You might be surprised to learn that there was a moment in time when Ford Motor Company had one of the largest film studios outside of Hollywood. In April of 1914, when his company was barely a decade old, Henry Ford established the Ford Motion Picture Department. Along with motor vehicles, Ford began releasing films on a weekly basis, first a newsreel called The Ford Animated Weekly, and then The Ford Educational Weekly, which covered subjects of a less timely nature that could be exhibited longer. At its peak, the company newsletter, The Ford Times estimated that over 20 miles of film left their factory every week.
Henry Ford‘s Mirror of America is a compilation of images and sequences from the Ford Film Collection. It documents the American lifestyle in the 1910s and how the automobile was quickly changing it. But far more than the history of the automobile and automobile manufacturing is shown. The film presents a cross-sectional view of people and progress, and pictures the daily activities and habits of the American people.
The film includes scenes of Coney Island, the 1915 Model T, assembly line manufacturing, World War One, Buffalo Bill Cody, President Theodore Roosevelt, and Ford himself in meetings with Thomas Edison, President Woodrow Wilson, and others.
Henry Ford had a tremendous impact on America, and this film is a testament to his influence and historical standing, since the content ranges through all aspects of early 20th century America. Henry Ford’s Mirror of America is an essential record of American cultural history.
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND / CONTEXT
Henry Ford (1863 – 1947) was an American industrialist, the founder of the Ford Motor Company, and the sponsor of the development of the assembly line technique of mass production.
Although Ford invented neither the automobile nor the assembly line, he developed and manufactured the first automobile that many middle class Americans could afford. In doing so, Ford converted the automobile from an expensive curiosity into a practical conveyance that would profoundly impact the landscape of the 20th Century. His introduction of the Model T automobile revolutionized transportation and American industry. As the owner of the Ford Motor Company, he became one of the richest and best-known people in the world. He is credited with “Fordism“: mass production of inexpensive goods coupled with high wages for workers. Ford had a global vision, with consumerism as the key to peace. His intense commitment to systematically lowering costs resulted in many technical and business innovations, including a franchise system that put dealerships throughout most of North America and in major cities on six continents. Ford left most of his vast wealth to the Ford Foundation and arranged for his family to control the company permanently. Ford was also widely known for his pacifism during the first years of World War 1.