Answered By: Archives & Library Staff @The Henry Ford
Last Updated: Sep 21, 2017 Views: 157

WWI Liberty Engines were used mainly in De Havilland DH-4 airplanes and were developed by Elbert Hall and Jesse Vincent along with engineers from Packard Motor Company. The design was finalized during 1917 and early 1918 and was ready for production by mid-1918. The engines were manufactured by five automotive companies: Packard made 6,500, Lincoln made 6,500, General Motors (Cadillac and Buick) made 2,528, Nordyke and Marmon made 1,000, and Ford Motor Company made 3,950.

Before building the full engines, Ford produced cylinders for the Liberty Engines and were contracted for around 700,000, delivering 415,377 before Armistice. Ford improved the original process making them out of steel tubing instead of boring them out of steel to make them more efficiently and cheaper, cutting the cost from $24 to $8.25. Ford was asked by the government to make all the Liberty cylinders for manufacturers producing the engines.

The factories, short on men during war, employed women to work on the engines as well, unlike before the war when they kept female labor to a minimum.  It was said manufacturers preferred women in some of the work as they were more detail oriented and better suited to delicate work requiring a fine touch. Ford Motor Company, who at the time employed almost no women at all, began hiring women in August of 1918. By the time armistice was signed in November they had employed 500 women from one time to another in the factories. The women worked mainly in inspection but also in assembly, for example 150 women worked on piston manufacturing at one time. From the extant photos, Lincoln Motor Company appeared to have hired even more women, putting them to work at everything from gauging pistons and valves to welding to inspection.

The Ford original contract, signed November 22, 1917, called for 5,000 engines. Ford had to set up new tooling and new machines as they were only able to use about 420 of the machines they used in automotive production. With materials hard to come by during the war, the company only ended up making 3,950 engines by November 1918. However, according to Ford’s secretary Ernest Liebold, Ford engines were said to be highly sought after by pilots, so much so that the Government asked Ford to take their logo off the engines, a request Ford promptly denied.

   Acc. 499 William C. Klann papers
      box 1 Liberty Aircraft photographs (3 folders)

   Acc. 62 Henry Ford Office papers
      box 18 Liberty Motor
      box 71 War work - Liberty engines
      box 101 Liberty Engines

   Acc. 285 Henry Ford Office papers
      box 139 L110 L-M 117 Liberty Motor

   Acc. 6 Edsel Ford Office papers
      box 4 W (includes Material and labor cost for Liberty Motor)

   Acc. 1408 Liberty Engine Production Data (World War I), 1917-1918 (Small Accessions)

   Acc. 230 Liberty Engine Cost records susbseries
      box 1 Ledger sheets, costs, U.S. Government account, 1918-1919

   Acc. 494 Victor J. Perini papers
      box 1 Liberty Motor, 1918

   Acc. 364 Agreements and contracts subgroup
      box 6 United States Government - Liberty Motor Contract

   Acc. 1660 Photograph Vertical File
      box 167 World War, 1914-1918 – Industry, American – Airplanes, Liberty Engines
                     - Ford Motor Company
                     - Lincoln Motor Company

   Acc. 833 General Photographs
      box 265 World War I activities, 1918 (554a)

                    Tanks and airplanes, 1914 (555a)
      box 435 War production – World War I (2 folders)

   Acc. 721 Plant Engineering Construction Photographs series
      box 27 Lincoln Plant, Detroit, Michigan
                  A War Plant in the Making, Lincoln Motor Company’s photographic record, 1918                
                  Construction progress
                  Building construction, 1922-1923
                  Power house construction, 1926-1928

Oral Histories

   65_205 Laurence B. Trefry
   65_162 H. J. Robinson
   65_ 83 Harold Hicks
   65_98 W. C. Klann
   65_63 E. J. Farkas
   65­_212 J. M. Waggoner
   65_113 Alex Lumsden
   65_108 E. G. Liebold (Part I)
   65­_208 William F. Verner
   65_100 Charles C. Krueger
   65_149 William F. Pioch

Vertical File
   World War, 1914-1918 – Industry – Airplanes – Liberty Engines
         - Ford Motor Company
         - Lincoln Motor Company


Books, Periodicals, and Secondary
   A history of the Liberty Engine. Philip Sadtler Dickey
      629.13435 D551 1965 OS

   To destroy our Teutonic foes: The Lincoln Motor company and the manufacture of the
   Liberty aircraft motor.
Mark Tierney
      621.4 L736 T564 2001 OS

   Dyke's automobile and gasoline engine encyclopedia : containing 532 charts, inserts,
   dictionary, index, and supplements on the Ford, Packard, airplanes, and Liberty "12" engine.
   Treating on the construction, operation and repairing of automobiles and gasoline engines.
   Andrew Lee Dyke
      629.287 D996, 1920

   The Liberty Motor. United States, War Dept. Air Service.
      629.13435 U58 1920 (rare)

   Ford: Expansion and challenge, 1915-1933. Allan Nevins and Frank Ernest Hill

      338.76292 F699 N527 1957

   “The Production of Liberty Motor Parts at the Ford Plant.” W.F.Verner. Transactions, 1919 n.
      1695. American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

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