Ford Motor Company Long Beach Assembly Plant, Crane, 700 Henry Ford Avenue, Long Beach, Los Angeles County, CA
Significance: Ford Motor Company built the Long Beach Assembly Plant during 1929-1930 as one of six contemporaneous assembly plants constructed in the United States. The overall purpose of these plants was to expand production of Ford's Model A, which replaced the Model T in 1927. Albert Kahn, the architect for the Long Beach Assembly Plant, also designed the other five Ford Assembly Plants. The Long Beach Assembly Plant was the only plant outside of Michigan to have a Pressed Steel Department as an integral part of the manufacturing and assembly process. Kahn's architectural design incorporated an enormous articulated structure that retained aesthetic qualities, yet permitted functional use of space. The Long Beach Assembly Plant operated until 1958 and typified the Ford Assembly Line concept. On a national scale the Long Beach Assembly Plant reflected a national trend of industrial growth, mass production of consumer goods, and the consumption of those goods.
Survey number: HAER CA-82-C
Building/structure dates: 1930 Initial Construction
Henry Ford built his first automobile, which he called a quadricycle, at his home in Detroit in 1896. His first company called Detroit Automobile Company, founded in 1899 but failed soon. On June 16, 1903, the Ford Motor Company was incorporated. During its early years, the company produced a range of vehicles designated, chronologically, from the Ford Model A (1903) to the Model K and Model S of 1907. In 1908, Henry Ford introduced the Model T. By 1913, Ford introduced the world's first moving assembly line that year, which reduced chassis assembly time from 12 1⁄2 hours in October to 2 hours 40 minutes (and ultimately 1 hour 33 minutes), and boosted annual output to 202,667 units that year. By 1920, production exceeds one million a year. Turnover of workers was very high. In January 1914, Ford solved the problem by doubling pay to $5 a day, cutting shifts from nine hours to an eight-hour day. It increased sales: a line worker could buy a T with less than four months' pay, and instituting hiring practices that identified the best workers, including disabled people, considered unemployable by other firms. Employee turnover plunged, productivity soared, and with it, the cost per vehicle plummeted. Ford cut prices again and again and invented the system of franchised dealers who were loyal to his brand name. Wall Street had criticized Ford's generous labor practices when he began paying workers enough to buy the products they made.