Henry Ford’s Highland Park plant was the great industrial wonders of the age, capable of turning out one Model T automobile per minute. Here’s some rare original footage of the process in motion.
In its time, 1910 through 1927, Henry Ford’s Highland Park, Michigan plant was one of the most advanced manufacturing facilities in the world—topped only by Ford’s own River Rouge complex 10 miles southwest in Dearborn. A good portion of the 15 million Model T Fords produced between 1909 and 1927 were assembled at the Woodward Avenue factory, and at one point the plant was capable of building one automobile per minute. The factory’s numerous innovations included the moving assembly line and the five dollar day, and at its peak it employed nearly 70,000 workers. Portions of the massive facility still exist today, used now for warehousing and light manufacturing.
We’ve called this story “Inside the Ford Highland Park Plant,” but the archival film footage also includes some valuable external views of the 120-acre factory, including jaw-dropping views of the tens of thousands of workers entering and exiting the plant at shift change. Also shown here are a few of the dozens of subassembly lines and the elaborate conveyor systems that were required to feed the main production line. Without this complicated and carefully orchestrated support system, the moving assembly line itself would not have been possible.
Note also that despite all the mechanization achieved at Highland Park, hand finishing labor was still required at some points, for example in filing the wheel spokes and in constructing the wooden framework for closed bodies. And at the end, there’s a brief glimpse of Henry and Edsel Ford driving car number 15 million off the line. Here are some great insights into the production of the Model T—please enjoy.