During the early years, autos were hand built, one vehicle at a time by skilled craftsmen assisted by small crews of semi-skilled workers. With demand rising, Henry Ford installed the moving assembly line at the Highland Park facility in 1913. The time it took to manufacture the then popular Model T was cut from a day and a half to ninety minutes. Mass production was born. Reliance on highly skilled crasftsmen quickly became a thing of the past and by 1920, 85% of auto workers were unskilled or semi-skilled.
Dynamic and complex, the panel above suggests the clamor of a factory. The sections, like windows into the lives and history of auto workers, surround the massive stamping press that rises larger than life in the center.
Dreaming of a better life, people poured into the industrial cities for work. Headed past the Statue of Liberty, this boat full of immigrants sails figuratively westward to Buffalo.
In the midst of surrealistic mechanical forms, a worker forges the rawest of materials for car making. Metaphorically the raw materials of the industry, newly arrived workers seem funneled into a life on the line where they toil without identity, facelessly bowing to the assembly line.
Voices From History
I will build a motor car for the great multitude. It will be large enough for the family, but small enough for the
individual to run and care for. It will be constructed of the best materials, by the best men to be hired, after the simplest
designs that modern engineering can devise. But it will be so low in price that no man making a good salary will be unable to own
one - and enjoy with his family the blessing of hours of pleasure in God''s great open spaces.
-Henry Ford, Founder,
Ford Motor Company, 1907
Did You Know?
Henry Ford opened his first Buffalo assembly plant in 1913 and a larger one at Main and Rodney in 1916, where 225 cars per day were produced.
In 1923, General Motors began assembling Chevrolets in Buffalo at the plant on East Delevan. Converted to defense production in 1941, the plant resumed auto production in 1946 making axles, as it does today as American Axle & Manufacturing.