Answered By: Archives & Library Staff @The Henry Ford
Last Updated: Dec 12, 2017 Views: 348

Henry Ford started the Henry Ford Trade School to teach boys industrial arts and give them an opportunity to earn money while they learned. Boys age 12-15 were accepted, with an emphasis on low-income children who were orphans or breadwinners in fatherless families. Students split their time between academic classroom work and on-site shop training. Once graduated from the school at age 18 or 19, the boys were offered jobs at Ford Motor Company, took further training at the Ford Apprentice School, or moved on to other companies, college, and opportunities.

The school started in 1916 with six boys and one instructor in the AA building at the Highland Park Plant. Originally, half a day was spent on classroom work and half a day on shop, as more boys joined, the school switched to a rotating schedule with students divided into three sections M, T, and W with one day in class and the others spent in shop. In 1919, this was changed again with students spending one week in the classroom and two weeks in shop. In 1918, Frederick Searle was appointed superintendent, a position he held until 1946.  Over the years at Highland Park the school expanded to include a library through the Detroit Public Library and classrooms were established next door at the St. Francis Orphans Home (later Lawrence Institute of Technology). In 1927 a branch of the school was established on the 3rd and 4th floors of the B Building at the Rouge and in 1930 the Highland Park and Rouge Schools were consolidated at the Rouge. By 1935 the Detroit public schools accepted Trade School credits towards a high school diploma, the first Trade School diplomas were awarded in 1937, and the first formal commencement was held in the Rotunda Theater in 1939. In 1944, the Trade School acquired Camp Legion, the Academic Section of the school moved there and the curriculum was updated to meet requirements of high schools in the state in 1946. In 1948 the Trade School acquired status of an accredited high school and students could pursue higher education without completing their diplomas at other area high schools.

Ford wanted students to benefit from their education and their shop time was used productively; students produced and repaired tools and machinery for Ford Motor Company. From the beginning, students were paid an hourly wage, varying on their experience and time at the school, they were also given $2 per month as a thrift fund which must be placed in a savings account until graduation. Because the students’ work earned money, the school was able to give them 3 weeks vacation in the summer and 1 week at Christmas, as well as supply them with a hot lunch every day. The school also had its own first aid station and dentist.

The students were trained in a multitude of courses, both shop and academic. Over the years shop courses included: heat treat, tin shop, woodworking, welding, foundry, electrical, human engineering, pressure and vacuum gage repair, precision tool repair, nickel plating, air tool, and pre-flight aeronautics. Academic classes included: English, public speaking, Foremanship, Human Relations in Business, typing, advanced mathematics, American history, specialized drawing, physics, stresses and strains, strength of materials, electricity, chemistry, metallurgy, metallography, and driver’s training.

But it wasn’t all work, students participated in varsity and intermural sports and had an annual picnics at Bob-Lo. They formed the Exploration Club, Dramatic Club, Radio Club, Natural Science Club, Airplane Club, Glee Club, Camera Club, and Safety Club. They started a band, orchestra, German band, and choir. The students also published a newsletter starting with The Artisan in 1926, later the Craftsman in 1935, and lastly Times in 1950.

Students had opportunities to share their training and knowledge and traveled throughout the region and the United States at Ford Motor Company exhibits at industrial expositions and fairs, and in 1934 a group of Trade School students participate in the Chicago World’s Fair, demonstrating processes, tools, and materials.

During WWII a Civil Air Patrol squadron and pre-flight course work were started at the school. Students also worked alongside Naval Service School cadets, often teaching them how to use machinery at the Rouge.

Outside of the school, former students kept in touch and formed the Henry Ford Trade School Alumni Association in 1945. The association had annual meetups, produced its own newsletter, and continued to raise awareness of Henry Ford’s work in education until the members disbanded the group in 2017.

The Trade School was closed in July 1952 following Henry Ford II’s decision to reduce Ford Motor Company spending and cut all programs that were not income producing. In the 36 years the school operated it graduated over 8,000 boys from Detroit and surrounding areas. Trade School graduates worked at Ford Motor Company and elsewhere in a myriad of industries and professions. Graduates worked in diverse professions from the automotive industry to art and design, ministry and even medicine and dentistry. 


