The Birth of the American Auto Industry and The Decline of the Railroads How did the auto industry supersede the rail roads as the centerpiece of American industrial production? By Greg Ballard and Casey Martner Industrial America, HIS 305 Spring 2007
Early Introduction to Society The car to the right was shown to the public at the 1983 World’s Fair in Chicago where many who saw the invention commented that it had the ability to change the world. The automobile, although not electric ones like this would do that in only a few decades.
The Growth of Automobiles • - In the year 1900 American’s registered 8,000 automobiles. • The Ford Highland Plant in 1903 employed 125 workers and produced just over a thousand cars • By 1910 Americans were registering 469,000 automobiles. • Likewise the Ford Highland Plant by 1914 employed 12,880 workers and produced a massive 248,307 cars a year. Interesting Fact: The early use of cars was adopted by many, for instance physicians in large urban cities in the US began purchasing automobiles to make their practices more mobile. The cars they owned quickly surpassed in number that of commercial fleets like taxi companies in cities like New York.
The Means to Produce The Birth of The Modern Assembly Line Henry Ford had announced in 1907 that he desired to make the car attainable to the masses… it would take massive change.
The Assembly Line The Problem Ford originally used a method of production called the static line, where a car would remain stationary during construction and workers would move from one to another to do their part of the construction.
Pictured to the left is Ransom Eli Olds, the founder of Oldsmobile. Although Ford is attributed with the assembly line Olds was actually the first to change the means of production from a static line to a moving line. He placed his car on small carts that could be pushed from one station to another. Interesting Fact: Ransom Olds also invented the powered lawn mower. To the right is Ransom Olds first ‘Mass Produced’ car from 1904 with his father seated at the wheel. That year he broke a record by selling 4,000 cars.
The Solution As the method used by Olds wasn’t entirely efficient Ford tried to develop something new. Having found inspiration in a Chicago meat packaging plant that used moving pulleys to transport items from on employee to another Ford began placing his in production cars on conveyer belts by 1913. Additionally Ford brought the materials to his Henry Ford with a Model-T employees by means of another conveyer belt. This changed the speed of production remarkably as there was no longer any preparation time between applications.
An artists rendition of the Highland Plant. By the end of 1913 when the plant was fully operational as a modern assembly line Ford was able to produce one Model-T every 3 minutes.
The final point of construction took place outside the Highland factory where the Tonneau cover would be attached to the car.
Birth of Mass Production As the automobile industry continued to grow and produce the massive amounts of raw and finished goods started to lead the American industrial economy in ways that it had never seen before. As a result the onset of the Automobile made an impact across the board.
Effects on Other Industries • Uniroyal • (tires) • Previous to 1967 Uniroyal was known as the US Rubber Company, and it originally started as a company dedicated to the creation of rubber work boots and rubber gloves, and with the advent of cars a small division producing tires. • During the early 1900s The company reacted to the growth of the auto industry and subsequent demand for tires. • By 1917 the company’s marketing department had split to create a new department for the marketing of solely tires. This phased out the importance of their boot production. • - To keep up with demand rubber tire production in the United States quickly became a global business with rubber plantations around the world.
Effects on Other Industries • Tool and Die Industry • Cincinnati being the home to many Tool and Die companies was changed by the Automotive Industry as well, one such example was Geier’s Cincinnati Milling Machine. • They provided components and special machines to be used on the assembly line during the production of automobiles. • 1914 it becomes a leader in the region, with most of its business selling parts to the Auto Industry. A regional record was set by the company in 1914 by surpassing $2,000,000 in sales, something that was unheard at the time due to a recession affecting the area. - A lot of the Tool and Die companies in Cincinnati had problems retaining workers as their skills granted them job opportunities in the auto plants.
Effects on Other Industries • The Oil Industry • To fuel the new fleets of black Model-Ts and their counterparts the growth of BIG OIL was required, a true result of the burgeoning auto industry throughout the world. • Previously gasoline was a byproduct of oil refining, however the advent of a large amount of internal combustion motors created a large market. Today it is common place; however, the turn of the century brought renewed power and demand to the oil industry. • -A Perfect example is Standard Oil, a near monopoly by the time of the birth of the auto industry. A perfect situation to reap the benefits of a vast new market.
Conclusion • Opposite to the Rail Road industry the Automotive Industry lead the way in adopting new technologies and creating a market. This is opposed to the government intervention through land grants and oversight bodies like the ICC that was required by the Rail Roads to reach this height. Also where the railroads helped create economic growth through it’s expansion the Auto industry created and required new industries and economic growth to facilitate itself. • WHY IS THIS? Questions to Consider… • Why do they adopt new technology? Does the assembly line make this easier? • Does this innovation change the nation? Are the effects still around today? Was it possible because of larger market? • The railroads guided the American economy through • the 19th century, while the auto industry powered the American economy into and through the 20th century.