Answered By: Archives & Library Staff @The Henry Ford
Last Updated: Sep 21, 2017 Views: 804

Henry Ford started purchasing land for his Village Industries in 1918 and the first plant opened in Northville, Michigan in 1920. His plan was to decentralize operations and provide work to rural populations during the winter months while still allowing farmers to work in the fields during summer. In all, Ford opened 20 Village Industries between 1920 and 1944 with the goal of uniting industry and agriculture.

Most of the Village Industries plants were located within 50 miles of the Rouge plant in Dearborn. These were all small villages, or rural locations, and most plants were located on water with the intent of utilizing hydropower to power the operations. While the original plan was to allow workers in rural areas to work in the fields during summer and the factory during winter months, this didn’t completely work because busy factory times were often spring and fall coinciding with planting and harvest, and many workers preferred to stick to one occupation or the other. In 1928, the practice of regular summer leaves was dispensed with and by 1944 farmer leaves were no longer a practice. Ford believed employees should be involved in every aspect of production so they would understand all the processes and plants would run more economically. Workers in these plants continued this practice until Ford Motor Company signed their first contract with the UAW in 1941, which stipulated that all employees were to be assigned a classification and were not expected to do work outside that classification. Work continued in the Village Industries plants after the contract was signed, but workers were assigned specific tasks.

The Village Industries plants were fairly decentralized and Henry Ford oversaw and handled most aspects of the plants well into the 1930s.  Each plant had a manager and sometimes assistants to oversee operations; the managers reported to the Rouge, but much of the decision making was done by Ford himself. The Rouge set production schedules and took care of accounting, however there were no budgets for the Village Industries plants and little structure. In 1937, Roscoe Smith was put in charge of the Village Industries as head of the new Outlaying Plants division. In 1947, Village Industries became part of the new Parts and Equipment Manufacturing Division, with Smith still General Manager until 1952, when his assistant Walter H. Simpson took over.

An important goal of Village Industries was to help the community help itself. To work in a plant one had to be a local resident for at least six months ensuring locals got work and not outsiders. In these communities Ford also refurbished old schools, or built new ones which then became part of the Edison Institute school system. He also sometimes built churches, some of the Martha-Mary chapels were in Village Industries communities. In the 1930s, community houses were also built in many of these areas and members of the community, including school children, were included in Ford’s Employee Gardens program. Ford installed new water works and improved lighting in almost every community where a Village Industries plant was set up. The overall goal however, was to help people help themselves rather than establishing model towns.

Village Industries were never as profitable or efficient as Ford had intended them, although they fulfilled their function into the 1940s. With WWII and the switch over to wartime production the role and needs of the Village Industry plants shifted. When Henry Ford II became president of Ford Motor Company in 1945 he began looking for ways to save the company and started to end operations that weren’t performing well and the Village Industries plants soon began to close down. Most of the plants closed during 1945-1947, although some remained in operation, supporting manufacturing at the Rouge into the 1950s and 1960s.



Village Industries plant timeline

1. Northville
    Opened: March 1920 (new structure built September 1936)
    Closed: November 1981
    Output:  Model T and tractor valves (during WWII valves for government vehicles
         and parts for Pratt and Whitney aircraft engines)
    Notes: First Village Industries plant to open and last to close

2. Nankin Mills
    Opened: October 1921
    Closed: 1947
    Output:  Machined screws and later engraving operations (during WWII tools, dies, fixtures, and badges
    Notes: First Village Industries to use hydropower

3. Phoenix
    Opened: November 1922
    Closed: 1947
    Output: Generator parts (during WWII gun director parts)
    Notes: First new Village Industries structure. Started off employing women only.

4. Plymouth
    Opened: March 1923
    Closed: 1947
    Output: Generator cutouts until 1924, then taps (during WWII taps for government vehicles and parts
         for Pratt and Whitney engines)

5. Flat Rock
    Opened: November 1923
    Closed: between 1948-1952
    Output: Head and tail lamps (during WWII bomber parts and lamps for government vehicles

6. Waterford
    Opened: December 1925
    Closed: 1954
    Output: Johansson precision inspection gauges (during WWII gauges for other war plants) (post 1947
         continued to make gauges also took on taps, twist drills, engraving from closed Village Industries
    Notes: Each employee was a skilled craftsman, there were no inspectors

7. Ypsilanti
    Opened: September 1932
    Output: Starters and generators (during WWII starters and generators for government vehicles, dies
         for bomber plant, and parts for Pratt and Whitney engines)
    Notes: Designed by Albert Kahn and was largest of the Village Industries. HQ for Outlying Plant division.
           Made HQ for new Parts division 1947

8. Newburg
    Opened: July 1935
    Closed: 1947
    Output: Twist drills (during WWII twist drills for war projects and parts for Pratt and Whitney engines)

