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An Austrian stamp featuring a portrait of Henry Ford (1863-1947)

Henry Ford and World War 1

Image Credit: Olga Popova / | Above: An Austrian stamp featuring a portrait of Henry Ford (1863-1947)

This is a billion dollar country.

Thomas Reed, 1892

Reed, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, isn't simply boasting. The year before Congress approved its first billion dollars of federal spending. In 1893, Frederick Turner says the frontier:

…has gone and with its going has closed the first period in American history

Now, America can only expand abroad. Carnegie's cheap steel makes the skyscrapers and vertical cities, and also creates a 'steel navy' to protect American economic interests abroad.


In 1898, one of these new ships, the U.S battleship Maine explodes inexplicably in Cuba's Havana harbour. Blaming Spain, America invades and defeats the Spanish controlled island of Cuba. As the Spanish empire ends, an American 'empire of liberty' emerges. The American navy again enforces control in the Philippines, recently ceded by Spain. In 1899, Filipinos reject American control, so America uses 70,000 troops to crush the rebellion. An early variation on water-boarding is used to torture rebels. This is the least of the American war crimes.

'Major Waller asked General Smith to define the age limit for killing and he replied, Everything over ten.' Testimony of Major Waller during his own trial

Outgunned, the Filipino rebellion is dead within three years. Many, including the writer Mark Twain, express disgust that his country, world famous for its Declaration of Independence, is now taking other's independence away from them. Patriotism wins the day and domestic issues come to the fore. Progressive laws under first Theodore Roosevelt and then Woodrow Wilson lead to better inspection of everything from frozen meat to monopolies.


In Detroit, 1908, maverick, obsessive, visionary, Henry Ford is on his third attempt to build a mass produced car. There are only 8000 hand-built cars in America and they're the expensive toys of the wealthy. Ford's revolutionary production line approach changes how everything is made. He makes a high volume of identical products, lowering costs and dramatically increasing output.

The man who places the part doesn't fasten it, the man who puts in a bolt doesn't put on the nut, and the man who puts on the nut, doesn't tighten it.

Prices plummet. In 1913, a Model T costs two years wages; nine years later, it's just 3 months.

Ford is also revolutionary in paying blacks and whites the same, a staggering $5 a day, five times more than a tenant farmer in Georgia. His progressive views on race and wage equality do not extend to Jews. He's reported to have said:

I know who makes wars. The international Jewish bankers arrange them so they can make money out of them.


Abroad, the 1915 sinking of the Lusitania, like the sinking of the Maine, brings America to war, this time with Germany, in the First World War. By 1917, $2 billion of American goods have been sold to the Allies. In just four years, the economy doubles in size. The entrance of American manpower, and mass production, proves decisive. A year later Germany agrees to stop fighting.

Did you know?

The hand-built cars before Ford were the equivalent of the private jet today. But instead of keeping a pilot on your payroll, you practically had to have a car mechanic on your staff. After Ford, and by 1924, there was a Model T coming off the production line every 24 seconds., Some first time drivers didn't use the brake. Instinctively, they shouted 'woah' at the top of their lungs at their new iron horse. Today Americans drive 4.3 trillion km a year., Americans did not rush to enlist (in the First World War). A million men were needed, but in the first six weeks after the declaration of war only 73,000 volunteered. Congress voted overwhelmingly for a draft. Howard Zinn: A People's History of the United States