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!