December 1, 1913 A moving assembly line starts rolling at the Ford Motor Company’s production site in Highland Park, Michigan, USA, marking the start of an industrial process that would drive prices down and allow 20th century consumerism to flourish. The conveyor belt-driven assembly line cut the time it took to produce a Ford Model T car from over 12 hours to just 93 minutes. It also allowed Ford to cut factory staff working hours, raise their hourly wage and slash the price of cars and allow them to reach the mass market. For the first time, Ford workers could realistically afford the cars they were building, as prices fell to the equivalent of around four months’ wages.
The quest for increased production efficiency was led by Ford founder Henry Ford although he personally couldn’t take all the credit for the moving assembly line: the idea of organising workers into a sequence of assembly had been around for centuries. The Ford system was inspired by practices in a Chicago slaughterhouse, where workers would cut up, or disassemble carcasses drawn by a conveyor. However, the Ford Company’s innovations were the driving force behind mass production as we know it today.
Also on December 1: Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat on a bus in Alabama, a symbolic moment in the civil rights movement (1955); AIDS the French and English sides of the Channel Tunnel are connected under the English Channel (1990); the EU’s Treaty of Lisbon comes into effect (2009).
Born on December 1: Marie Tussaud (1761), Woody Allen (1935), Richard Pryor (1940), Bette Midler (1945).