9. Hayden Mills/Tecumseh
    Opened: 1935, after Newburg
    Closed: c. 1947
    Output: Soybean cleaning and storage during (WII bomber parts) (post WWII generator armatures)

10. Dundee
     Opened: April 1936
     Closed: 1954
     Output: Copper welding tips (during WWII tank and bomber parts)

11. Milan
     Opened: May 1938
     Closed: 1946
     Output: Ignition coils at first, later added in soybean processing, after Saline opened (during WWII
         ignition coils for government vehicles)

12. Saline
      Opened: July 1938
      Closed: c. 1947
      Output: Soybean cleaning, soybean oil extraction (during WWII bearings for Pratt and Whitney)

13. Milford
      Opened: November 1938
      Closed: Unknown
      Output: Carburetors (during WWII bomber parts and fixtures for bomber plant)

14. Sharon Mills/Sharon Hallow
      Opened: February 1939
      Closed: 1946
      Output: Cigar lighters and light switches (during WWII light switches for government vehicles)  

15. Brooklyn
      Opened: July 1939
      Closed: 1957
      Output: Horns and starter switches (during WWII parts for Pratt and Whitney engine and bombers)
         (post WWII horns, distributor switches, and distributors, also plastic operations)

16. Willow Run
      Opened: early 1941
      Closed: late 1943/early 1944 and plant demolished
      Output: Locks and keys (during WWII bomber parts)

17. Manchester
      Opened: June 1941
      Closed: 1957
      Output: Dashboard instruments (during WWII Army vehicle parts and tools for other war plants)  

18. Clarkston
      Opened: September 1942
      Closed: 1946
      Output: Drills and bushings for government war jobs, straps and seat covers for jeeps) (post WWII
         continued to make drills and bushings for military)

19. Cherry Hill
      Opened: July 1944
      Closed: 1946
      Output: Locks and keys
      Noted: Most men on workforce were disabled vets

20. Macon
      Completed: October 1944 but never actually opened

Village Industries Bibliography

   Acc. 1 Fair Lane papers
      box 183 Village Industries
              Correspondence, general materials, and maps regarding possible sites
                   and plant operations, 1919-1941, and undated
              Correspondence with manufacturers of reaction and impulse water
                   wheels, 1930-1942, and undated
      box 195 Village Industries "Proposed Factory-Hydro Plant and Power House, Brooklyn,
              Michigan," elevation, 1937

   Acc. 62 Henry Ford Office papers
      box 114 Water power; Village Industries

   Acc. 284 Henry Ford Office papers
      box 28 Surveys; Adrian, Nankin Mills
      box  29 Surveys; Newburg, Phoenix Mills, Plymouth, Northville, Waterford

   Acc. 285 Henry Ford Office papers
      box 3 CH Christian Science Monitor re: “Village Industries”
      (also search for individual plant names)

   Acc. 23 General Personal Records
      box 5 Mill sites, 1929

   Acc. 951 Ford Motor Company Non-Serial Publications Collection
      box 19 Ford Village Industries

   Acc. 1120 Field Survey Notebooks Series
      box 8 Adrian, 1923 (2 volumes)
               Branch Plants (Waterford, Clarkston, Belleville), 1925-1941
               Brooklyn, Michigan, 1920-1939 (4 volumes)
      box 9 Clinton River, 1925
                Dexter Mill, 1926-1932 (5 volumes)
                Dexter, Dundee, Manchester, 1935-1939
                Dundee Mill and Dam, 1935 (4 volumes)
                Flat Rock, 1924-1938 (7 volumes)
      box 10 Village Industries; General Plant Surveys, 1921-1936 (7 volumes)
                  Hamilton, Ohio, 1925
                  Hudson Mills, 1937-1944
                  Milan Properties, 1935-1939 (6 volumes)
                  Milford Plant and Properties, 1935-1936 (4 volumes)
      box 11 Milford Plant and Properties, 1937-1939 (4 volumes)
                  Nankin Mills, 1936-1940
                  Northville, 1922-1937 (4 volumes)
                  Phoenix, 1920-1926 (2 volumes)
                  Pinckney, 1921-1928 (6 volumes)
      box 12 Pickney, 1929-1937 (2 volumes)
                  Rockwood, 1923-1931 (4 volumes)
                  Saline Property including Klein's Mill, 1935
                  Sharon Hollow, 1924-1939
                  Southfield Mills Survey, 1924-1926 (2 volumes)
                 Waterford; Powerhouse, 1925, Dam, 1924, Denby Pond, 1924
      boxes 13-15 Ypsilanti Plant, Power House and Dam, 1922-1935 (40 volumes)

