Answered By: Archives & Library Staff @The Henry Ford
Last Updated: Feb 24, 2017 Views: 19

In the early 1920s, at the urging of E.G. Kingsford, Henry Ford’s cousin by marriage, Ford purchased property in Michigan’s upper peninsula and built the Iron Mountain plant. The main purpose of this plant consisted of processing lumber to be used in building Model T body frames and other car parts. During the course of this manufacturing process, much wood waste was generated. In an effort to salvage and commodify these waste materials, Henry Ford took the opportunity to produce and sell charcoal briquets. Henry Ford did not invent charcoal briquets, he just modified the charcoal manufacturing process by reducing and uniformly standardizing the size from a lump to a briquet.      

When Ford started to produce the briquets in 1924, other suppliers of charcoal had already been marketing their products for industrial and commercial purposes. Charcoal was already being used in foundries, workshops, hotels, restaurants, and in curing tobacco, as well as meat and fish in smoke houses. Ford Motor Company continued to market to these audiences, but expanded their campaign to include household utility.     

A small advertisement from the September 15, 1924 issue of the Ford News, states that, “Charcoal briquettes… can now be purchased at the Ford commissary stores, Highland Park. … They are suitable for use in fireplace grates, cooking ranges and as kindling for coal or coke fires in furnaces or base-burners". Then in 1932, Walter Stoepple, an employee at the Iron Mountain plant and an avid outdoorsman, developed the idea to create a campfire starter kit. The relatively simple package consisted of a shoebox sized cardboard box, 12 charcoal briquets, some pine cones and curled wood shavings.  By 1935 the Ford Sales Department had spiffed up this package and was marketing the Ford Charcoal Picnic Kits at all Ford dealerships. 

Promoting camping and picnicking activities was a natural fit for Ford Motor Company because it facilitated the use (and therefore, purchase) of Ford vehicles for leisure activities.  Briquets, picnic kits, and vehicles were all sold separately, and dealers were not required to sell one with the other. Even so, the sales of charcoal briquets remained popular and proved to be profitable for the company.

In 1951, wood was no longer being used to build automobiles, so Ford Motor Company sold the Iron Mountain plant to the Kingsford Chemical company.  This facility continued to make charcoal briquets, but under the name of Kingsford Charcoal, not the Ford logo.  In 1961 the Kingsford Chemical company shut down the plant and moved its operation to Louisville, Kentucky.

 

Bibliography

Archival
Acc. 1729, John Bennett Records,
Box 1, Bennett Report: Ford Motor Co. and the Charcoal Briquet; 30 Nov., 1987

Acc. 19, Advertisements
Box 135, Size BB, FMC Products and Services - By Products – Charcoal

Acc. 447, Public Relations
News Releases, Charcoal Broilers

Acc. 951, Non-Serial Imprints
Box 13, Ford Charcoal Briquets
Box 20, Fuel of a Hundred Uses: Ford Charcoal Briquets
Box 41, Seasonal Advertisements for Charcoal Briquets

Ford News
Brevities (Used during 1937 flood to keep victims warm), 17:5:95
Briquet Plant Produces Fifty-Five Tons Daily, 6:15L
Briquettes for sale at Rouge and Highland Park (Price & usage-1924), 5:1L:1
By-Products, 1929,10:7:75
By-Products Sale II Million in '25, 6:16F:1
By-Products Sales, 1929 (Compared to 1928), 10:7:75
By-Products Sales-1928 (1927/28), 9:8:91
Catechism on Ford Products, 8:22:215:1-2
Charcoal briquets Did Your Fire Go Out Last Night?, 5:5L:8
Charcoal Manufacture Under Way at Iron Mt., 4:4F:I+:1-4,4:22L:I+
Chemical Plant Featured in Exhibit (Uses and sale), 8:1L:3
Experiments yield wood briquettes for fuel (1923), 2: IIF:4
Ford Charcoal Briquet Picnic Kit, 16:8:159
Ford Charcoal at Commissary Store, 4:22L:1
Ford Charcoal Briquets (How made and how used), 11:11:19
Ford Charcoal Briquettes - A Clean Fuel (1924), 5:3L:8
Ford Industries Set New Total for Year '27 (Production), 8:6: 13+
Iron Mountain..[Fire]Destroys Million Pounds Charcoal Briquets, 6:15L:8
It’s Fun To Cook Outdoors, 19:5:110+
Let's Have A Picnic, 18:8:191
Let's Have A Picnic (Includes grills for sale). 20:7: 167
Made by Ford In 1928, 9:3:26
Many Chemicals from Waste at Iron Mountain, 6:16L:1+
On Preparing Briquets (For cooking), 10:13:155
With Byrd and other Ford Users (Used on South Pole expedition), 13: 11 :205+
 

Audio-Visual
Acc. 833, Boxes 37 and 38
Acc. 1660, Box 2

Vertical File
Ford Motor Company – By Products

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