The Model T was an American success story. Introduced in 1908 by Henry Ford, the automobile originally sold for $850 USD, but those early cars were assembled slowly, by hand. In 1910, Ford devised assembly line production techniques that allowed the factory to produce thousands of cars each week. That efficiency allowed Ford to cut the price in half, making cars accessible to ordinary people. Between 1908 and 1927, more than 15 million Model Ts were sold. Around 15,000 workers were needed to make the cars, but wages were low and employee turnover was very high. Ford’s solution was to double workers' pay to $5 a day, but only if his newly created Sociological Department evaluated the prospective employees completely, from how clean their homes were and whether their children attended school to how much money was in their bank accounts.
Background checks to the extreme:
- Ford investigators would show up unannounced at employees’ homes to check cleanliness. They’d ask about spending habits, bank records, alcohol consumption, and even marital status.
- Men under the age of 22 had to be married to earn $5 a day. Married men of any age didn’t qualify if their wives worked outside the home. And women were rejected unless they were single with children to support.
- Communication on the production line was crucial, so all Ford workers had to speak English. Immigrants had to attend the Ford English School -- on their own time, before or after work -- in order to be hired.