   Acc. 1700 Ford Motor Company Property records collection
      box 1 Clarkston, MI
      box 2 Clarkston, MI; Delhi, MI (Huron Farms); Flat Rock, MI
      box 3 Flat Rock, MI; Hudson Mills, MI
      box 4 Macon, MI; Manchester, MI  
      box 5 Manchester, MI; Milford, MI
      box 6 Milford, MI; Saline, MI
      box 7 Sharon, MI
      box 8 Tecumseh, MI
      box 11 Ypsilanti, MI

   Acc. 288 Water Power and Real Estate Records series
      box 1 Brooklyn
      box 2 Clarkston, Dundee, Flat Rock
      box 3 Macon, Manchester, Milan, Milford, Nankin Mills
      box 4 Newburgh
      box 5 Northville
      box 6 Plymouth
      box 8 Saline
      box 9 Sharon Hollow
      box 10 Tecumseh
      box 11 Waterford & Clarkston
      box 12 Ypsilanti

   Acc. 680 Building Construction and Maintenance records subseries
      box 2 Brooklyn, Dexter, Flat Rock
      box 3 Nankin Mills, Northville
      box 4 Phoenix, Plymouth, Waterford, Ypsilanti

  Acc. 2004.1.1865 Ford Motor Company Branch Operations Records
      box 1 Compilation of data pertinent to Ford's small plants

   Acc. 620 Power Plant Engineering records subseries
      box 2 Generator Design; Village Industries (undated)

   Acc. 524 Plant Engineering Department records series
      box 2 Village Industries

   Acc. 447 Press Releases subseries, 1938-1941
      box 8 Village Industry

   Acc. 545 Press Releases records subseries, 1923-1937
      box 6 Village Industries

   Acc. 149 Advertising general file subseries
      box 152 War history; Village Industries
      box 153 War history; Village Industries

  Acc. 536 Public Relations Research Library press releases subseries, 1942-1955
      box 110 Village Industries
      box 133 Village Industries (14 folders)

   Acc. 241 Department executive records subseries, 50th anniversary, Ben Donaldson
      box 8 Village Industries

   Acc. 391 Wendell S. Miller records, Financial Division
      box 7 Village Industries
      box 23 Village Industries; Dearborn area small plants 1945-1946

   Acc. 33 General subject files subseries. Auditing Department
      box 100 Village Industries, 1931-1936

   Acc. 1846 Ford Motor Company Payroll Statistics Records
      Man-count data 1920-1947

   Acc. 1866 William Cameron Records
      box 6 Mancount summaries; Outlying plants, 1938-1943

   Acc. 44 William John Cameron records subgroup
      box 19 Village Industries, 1951

   Acc. 572 Nevins and Hill research, original documents and notes series
      box 21 (11.20.2) Plants; Village Industries

   Acc. 940 Frank Ernest Hill papers
      box 23 Plants; Village Industries

   Acc. 435 Charles C. La Croix Records
      box 1 Volume IV; Village Industries
      box 14 Ford and the War Effort-Detailed Volumes; Village Industries, Vol. I and II
      box 32 Subject File; Production – Village Industries

   Acc. 38 Charles Sorensen papers
      box 104 Outlying Plants post war work, 1945

   Small Accessions
      Acc. 865 Ford Motor Company Orientation Program Handbook, 1946 (includes
                     Outlying Plants)

      Acc. 1742 Langham, Katherine Journal (Macon Township, Mich.; Ford
                     Village Industries), 1930-1942
      Acc. 1233 Meyer, Paul A. papers (Ford Village Industries, Saline Buildings), 1976

   Acc. 1660 Photograph vertical file
      box 163 Village Industries - - Ford Motor Co.
                          Alberta; Employee dwellings, sawmills, schools
                          Big Bay; Sawmills, exteriors, interiors
                          Coons Mill
                          Dovers Mill
                          Dundee; General, construction
                          Flat Rock
                          Huron River
      box 164 Village Industries - - Ford Motor Co.
                          Macon; Business establishments and stores, chapels, dwellings,
                             gristmill, schools
                          Milan; General, construction
                          Nankin Mills; General, schools
                          Northville; General, construction
      box 165 Village Industries - - Ford Motor Co.
                          Northville; construction
                          Pequaming; general, bungalow, sawmills, schools, street scenes
                          Saline; construction, exteriors, interiors
      box 166 Village Industries - - Ford Motor Co.
                          Sharon Mills; Exteriors, interiors, reconstruction, rivers and streams
                          Willow Run
                          Ypsilanti; Hydro Electric Plant, construction, exteriors, interiors

