Publish date:
Updated on

Ford Foundation is born

On January 15, 1936, Edsel Ford, the son of auto industry pioneer Henry Ford, forms a philanthropic organization called the Ford Foundation with a donation of $25,000. The foundation, which was established in part as a legal way for the Ford family to avoid the hefty inheritance taxes that President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration imposed on large estates, grew into a multi-billion dollar institution that today supports programs in the U.S. and over 50 other countries around the globe for the purpose of the “advancement of human welfare.”

Henry Ford (1863-1947) founded the Ford Motor Company in 1903 and went on to launch the first affordable, mass-produced car–the Model T–in 1908. Ford was also credited with pioneering the moving assembly line and introducing, in 1914, the $5-per- day minimum wage and the eight-hour workday, which made it possible for ordinary factory workers to buy the cars they built and helped to create the American middle class.

Henry Ford’s only child, Edsel (1893-1943), succeeded his father as the president of the Ford Motor Company after his father resigned the position in December 1918 following a disagreement with stockholders. However, father and son soon managed to purchase the stock of these minority investors and regain control of the company. As president of Ford, one of Edsel Ford’s key contributions was to the styling of cars, which he believed could be stylish as well as functional. His push for style upgrades to the Model T eventually helped to convince his father to drop his rule that customers could have any color Model T, as long as it was black. In 1922, the Ford company bought failing luxury automaker Lincoln Motor Company and Edsel Ford was involved with developing such elegant, prestigious models as the Lincoln Continental and Lincoln Zephyr.

Edsel Ford, who in addition to establishing the Ford Foundation was a major patron of the arts, died of cancer at the age of 49 in 1943. Edsel’s oldest son, Henry Ford II (1917-1987), became president of the Ford Motor Company in 1945. He also served as the Ford Foundation’s second president, from 1943 to 1950, and remained active with the organization as board chairman then a trustee until 1976. Under his leadership, the foundation grew into the planet’s wealthiest philanthropy. Today, the Ford Foundation– headquartered in New York City and completely separate from the Ford Motor Company–supports a range of causes, from the arts and public broadcasting to civil rights, education, health care and fighting poverty. It continues to rank among the world’s wealthiest charitable organizations.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!


Packers beat Chiefs in first Super Bowl

On January 15, 1967, the Green Bay Packers of the National Football League (NFL) smash the American Football League (AFL)’s Kansas City Chiefs, 35-10, in the first-ever AFL-NFL World Championship, later known as Super Bowl I, at Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles. Founded in 1960 more

Martin Luther King Jr. born

On January 15, 1929, Martin Luther King Jr. is born in Atlanta, Georgia, the son of a Baptist minister. King received a doctorate degree in theology and in 1955 helped organized the first major protest of the African-American civil rights movement: the successful Montgomery Bus more

Biafra surrenders to Nigeria

The Republic of Biafra, a breakaway state of eastern Nigeria, surrenders to Nigeria after three years of costly fighting. In 1960, Nigeria gained independence from Britain. Six years later, following a military coup in which several Nigerian political leaders (including the Prime more

First appearance of the Democratic donkey

On January 15, 1870, the first recorded use of a donkey to represent the Democratic Party appears in Harper’s Weekly. Drawn by political illustrator Thomas Nast, the cartoon is entitled “A Live Jackass Kicking a Dead Lion.” The jackass (donkey) is tagged “Copperhead Papers,” more

Elizabeth crowned queen of England

Two months after the death of her half-sister, Queen Mary I of England, Elizabeth Tudor, the 25-year-old daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, is crowned Queen Elizabeth I at Westminster Abbey in London. The two half-sisters, both daughters of Henry VIII, had a stormy more

Qaddafi becomes premier of Libya

Muammar al-Qaddafi, the young Libyan army captain who deposed King Idris in September 1969, is proclaimed premier of Libya by the so-called General People’s Congress. Born in a tent in the Libyan desert, Qaddafi was the son of a Bedouin farmer. He attended university and the more

Kennedy says U.S. troops are not fighting

Asked at a news conference if U.S. troops are fighting in Vietnam, President Kennedy answers “No.” He was technically correct, but U.S. soldiers were serving as combat advisers with the South Vietnamese army, and U.S. pilots were flying missions with the South Vietnamese Air more

Hill Street Blues begins run

On this day in 1981, Hill Street Blues, television’s landmark cops-and-robbers drama, debuts on NBC. When the series first appeared, the police show had largely been given up for dead. Critics savaged stodgy and moralistic melodramas,and scoffed at lighter fare like Starsky and more