanwhile, Ford provided thousands of jobs. Employees received an appealing wage of $5 per day and worked reasonable hours. They also had access to education, healthcare, and entertainment, helping workers establish a solid middle class.
In 1927, 19 years after introducing the Model T, Ford retired the car. A melancholy Henry Ford summed up the impact of the Model T, “It was the car that ran before there were good roads to run on. It broke down the barriers of distance in rural sections, brought people of these sections closer together, and placed education within reach of everyone. We are still proud of the Model T Ford car.”
The Model T remained the best-selling car until the 1970s when the Volkswagen Beetle bumped it off the top of the list. Would you like to see old advertisements and read amusing stories about the Model T and the early days of automobiles in America? Search Newspapers.com™ today!
16 thoughts on “October 1, 1908: Ford Introduces the Model T”
Wonderful historical context and social impact story
Absolutely loved this article.
Fascinating and a great read! Always been enamored with the Model Ts since seeing a photo of an ancestor sitting in one.
It is interesting that so many articles will describe the Model T as “affordable”. When the average Ford company worker earning $5/day is described as receiving an “attractive” wage, at well less than $2k/year, how was even a $450 car called “affordable”?
Clearly it was for some – perhaps doctors, lawyers, prosperous businessmen – but not for the average working man.
Considering $5/day was about double what they could make elsewhere, it was very attractive. And a new car at 90 days pay is about half the cost of today’s cheapest car compared to minimum wage.
The other manufactures were at I thing $3.50
Well, if $2700 in 1906 was equivalent to today’s $90k, then $5 a day, if they worked 5 days a week would have been $1300 per year or almost $45k today. With financing, which was probably available, the car would have been easy to purchase and own.
My family wasn’t rich, but my grandmother was born in 1908, and photos of her in her infancy include a car.
I was wondering the same thing.
I suspect that employees received a special price because Ford realized that increasing production drastically reduced costs per unit. He was probably selling them at his current cost per unit and giving them credit as well. He had nothing to lose.
As a youngster, (17-20) I owned a 1916 Model T coupe, and later, a 1918 4 door sedan. I enjoyed immensely, cranking them up, mornings, driving them, repairing them, and showing them off to my friends. Later, I graduated to a sexy 1931 Model A Roadster (convertible coupe, with a white canvas top, and a rumble seat to boot!)
In the late 40s and early 50s, Gasoline cost about 25 cents per gallon. I recall driving my sweetheart to my Senior High School Prom, and asking my buddy to chip in on the gas costs. (He and his girl rode in the rumble seat) After the Prom we went to see Mel Torme. Great Memories!
Wow, nice story. Thanks for sharing! Trying to reconcile the time frame…it seems your first two cars were over 30 years old when you had them??
In 1950 at College, we bought a 1939 Ford Coupe Deluxe for $175. Drove it three years and sold it for $150. It had iron fenders that didn’t dent when sliding into things and at the end we had to double clutch, but never put any money into fixing it up, just drove it. I still drive Fords but wish they made a good small car with stick shift and not so many bells and whistles that need constant tweaking.
In 1950, I discovered what was left of a 1934 Ford roadster. Over nearly a year from wrecking yards and old closed dealerships it was put back together. Upon entering the military I inadvisably sold it for 200 dollars. Today those cars go for 30-to-60 thousand when you can find them.
Thank you for this article. During the 19teens, 1920’s, and 1930’s, my grandfather was the postmaster in the rural town of Weston, Missouri. He used a Model T to deliver the mail throughout a farm community. According to my mother, he put on so many miles that he got a new car every two years. It was fun to see this article which brought back this memory.
Got my first car at 16 in 1956 it was a 1950 Ford four-door. My dad Bought it for $150. It was in rough shape but boy I loved that car……it was freedom! Since that was the start of my dating and hotrod days and gas was 28cents I pretty much drove the wheels off that car. So one year later I got a 1951 mercury coup just like James Dean. i’ve pretty much customized everything on that car including Lakers, souped up 54 buick motor with two 4 barrell carbs, leaded and chopped, pleeted and rolled seats and painted lime fire green. Man I thought I was James Dean. Drove it all the way up into my sofmore year in college when I changed over to Ivey league. Those were the days boys and girls.!
October 10, 2022
Gripped by nostalgia. Great comments everyone. Approaching my 80th bd and cherish the memories of those 49-51 fords and my 49 Meteor (made in Canada). My first 50 ford I bought on the sidewalk next to used car lot. A guy had bought a newer car and the dealer wouldn’t take his 50 in trade; low & reverse gear was gone, tires worn out and needed some tlc. Bought it for $75 (in 1960) and loved finding parts at the wreckers, used tires etc. Those were the days but no thanks- crawling under a car and replacing parts isn’t on the agenda!
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