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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.

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