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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Ford of Canada outlines 1914 Canadian values and the work ethic: Part One

The 1914 Ford Model T Touring Car. This example shows LHD but workers at Ford of Canada also built right-hand drive cars for drivers in British Columbia, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island where vehicles drove on the left side of the road. 
In 1914, The Ford Motor of Canada Limited announced that its employees would receive $4 a day and become partners in a corporate profit sharing program. This unprecedented move made Ford’s workers the highest paid labourers in the British Empire. The announcement was world news. 

Eligibility in the plan was extended to every male employe (sic) 22 years of age, who, “leads a clean, sober and industrious and who can prove that he is of thrifty habit.” Also every married man, regardless of age who was industrious, sober and lived in clean and sanitary surroundings provided that he lived with his family. Further, every young single man under the age of 22 who could show he was the sole support of a widowed mother or next of kin was included. Finally, “deserving women and who have a relative or relatives solely dependent up them for support may benefit.”

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To underscore the importance of the offer, Ford of Canada published a comprehensive booklet from its offices in Ford, Ontario and distributed them to its hourly workers. Entitled Helpful Hints and Advice for Ford Employes (sic) it was subtitled, “To help them grasp the Opportunities which are presented to them by the Ford Profit Sharing Plan.”

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 Within its covers, the new deal and the expectations that Ford wanted were spelled out in very specific detail. The handbook outlined both work ethic on the job and exactly what employees were expected to  function outside of work, as well.  The premise was based on “…the unselfish desire to make each individual workman a healthier, happier and more useful citizen.”  In short, it defined Canadian values as perceived by the company in the early 20th Century.

The first section opened to an explanation  “What the Wage Increase is For.” Acceptable housing was outlined as most important. Health and comfort in living conditions were emphasized as the cornerstone. Pictures of dark, filthy and unsanitary tenements, contrasted with images of bright, wholesome attractive neighbourhoods that fostered contentment and happiness were shown.

Ownership of a modest, modern home in a desirable neighbourhood was to be the labourer's goal when working at Ford of Canda.

The document went to great pains to explain, “It is by no means the intention of the company to dictate the neighbourhood in which the employe (sic) shall live, but it does insists that the neighbourhood be decent and the home wholesome, clean and sanitary.”

Investigators were assigned to visit workers in their homes on a regular basis. Each man was a issued an official Ford badge to identify him when he came to the door. There were warnings not to let imposter agents through the door.

Image result for sun shining through window clip art

Upon entering a home, the Investigator would observe whether the dwelling was sunny, well-lit and well ventilated. The domicile was expected be neat and clean. Furnishings were to be sanitary. Spitting on the floor was not allowed.  Windows were required to have screens to keep out disease-carrying flies.

The last word in cooking was McLary's Famous Kootenay Range. 

The kitchen received special scrutiny.  Few could afford an appliance as fancy as an ice box. Those who didn't have one stored food on countertops. Any food on counters and tables had to be covered. Milk was to be sourced from a reliable dealer, “whose stables are kept scrupulously clean.” Milk was to be kept on ice to keep it “sweet and pure”.  Even baby bottles were examined for sterility.

A modern ice box.

In face-to-face interviews, Investigators discussed with the workmen what they did “to make the most of their leisure time.” Men were to admonished establish bank accounts and make regular deposits. 

They were apprised that any savings bank in Windsor would open an account with a $1 deposit and would guarantee a 3% interest. Single men were expected to deposit all of their pay rise and live on the basic wage paid before the plan was implemented. Workers who bought anything on an instalment plan instead of paying cash were penalized. Since the company regarded savings as an exhibition of self-control, time payments showed weakness, a failure to curb man’s base nature. 

While most of the suggestions were not obligatory, it was advised that following the guideline would enable (men) to better their living conditions and make to make easier the conditions of those dependent upon them.” 

The one rule that could not be broken was the demand that “money be not foolishly wasted.” The Investigators were described as being, “solely for the good of each worker and devote all their energies toward getting a thorough grasp of the problems that confront the men every day. They are in a position thoroughly to study these problems and to help each man in working out a solution of them.”

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Copyright James C. Mays 2017 All rights reserved.

Ford of Canada outlines 1914 Canadian values and the work ethic: Part two

Ford pitched cars to farmers across the Dominion. “Now after the harvest—aren’t you going to buy that Ford?” This year’s models featured electric headlights. 

In 1914, The Ford Motor of Canada Limited announced that its employees would receive $4 a day and become partners in a corporate profit sharing program. This unprecedented move made Ford’s workers the highest paid labourers in the British Empire. The announcement was world news. 

With the fantastic increase in the men’s pay packets came a myriad of new responsibilities required by Ford. These measures were designed to make workers into better people, strengthen the neighbourhoods in which they lived and to embrace Canadian values, thus ensuring them their rightful place in society.

Located in Ford, Ontario (now Windsor), Ford of Canada's manufacturing complex is shown in 1914. 

