Today in1915, the 1 millionth Ford car rolled off the assembly line at the River Rouge plant in Detroit.
At first, Henry Ford had built his cars one at time like every other automaker. But his factories’ efficiency and output steadily increased, and after he introduced the moving assembly line in 1913 the company’s productivity soared. By mass-producing just one kind of car from 1908 on–the Model T–Ford could take advantage of economies of that were unavailable to smaller carmakers and pass the savings on to his customers. Between 1908 and 1927, Ford sold more than 15 million Model Ts in all; they cost $850 at first (about $20,000 in today’s dollars) but Ford had managed to reduce the price to just $300 (about $3700 today).
No one paid much attention to the 1 million milestone. (“With twenty-five assembly plants…and with a big factory in Detroit assembling so many Ford cars a day,” said The Ford Times, “we passed the million mark without knowing it.”) The 10 millionth Ford traveled back and forth from New York to San Francisco and from Los Angeles to Chicago in the summer of 1924, inspiring celebrations everywhere it went. The 15 millionth Ford in 1927 came with the company’s announcement that it was discontinuing its classic Model T. The release of the 20 millionth Ford was fairly dull; that car went on a national barnstorming tour in 1931, then directly to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.
Revolutionary as it was at the time, Ford’s early production rate was nothing compared to its modern-day output. In 2008, even in the midst of a global financial crisis, Ford produced nearly 6 million cars.
Today in 1898 the Treaty of Paris was signed, formally ending the Spanish-American War.
The once-proud Spanish empire was virtually dissolved as the United States took over much of Spain’s overseas holdings. Puerto Rico and Guam were ceded to the United States, the Philippines were bought for $20 million, and Cuba became a U.S. protectorate. Philippine insurgents who fought against Spanish rule during the war immediately turned their guns against the new occupiers, and 10 times more U.S. troops died suppressing the Philippines than in defeating Spain.
The treaty passed by a single vote in the U.S. Senate on February 6, 1899, and was signed by President William McKinley four days later.
Today in 1869 Wyoming territorial legislators passed a bill granting women the right to vote.
The territory had over 6,000 adult males and only 1,000 females and area men hoped women would be more likely to settle in the rugged and isolated country if they were granted the right to vote.
Some of the suffrage movement’s leaders did have more respectable reasons for supporting women’s right to vote. William Bright, a territorial legislator, had a persuasive young wife who convinced him that denying women the vote was a gross injustice. Another major backer, Edward M. Lee, argued that it was unfair for his mother to be denied a privilege granted to African-American males.
Ultimately, most Wyoming legislators supported Bright and Lee’s bill because they thought it might attract more single marriageable women to the region. Territorial Governor John A. Campbell signed the bill into law, making Wyoming the first territory or state in the history of the nation to grant women this fundamental right of citizenship. Apparently loneliness had most to do with gender equality.
Today in 1920, the Nobel Prize for Peace is awarded to U.S. President Woodrow Wilson for his work in ending the First World War and creating the League of Nations. Although Wilson could not attend the award ceremony in Oslo, Norway, the U.S. Ambassador to Norway, Albert Schmedeman, delivered a telegram from Wilson to the Nobel Committee. In his telegram, Wilson said he was grateful and “moved” by the recognition of his work for the cause of peace but emphasized the need for further efforts to “rid [mankind] of the unspeakable horror of war.”
Today in 1941, 4,000 Japanese troops landed on the Philippine Islands. 2,000 Japanese troops landed on the island of Luzon in the north, and another 2,000 landed at Vigan on the western coast. Japanese bombing raids on Guam, Midway Island, and Wake Island followed the attack on the American fleet at Pearl Harbor. In Guam, 700 Japanese Special Naval Landing Forces invaded and occupied the military outpost after only a 25-minute military engagement, resulting in the capture of 500 American soldiers. The humiliation of the United States in the Philippines and a more extensive occupation of Indochina and the South Pacific were still to come.
Today in 1950 Dr. Ralph Bunche became the first Black American man awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, for his efforts in mediation between Israel and nearby Arab states the previous year.
Happy birthday Emily Dickinson, American poet, born today in 1830 at Amherst, Massachusetts. Though she did publish some work in her lifetime, her poetry became known only after her death when her sister discovered nearly 2,000 (another source says 1,800) poems locked in her bureau, written on the backs of envelopes and scraps of paper. They were published gradually over the next 50 years, beginning in 1890.
Dickinson never married. She died May 15, 1886, at her family home in Amherst and is buried in the family cemetery.
Rest in peace, Otis Ray Redding Jr., singer and songwriter, who died today in 1967 at Madison, Wisconsin in a plane crash at age 26. Redding was born September 9, 1941, at Dawson, Georgia.
His last song was uncompleted and he whistled a verse of “Sittin’ On the Dock of the Bay,” intending to fill in the whistling with lyrics yet to be composed. The “unfinished” song was released several weeks after his death and became history’s first posthumous #1 hit and the biggest hit of Redding’s career.