Acc. 774 Henry Ford Trade School Student records (semi-restricted, must sign use agreement)
                 Foreign Student Records, 1917-1927

   Acc. 864 Henry Ford Trade School Textbook List, 1952

   Acc. 983 Administrative Files series; Trade School files, 1921-1953

   Acc. 671 Henry Ford Trade School; Office of the Secretary

   Acc. 900 James Humberstone papers
      box 2 Alumni lists, class lists, syllabi, “The Craftsman”
      box 3 History, instructional material, misc., photographs

   Acc. 1 Fair Lane Papers
      box 174 Henry Ford Trade School, Admin, reports, correspondence, 25th anniversary

   Acc. 951 Ford Non-Serial Imprints
      box 11 Factory Facts From Ford, 1915, 1917, 1920
      box 15 Ford Industries, 1924-1931

   Acc. 818 Russian Student Delegation to Trade School

   Acc. 36 Frederick E. Searle papers (small accessions)
      Henry Ford Trade School history, purpose, etc.

   Acc. 479 O.H. Husen records
      box 1 Vol. 1. Henry Ford Trade School - accounting system, November 1928-1929
      box 1 Vol. 4. Ford Schools - Henry Ford Trade School, February 1931
      box 1 Vol. 4 Henry Ford Trade School operations, 1930

   Acc. 833 General Photographs
      box 76 and 77 Trade School

   Acc. 1660 Photographic Vertical File
      box 167 Vocational Education – Michigan – Dearborn etc. – Henry Ford Trade School

   Acc. 232 World’s Fair Photographs
      box 2 250-263 Henry Ford Trade School exhibit, Chicago 1933-1934
      box 4 2-50 Henry Ford Trade School exhibit, California 1935
      box 5 351-400 Henry Ford Trade School exhibit, California  1935
      box 8 167-190 Henry Ford Trade School exhibit, Dallas 1936-1937
      box 22 Henry Ford Trade School, New York 1939-1940

Ford News
See: Henry Ford Trade School
            -Articles about
            -Artisan Guild
            -Exhibits and Displays
            -Exploration Club
            -Extracurricular Activities
            -Field Trips
            -Foreign Division
            -Honor Cards
            -Model, as a
            -Radio Club
            -Radio Shows
            -Safety Training
            -Savings and Thrift
            -Teaching Methods

Oral Histories
   65_10 Bacon, I.
   65_98 Klann, W.C.
   65_106 Lepine, A.J.
   65_118 McCloud, J.L.
   65_174 Searle, F.
   65_230 Wolfe, A.G.
   Acc. 94.15.1 Claude Harvard

Vertical File
   Henry Ford Trade School (3 folders)
   Henry Ford Trade School Alumni Association

Books and Secondary
   Shop theory. Henry Ford Trade School
      621.9 H525 1934
      621.9 H525s 1942
      621.9 H525s 1955

   Henry Ford Trade School. Henry Ford Trade School
      378.01 H521 1948

   Shop safety at Henry Ford Trade School. Henry Ford Trade School
      670.423 H525 1935?

   The Craftsman. Henry Ford Trade School. 
      Land transport serial

   The History of the Henry Ford Trade School 1916-1952. Samuel Gaft. A dissertation
        370.113 G131 1998 REF

   Henry’s Lieutenants. Ford Bryan. Chapter on Frederick Searle
      338.76292 F699 B915 1993

   Henry Ford : educator. Searle, Frederick E.
      370.113 F699 S439 1950

   Automotive occupations. Leyson, Burr W.
      629.2 L685 1941

   Ford men and methods. Edwin P. Norwood; illustrated with photographs by Charles Sheeler.
          629.2 N894 1931

   For the good of all: a pledge respected. Thomas, Arthur D.
      378.052 H525 T454

   Acc. 997 Research paper entitled “Technical Education from the Henry Ford Trade School
                  to the Henry Ford Community College,” 1916-1965

   Acc. 1117 David Lanier Lewis papers
                 box 2 folder 17 Henry Ford Trade School

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