Henry Ford and Mass Production of the Automobile

Henry Ford and Mass Production of the Automobile
Helen Taft: Economics, Discovery and Daily Life

Skill: Elementary School
Time Required: Two or more class periods


   It is entirely possible that Henry Ford never uttered those words!  However, the Model T revolutionized transportation in the United States.  Until the production of the Model T, automobiles were too expensive for the average American to own.  Although the White House did not own a Model T, surely Nellie Taft saw them on the streets of our nation’s capital.


   The purpose of this lesson is to acquaint students with the major change in transportation that was embodied in the Model T Ford.   

Materials Required:

Access to the Internet Ford Cars timeline link Access to print reference materials Art supplies


Tell your students that they have been selected to design an exhibit for children (or their classmates in other rooms) that deals with the Model T Ford and its importance to American life.  Using the resources listed below and others (see Note to Teacher for a caution), students should: 
  • Introduce Henry Ford to their peers
  • Explain the moving assembly line (mass production)
  • Develop ads for the Model T that they think would appeal to buyers in the early years of the 20th century.

The exhibit design can be either individual or group projects.   

Note to Teacher:  You may need to check the web sites and print resources that your students will use very carefully.  Ford’s flirtation with Hitler and Nazi ideology in the 1930s may not contribute to the desired lesson outcomes.

Extending the Lesson:

   The teacher may want students to compare features of the Model T to those of cars today.  For example, today’s cars include options for radios, CD/tape/DVD players, heat, air conditioning, leather seats, anti-lock braking systems, keyed ignition, power windows and doors, stain resistant fabric, V-6 and V-8 engines, variable horsepower, hybrids, and a variety of color possibilities.  Students might be interested in comparing the nation’s first car for the masses with what is standard in the industry today.

Sources & Resources:


The Ford Museum has a wonderful website.  It is listed first.
Teacher resource only or to be used with care by older students (see Note to Teacher above):
This lesson was developed by Bette Brooks, Kent State University.