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Vintage photos show US car factories throughout the last century - Business Insider

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US Markets Loading...HMSVintage photos show what it was like to work in a US car factory a century agoFlywheel production at the Ford motor plant in Highland Park, Michigan.Hulton Archive/Getty ImagesGas-powered automobiles were first invented in Europe in the late 1800s.But factories and mass-production techniques soon allowed the US to dominate the car industry.Photos from 100 years ago show innovations at factories, and what it was like to work in one.LoadingSomething is loading.Thanks for signing up!Access your favorite topics in a personalized feed while you're on the go.Germany's Karl Benz invented the first gas-powered car with a combustion engine in 1885, and he began selling it soon after.In the first decade of the 20th century, manufacturers turned their focus to creating vehicles that were cheaper to make and sell.Henry Ford established the Ford Motor Company in Detroit, Michigan, in 1903 and, amid demand for his vehicle, the Model T, he innovated new production techniques, specifically the first moving assembly line for cars in 1913.In the early 20th century, other car manufacturers, such as General Motors and Chrysler, also set up shop in Michigan.Now, the automotive industry is at a crossroads once again as the United Auto Workers Union, or the UAW, launched a historic strike against three Detroit automakers, Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis, in September.The union is putting pressure on the industry over issues of wages, worker schedules, and benefits.These black-and-white photos show how car factories looked over the past century.In the early 20th century, over 100 companies throughout the country were building small numbers of cars powered by electric, steam, and gas.Hudson Motor Car Co., Detroit, Michigan, between 1900 and 1915.Heritage Art/Heritage Images via Getty Images)Source: Smithsonian National Museum of American HistoryBy 1910, Henry Ford had introduced the next model of his in-demand automobile, the Model T, and William Durant had founded his company, General Motors.Women working on an early outdoor Ford assembly line in 1910.George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty ImagesSource: History.comHenry Ford had big plans for improving how his cars were manufactured, so he constructed a new plant in Highland Park, Michigan, in 1910, helping to establish the state as the industry's home.The Ford Motor company production line in Detroit in 1910.Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty ImagesSource: FordAt his plant, Ford innovated mass-production techniques with his moving assembly line, which was first used in 1913.Workers on an assembly line inside the Ford Motor Company factory at Highland Park, Michigan, constructing steering systems.Hulton Archive/Getty ImagesSource: Ford, PBSHis innovation was inspired by conveyor belts he'd seen in grain warehouses and assembly lines in slaughterhouses.Ford's first moving assembly lines at Highland Park, Michigan, 1913.Hulton Archive/Getty ImagesSource: FordThe moving assembly line meant the car moved to the employee rather than the other way around.The vehicle was initially pulled into place by a rope — later, a chain — so the car could be built step-by-step.Workers constructing a Model-T engine on an assembly line in a Ford Motor Company factory.Hulton Archive/Getty ImagesWith the moving assembly line, his Model T could be built in only 93 minutes, a dramatic decrease from the 12 hours it previously took.View of a portion of the assembly line for Model T automobiles at a Ford manufacturing plant, 1913.Underwood Archives/Getty ImagesSource: FordHowever, the innovation also made employees' jobs more repetitive and tedious — like those pictured making flywheels — and they began quitting in droves.Flywheel production at the Ford motor plant in Highland Park, Michigan.Hulton Archive/Getty ImagesSo in 1914, Ford doubled wages to $5 per eight-hour day, which is about $150 in today's money. This competitive wage and its impact on productivity helped the middle class thrive, NPR reported.Factories of the Ford cars in Michigan, 1917.Boyer/Roger Viollet via Getty ImagesSource: The Henry Ford, Bureau of Labor Statistics, NPRA shorter workday also allowed Ford to create a third shift, and the plant was able to hire more workers and essentially make the company a 24-hour operation.New Ford Motorcars grouped in a warehouse, 1925.Archive Holdings Inc./Getty ImagesSource: FordBy 1926, the Ford Motor Company would become one of the first companies in the US to implement a five-day, 40-hour work week in its factories.Assembly line production of the Model A at a Ford automobile plant in Detroit, Michigan, 1927.ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty ImagesSource: History.comFord halted production of its Model T in 1927, by which time 15 million units had been sold.Workers on a motor car production line at a factory, circa 1930.Herbert/Getty ImagesSource: History.comBy the 1920s, Ford, Chrysler, and General Motors — all founded in Michigan — would be known as the Big Three automakers.Michigan, 1927.Hulton Archive/Getty ImagesSource: History.comBy 1929, the Big Three were responsible for 80% of the industry's output.Factory workers assembling an engine in the body of a car, circa 1930.Frederic Lewis/Getty ImagesSource: History.comBy the 1930s, smaller manufacturers were going out of business, unable to keep up with the large-scale production of the Big Three.Manufacturing of transmission items of the American Buick cars in the General Motors factory in Detroit around 1930.Keystone-France/Getty ImagesSource: Smithsonian National Museum of American HistoryPhotos from the 1930s show how the production line continued to thrive in America's car factories.That decade, European car makers adopted the same processes.Overhead view of a motor car production line at a factory, circa 1930.Welgos/Getty ImagesSource: History.comMore than 6 million women stepped up in response to the shortage of male labor during World War II.In the car industry, the population of female employees increased from 28,300 in October 1941 to 203,300 by November 1943.A woman braces with her foot to operate an axle lathe at a car wheel manufacturer in Buffalo, New York, in April 1943.CORBIS/Corbis via Getty ImagesSource: The University of Michigan-DearbornHere, workers are putting the finishing touches on the 1947 models of the Mercury, one of three cars made by Ford at the time, at the River Rouge Complex in Dearborn, Michigan.Dearborn, Michigan, 1947.Keystone Features/Hulton Archive/Getty ImagesFord workers in Dearborn are photographed finishing the Custom Deluxe at the end of the assembly line, which could produce 500 cars in a single, eight-hour shift.Dearborn, Michigan, circa 1950.FPG/Archive Photos/Getty ImagesSource: Getty ImagesIn 1955, General Motors, Chrysler, American Motors (Nash-Hudson), Ford, and Studebaker-Packard were making 99.7% of all cars.Section of the body of a car on an assembly line at Nash Automobile Factory, November 1, 1950.Jerry Cooke/Getty ImagesSource: The Saturday Evening PostRead nextCars

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