Henry Ford built his first gasoline-powered engine in 1893 and his first car in 1896 while chief engineer of Detroit Illuminating Co.
After two false starts as an auto manufacturer, he and 11 others in 1903 organized Ford Motor Co., in which Ford had a 25.5 percent interest.
The company prospered from the outset and outdistanced its competitors after the Model T was launched in 1908 and moving assembly lines were introduced in 1912-13.
By the mid-1920s, almost half of the world's motor vehicles were Tin Lizzies. Ford, acquiring full company ownership in 1918, was one of three American billionaires.
Meantime, in 1914, the company introduced wage-history's most epochal event - the $5 day, which overnight more than doubled most workers' pay, while reducing the workday from nine to eight hours.
The depth and range of from any other American.
His highly integrated company not only made cars, trucks, tractors and airplanes but also mined coal, iron and lead and owned timber lands, sawmills, rubber plantations and a score of 'village industries' that counterbalanced his huge Highland Park, Rouge and Willow Run factories.
His firm also operated a railroad, blast furnaces, coke ovens, foundries, steel mills, lake and ocean fleets and dozens of assembly plants around the world; produced glass, artificial leather, textiles, gauges, paper and cement; and farmed 10,000 acres.
These multifarious activities helped make Ford one of the world's most publicized figures.
In addition to his industrial activities, Ford built and operated Henry Ford Hospital, Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village and schools ranging in size and scope from the Henry Ford Trade School to 15 one-room schools.
He also published a national newspaper and operated a radio station. He restored and operated one of Michigan's two oldest inns, the Botsford, and one of the nation's two oldest hostelries, the Wayside, in South Sudbury, Mass. With his son, Edsel, he established the Ford Foundation.
Ford crusaded incessantly.
His efforts were remarkably diverse. He campaigned to save birds, reduce waste and reform education, ex-convicts and prostitutes. He extolled the work ethic and just-in-time production. He insisted that soybeans and wheat were 'divine foods.' He attempted to convince a jazz-mad generation that the Virginia reel was more fun than the Charleston.
Of his crusades, it could be said, as was said of Winston Churchill, 'He was usually right, but when he wasn't -well, my God!'