September 24, 1908
The first factory-built Ford Model T was completed on this day, just one more step in Ford’s affordable revolution. Affectionately known as the “Tin Lizzie,” the Model T revolutionized the automotive industry by providing an affordable, reliable car for the average person. Ford was able to keep the price down by retaining control of all raw materials, and by employing revolutionary mass production methods. When it was first introduced, the “Tin Lizzie” cost only $850 and seated two people.
September 12, 1912
Plan for transcontinental highway is unveiled
They called it the Coast-to-Coast Rock Highway–3,000 and some miles of graveled road that would stretch from New York to San Francisco. Carl G. Fisher and James A. Allison announced their vision to the world on this day, a plan for America’s first transcontinental highway. The new highway was to be finished in time for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco at a cost of a mere $10,000,000, collected from private sources. However, Fisher and Allison’s plan began to go awry when they failed to win Henry Ford’s support for the project, putting their fund-raising efforts in jeopardy. Henry Joy, president of Packard and a supporter of the highway project, came up with the idea of naming the road after Abraham Lincoln–an idea that would garner $1.7 million in federal funds for the project. The highway was eventually completed as a memorial to Abraham Lincoln, paved in concrete rather than gravel, and christened the Lincoln Highway. It was to become an American icon, the predecessor to Route 66.
August 14, 1893
Paris issues first license plates
On this day, the world’s first automobile license plates were issued in Paris, France. However, plates were not issued in the United States for a few more years, when they were finally instituted as a safety measure. The city of Boston was the first to require its motorists to hold a license and register their vehicle–the owner would make his own plate with the corresponding registration numbers. The rest of Massachusetts soon followed the trend and began issuing registration plates made of iron and covered with a porcelain enamel.
August 2, 1950
Ford creates defense department
The Ford Motor Company created the Defense Products Division in order to handle the large number of government contracts related to the Korean War. The conversion from automobile manufacture to weapons production had already been made several times in history, including during World War II, when civilian automobile production in the U.S. virtually ceased as manufacturers began turning out tanks instead.