The most complex part of the new deal was the savings plan. Employees were required to systematically deposit a goodly portion of wages into a financial institution with the goal of purchasing a home or a money-making investment property.

“A savings bank is the safest place in which to deposit  your money. It will yield you interest on the amount deposited. It is always safe, which is never the case when money is hoarded in an old stocking or hidden somewhere about the house were it may be burned up or lost or very easily stolen.” 

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In 1914 the chartered banks offered a minimum of 3% interest. “Banks will gladly begin with a $1.00 deposit.  

The path to a wealthy future according to head office’s thinking was home ownership. How to accomplish this was stressed in painstaking detail.

“Take the case of a young man, 22 years of age, who is a recipient of the wage increase totalling $4.00 a day. He saves $40.00 per month and at the end of four years has $2023.86 in the bank, interest having been compounded semi-annually at the 3% per annum. At the end of the four years, he marries and spends $400 furnishing a home. This would leave him with $1623.86 in the bank. If $1000 of this were now invested in some safe real estate mortgage drawing 6%, a balance of $623.86 would be left in the bank. During the next six months the following would transpire.  If he now saved $25 a month instead of $40, the amount in the bank , plus interstate the end of a year would be $947.97, which with the interest on the mortgage would be $1004.97. A second mortgage could now be bought, leaving $4.97 in the bank.

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At the end of the sixth year, savings in the bank added to interest on the mortgages would equal $427.26 and at the end of the seventh year this would be increased to $855.91. At the end of the next year this would equal $1308.56. Another mortgage could now be purchased, leaving $308.56 in the bank. By this plan mortgages could be more recently purchased each year.

An example of poor housing in a bad neighbourhood.

At the end of 8 (sic) more years five additional mortgages could be purchases brining the total  up to eight and the amount invested to $8000. The man would now be 38 years old. Continuing this plan up to the age of 60 he would have approximately $20,000 invited in 6% first mortgages. He could now retire and still receive the amount of his wage or $4.00 a day, from interest on his mortgages.”

A loaf of bread cost 6c in 1914.

The advice came with a multitude of warnings against investing in ‘get-rich’quick’ schemes. Care was to be  given to what kind of home should be purchased and in what neighbourhoods. Photographs were shown of desirable and undesirable habitation and characteristics of good and bad neighbourhoods were outlined as well. 

These pre-fabricated homes could ordered from the Eaton's catalogue in 1914.

Paying property tax on the instalment plan was delineated as well as unexpected rises. “ A street may be opened along property and the owner that property asses for his share of the cost of street opening and paving, laying of sidewalks gas and water pipes.” These expenses could force the owner to abandon his home at a loss or even bankruptcy. Fire insurance and how it worked was outlined. 

The latest word in Canadian living room suites in 1914.

Men were taught to collect receipts for all transactions from home furnishings, property improvement, even doctor’s bills and hospital fees. How to file them in a fireproof place was covered in the Ford document—once the receipts were entered into ledgers—one by date and a second by classification. 

Time payments were frowned upon and linked to a lack of self-discipline. “It is seldom, if ever, a good plan to buy anything for which cash cannot be paid. Goods bought on the instalment plan cost a great deal more than those for which cash is paid. The price is always higher and high rate of interest is charged on the unpaid amount. It is a good plan to “save up” for things. If, as sometimes happens, by the time the required amount has been save it is found there is no longer a desire for the article, you are so much to the good. A worker could be dismissed for failing to pay ‘just debts and obligations’ or borrowing from a loan shark—someone who would charge an exorbitant high rate of interest. 

Canada Life Assurance Company Limited was the Dominion's first homegrown life insurance company, founded in 1847. The Toronto head office building is seen here as it was in 1888. 

Employees were expected to purchase life insurance. This was at odds with many religions of the day that opposed insurance on the grounds that with the purchase, the individual’s faith in God was somehow lacking. Nonetheless, Ford promoted it as a way to relieve society of the burden of those left behind in the event of death. The various types of companies and policies were explained to the men. 

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In conclusion in the more than 40-page document issued by Ford of Canada, the company had this to say: “It is again urged that employes (sic) consult frequently with the company’s investigator. His experience has been broad and his counsel will be found helpful in all problems that arise. 

If the purposes of the wage increase are understood and are received in the spirit in which they are meant, much benefit is sure to be felt both by the employes (sic) and the company.’

The measures laid out were perceived as a ‘hand up’ —especially those who were new to Canadian life. In the Old World, living conditions were very different from Canada’s routines and traditions. Many came from oppressive lands where they could never open a bank account, let alone own property and a home. They had very limited knowledge of the freedoms that were theirs in their adopted homeland.  By spelling out the steps needed to accumulate wealth, The Ford Motor Company of Canada pioneered the middle class ,  showing workers how to become good citizens and loyal subjects of the King.

The Red Ensign and the Union Jack were Canada's flags until 1965

Visit my old car website at: The Oilspot Eh!
Visit my old car website at: The Oilspot Eh!
Copyright James C. Mays 2017 All rights reserved.