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Ford has been a significant part of American history since it started making vehicles in 1903. A pioneer of many changes in the workforce, Henry Ford and the Ford Motor Company implemented a forty-hour work week. On this day in history, May 1, 1926, Ford adopted the five-day, 40-hour work week that is still in use in 2023. That was down from 45 hours, hoping to increase productivity while keeping up with the demand for its popular cars and pickup trucks.

Was Ford Motor Company responsible for the 40-hour work week?

According to The History Channel, Ford Motor Company was responsible for the 40-hour work week. Henry Ford built his first vehicle in 1896, and the Ford Motor Company was founded in 1903. The Ford Model A came off the production line on July 23, 1903. Skip to May 1, 1926, Ford was a major force in getting the 40-hour work week off the ground. At first, this applied to the automotive factories only. Eventually, the standard work week was extended to the office workers by the following August.

This wasn’t the first time Ford made waves with labor policies, either. In 1914, unemployment and labor unrest were running rampant in the country. Ford announced it would pay male factory workers $5 for eight hours of work per day. That was more than double the initial $2.34 for nine hours of work. Female workers were given the same rate by the time 1916 rolled around.

This $5 workday was double what the average American automotive worker made in 1914. It boosted the morale and productivity of the Ford Motor Company assembly line and ended up being a great move. Company loyalty and pride followed the change, making Ford one of the better places to work at the time.

The Ford Motor Company also created the five-day workweek

Ford had some significant impacts in its first few decades of work. It also pioneered the decision to change the work week from six to five days a week in 1922. Edsel Ford, who was Henry’s son and the president of FoMoCo at the time, gave an interview to The New York Times, saying, “Every man needs more than one day a week for rest and recreation.” He said, “The Ford Company always has sought to promote [an] ideal home life for its employees. We believe that in order to live properly, every man should have more time to spend with his family.”

Ford hoped to increase productivity on those five days, even though the work week was not as long. Soon enough, many companies and manufacturers followed suit. A five-day workweek remains the standard to this day in most countries.

A few years later, Ford Motor Company adopted the 40-hour work week. It was the same premise as the five-day schedule, hoping those eight hours of work would be more productive than nine. In 1927, Ford sold the 15th million Model T vehicle.

The Ford Motor Company first edition, a 1903 Ford Model A
A 1903 Ford Model A negative | Ford Heritage Vault

At first, Ford Motor Company had 12 investors and 1,000 shares. Combined, that gave the company about $28,000 to make the first Model A. When the Model A went on sale on July 23, 1903, almost all that cash was gone. By October 1, 1903, Ford had turned a profit of $37,000 through sales of that vehicle. That’s a pretty quick turnaround!

After that, the powerful V8 engine hit the market, and Ford continued to see commercial success. Edsel Ford launched the Mercury brand in 1939, and Ford started building Jeeps for the U.S. military two years later. By the time the F-Series launched in 1948, Ford was already quite successful. Since 1982, the Ford F-Series has been the best-selling vehicle in the U.S. An F-Series sold every 49 seconds last year has remained the best selling-truck for 46 years.

Today, Ford is still a popular workplace with an extensive lineup of cars, trucks, and SUVs. The 40-hour workweek is still a thing, too. Ford has been a major part of the history of American vehicles, especially when it comes to the pickup truck. Thanks to new vehicles like the F-150 Lightning electric truck and even the compact Maverick pickup, Ford doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.


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