A Car for the Common Man

"Ford Motor" at a Model-T factory, via the Ohio Guide Collection on Ohio Memory.
“Ford Motor” at a Model T factory, via the Ohio Guide Collection on Ohio Memory.
This Model T, housed at the National Road-Zane Grey Museum, was manufactured by the Ford Motor Company of Dearborn, Michigan. Via Ohio Memory.
This Model T, housed at the National Road-Zane Grey Museum, was manufactured by the Ford Motor Company of Dearborn, Michigan. Via Ohio Memory.

On October 1st, 1908, Henry Ford’s “Model T” went on sale for the first time. Priced at just $825, the Model T was the first automobile designed for the masses. Automobiles up to this time were luxury items, only afforded by the wealthy. Henry Ford wanted the Model T to be a vehicle for the common man. Providing an affordable option to the public changed the way Americans lived and traveled, and changed history forever.

The Model T originally came equipped with a 4-cylinder, 20 horsepower engine and a 10-gallon gas tank, and weighed 1200 lbs. It could seat up to 5 people and had a top speed of 40-45 mph. Between the years of 1913 and 1927, over 15 million Model Ts were produced in the United States.

Ford truck outside a dealership, 1923. Via Ohio Memory.
Ford truck outside a dealership, 1923. Via Ohio Memory.

Henry Ford set out to make production of automobiles more efficient, and established four principles to accomplish this: interchangeable parts, continuous flow, division of labor, and reducing wasted effort. These principles changed the way that automobiles would be produced from then on. Always an innovator, Henry Ford also established the first movable assembly line in 1913. This allowed the Ford Company to build cars more quickly and cost effectively. The Ford Model T was in production from 1908-1927, and after the first 100,000 cars were produced, the price of the Model T dropped to $360, making it even more affordable and one of the most common cars owned by Americans.

The Elmore Manufacturing Company in Clyde, Ohio. Courtesy of the Clyde Public Library via Ohio Memory.
The Elmore Manufacturing Company in Clyde, Ohio. Courtesy of the Clyde Public Library via Ohio Memory.

In Ohio, around the same time that the Model T was being produced, The Elmore Manufacturing Company was producing automobiles of their own. The Elmore Company had its headquarters in Clyde, Ohio, from 1893-1912. In 1908, the same year Ford released the Model T, Elmore’s three cylinder, two-stroke engine caught the interest of General Motors and the company was purchased the following year by GM.

Curious which cars were popular in Ohio in the early 20th century? For a look at all automobiles registered in Ohio in 1915, have a look at The State of Ohio Automobile Department registry, now available on Ohio Memory. For more information about Henry Ford’s innovations in the automobile industry, Ohio Memory has collections that you will definitely want to explore.


Thank you to Alexa Elgabri for this week’s post! Alexa is a graduate student in the Kent State School of Library and Information Science who is completing her practicum with the State Library of Ohio.

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