Henry Ford was an innovator, a legend, and an icon. He developed and improved ideas that would change the world and inspire countless others to realize their own potential.
Henry nicknamed Clara Ford his "great believer." At every point in the remarkable trajectory of Henry's career, Clara was his indispensable partner - a confidant in business matters and a true companion sharing personal interests, including music, dance and nature.
Together, Clara and Henry built an entire industry and opened the door for countless others to dream and to tap into their potential. They believed that the best way to make a lasting impact on society was by giving people the tools to do more. To better themselves.
The Fords were people of action, passionate about making things happen.
"If I had asked people what they
wanted, they would have said faster horses."
- Henry Ford
Henry Ford (1863-1947)
Henry Ford, the founder of Ford Motor Company, valued hard work, ingenuity and action above most else. His most celebrated innovations include building the world's first auto assembly line in 1910 in Highland Park, Mich., and introducing the living wage with Ford's "five dollar day" policy in 1915. His ideas made way for large-scale industrial production, the expansion of the middle class and immigration and migration of masses of individuals and families to America's northern cities. He introduced the Model T in 1908, securing both wealth and renown for the Ford family, and would run the company until the 1940s. He died at his home, Fair lane, in 1947.
Clara Bryant Ford (1866-1950)
Clara Jane Bryant Ford was the wife of Henry Ford and the mother of Edsel Ford. She was the matriarch of a family that changed the world, and she left behind an important legacy all of her own. She was passionate about her philanthropic pursuits and social reform projects, and many of her projects focused on making a difference in women's lives, from advocating for women's suffrage to providing support to unwed mothers and unskilled girls who needed medical care and skills training. Clara Ford lived at Fair Lane until her death in 1950.
The Ford Family
Clara met Henry at a Night Year's community dance in 1885 at the Greenfield Dancing Club. They married in 1888 in the front parlor of the Bryant family home.
Henry and Clara's only child, Edsel Bryant Ford, was born Nov. 6, 1893. Edsel married Eleanor Clay, daughter of William and Eliza Clay and niece of J.L. Hudson, the department store founder, in November 1916. Together they had four children, Henry II, Benson, Josephine and William. Edsel became president of Ford Motor Company in 1919.
The story of Edsel and Eleanor and their family can be experienced at the Edsel & Eleanor Ford House in Grosse Pointe Shores, Mich., which is open for tours.
“The greatest day in my life was the day
I married Mrs. Ford.”
– Henry Ford
Henry and Clara Ford built the 31,000-square-foot Fair Lane as their dream home on 1,300 acres, just a couple miles from where they both were born. At a time when Henry was skyrocketing to global fame after the success of Ford Motor Company and the Model T, Fair Lane was their sanctuary.
It was their 15th and final home - where they enjoyed entertaining their grandchildren and many friends, including frequent visitor Thomas Edison, for whom they reserved a suite of rooms.
The house is a unique blend of Midwestern Prairie School and English country manor styles.
The estate along the Rouge River included a hydro-electric powerhouse and dam, a greenhouse, a working farm built to scale for their grandchildren, an indoor pool, skating house, staff cottages, bowling alley, and a pony barn, as well as a private garage and laboratory for Henry. The vast gardens and landscape were designed by famed architect Jens Jensen.