"[Henry Ford] knew that when there were cars in the driveways and chickens in the pots on the stoves in houses that people could afford to own, there would be pride in the hearts of the people."*
It was on January 5, 1914 that Henry Ford first announced the eight hour shift and the revolutionary $5 a day wage at his car plant. Previously, shifts had been nine hours in length and minimum wage was $2.34 a day. Some say that Ford's reason for the increased wages was altruistic; afterall, he had welcomed the physically handicapped and reformed prisoners into his factory, so why wouldn't he help the average Joe? However, others claimed that the wage increase was strictly an economic move on the part of the entrepreneur: he figured that he would reduce employee absenteeism, the employee turnover rate and new employee training costs while increasing morale and productivity. The $5 a day wage enabled his employees to buy the cars they made. Furthermore, Henry offered a share in the company profits to his "clean living" employees. Slowly but surely an American middle class was developping. By 1916, in the suburb of Dearborn, Michigan where Ford's employees lived, an automobile sat in most driveways. And the proof was in the pudding: in a two year period, Model T sales jumped from 260,722 to 577,396 and profits skyrocketed from $30 million to $60 million. Henry Ford's gamble paid off in spades.
*Source: "Christmas Wish is for Renewed American Pride", Roy N. Pullam, Evansville Courier & Press, December 26, 2011.
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