April 11

This Day in History

Automotive

Apr 11, 1888:

Henry Ford marries

On this day in 1888, 24-year-old Henry Ford marries Clara Jane Bryant on her 22nd birthday at her parent's home in Greenfield Township, Michigan. Clara Ford would prove to be a big supporter of her husband's business ideas: Fifty years later, Henry Ford--who by then had founded the Ford Motor Company, invented the top-selling Model T car and revolutionized the auto industry with his mass-production technology--was quoted in a 1938 New York Times Magazine article as saying, "The greatest day of my life is when I married Mrs. Ford."

The couple, both of whom came from farm families, first met at a New Year's dance in Michigan in 1885. During their courtship, they enjoyed such activities as dancing, corn-husking parties and boating excursions. According to "Clara: Mrs. Henry Ford," a biography by Ford R. Bryan: "The two were impressed by each other, Clara with Henry's unique mechanical talents and Henry with Clara's serious and appreciative disposition." They were engaged in April 1886, but the future bride's mother thought she was too young to wed and made them wait another two years.

After their marriage, the Fords lived on farm land given to Henry by his father. By 1891, however, the couple moved to Detroit, where Henry Ford began working as an engineer for Edison Illuminating Company. The couple's only child, Edsel, was born in November 1893. In 1896, Ford completed a four-wheel, self-propelled vehicle with a gasoline engine called the Quadricycle. During the early years of their marriage, the couple lived in 10 different rental homes while Henry worked to develop an automobile. After incorporating the Ford Motor Company in 1903, Henry launched the Model T in 1908. The car, which was in production until 1927, held the record for the world's top-selling vehicle until it was surpassed by the Volkswagen Beetle in 1972.

In 1915, the Fords moved into a mansion built on land they owned in Dearborn, Michigan. The home, named Fair Lane, included an indoor swimming pool, billiard room, bowling alley and dance floor, as the Fords had always liked to dance. Clara Ford managed the estate staff, pursued such interests as gardening and traveled around the world on business trips with Henry.

Henry Ford died at the age of 83 on April 7, 1947; Clara Ford died three years later, on September 29, 1950, at the age of 84. Their son Edsel, who worked for the family business, preceded both his parents in death, dying at the age of 49 from cancer on May 26, 1943.

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