   Acc. 833 General Photographs
      box 10 Michigan branches
                     Alpena (17a)
                     Big Bay Plant (2 folders, 17b and 17c)
      box 11 Big Bay Plant (2 folders, 18a and 18b)
                  Iron Mountain (3 folders, 18c - 19b)
                  Keating Spur-L’Anse (19c)
      box 12 Michigamme-Munising (19d)
                  Peguamining (20a)
                  Sidnaw (20b)
                  Ypsilanti (20c)
      box 158 Hydro plants - Saline (364b)
                    Hydro plants – Sharon Mills, Waterford, Willow Run (364c)
                    Hydro plants – Milford (3 folders, 365a - 365c)
      box 159 Hydro plants – Milford (365d)
                    Hydro plants – Ypsilanti (4 folders, 366a - 367a)
      box 160 Hydro plants – Ypsilanti (367b)
                    Hydro plants – Brooklyn, Clarkston, Dundee, Dexter (2 folders, 368a - 368b)
                    Hydro plants – Flat Rock (369a)
      box 161 Hydro plants – Flat Rock (2 folders, 369b - 369c)
                    Hydro plants – Hayden Mills, Manchester (369d)
                    Hydro plants – Northville (370a)
      box 162 Hydro plants – Northville (370b)
                    Hydro plants – Phoenix (371a)
                    Hydro plants – Plymouth, Rawsonville (2 folders, 371b - 371c)
      box 163 Hydro plants – Milan (372a)
                    Hydro plants – Nankin Mills, Newburg (372b)
                    Hydro plants – Newburg (372c)

   Acc. 721 Plant Engineering Construction Photographs series
      box 2 Brooklyn, 1938-1939 (2 folders)      
      box 15 Dexter Mills, Michigan
      box 16 Dundee, Michigan; Hydro-electric station construction, 1935-1936 (3 folders)
                  Flat Rock, Michigan; Construction development, 1921-1922 (2 folders)
      box 17 Flat Rock, Michigan; Construction development, 1921-1922 (3 folders)
                     Construction of filtration plant, 1923
                     Construction progress, 1921-1922 (2 folders)
      box 18 Flat Rock, Michigan; Construction progress, 1921-1922 (2 folders)
                     Construction repairs, undated
      box 30 Manchester, Michigan Construction progress, 1939-1940
      box 32 Milan, Michigan; Construction progress, 1938-1939
                  Milford, Michigan; Construction progress, 1939
                      Manufacturing Building construction, 1938 (3 folders)
      box 33 Milford, Michigan; Construction of Huron River Hydro Station, 1939 (3 folders)
      box 34 Nankin Mills, Michigan; Construction progress, 1938
                  Newburg, Michigan; Manufacturing buildings and hydro-electric construction
                      progress, 1934- 1935 (2 folders)
      box 38 Northville, Michigan - construction progress, 1935-1939 (4 folders)

   Acc. 188 Personal for Henry Ford photographs
      (search for individual plant names)

   Acc. 189 Photographs for the Company
      (search for individual plant names)

Ford News
   See: Industry, decentralization of
      Ford Manufacturing Plant (Ypsilanti, MI)
      Ford Plant (Brooklyn, MI)
      Ford Plant (Clarkston, MI)
      Ford Plant (Commerce, MI)
      Ford Plant (Dundee, MI)
      Ford Plant (Manchester, MI)
      Ford Plant (Milan, MI)
      Ford Plant (Nankin Mills, MI)
      Ford Plant (Newburg, MI)
      Ford Plant (Northville, MI)
      Ford Plant (Phoenix, MI)
      Ford Plant (Plymouth, MI)
      Ford Plant (Sharon Hollow, MI)
      Ford Plant (Waterford, MI)
      Saline Mill (Saline, MI)

Rouge News
  See: Hydro Plants

Oral Histories
   65_187 Roscoe Smith
   65_210 Charles Voorhess
   65_108 E.G. Liebold
   65_168 Stanley Ruddiman
   65_106 A.J. Lepine

   Acc. 65 Owen W. Bombard Interviews
      box 69 Sorensen, Charles, E.; “Village Industries,” Final

Vertical File
Ford Motor Company – Plants – North America – Michigan
   Flat Rock
   Hayden Mills
   Nankin Mills
   Sharon Mills

Village Industries
   Ford Heritage Trails
   General Articles
      1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, Undated
   Maps (See also oversize box 2)

Books and Secondary
   Henry Ford and his Village Industries in Southeastern Michigan. John Tobin
      338.76292 F699 T629 1985

   Recasting the Machine Age: Henry Ford's Village Industries. Howard P. Segal
      338.7 F699 S454 2005

   Beyond the Model T: The Other Ventures of Henry Ford. Ford R. Bryan
      338.96292 F699 B915b 1997

  Scans of location plans for Ford Village Industries sites in Southeast Michigan along
      the Rouge River.
Wayne County (Mich.) Road Commission 2010
‚Äč      917.74 F699 2010 CD-ROM

   Acc. 1117 David Lanier Lewis papers
      box 1 Ford Village Industries , 1972-1976

Researchers can also search under individual plant names: Brooklyn, Cherry Hill, Clarkston, Dundee, Flat Rock, Hayden Mills/Tecumseh, Macon, Manchester, Milan, Milford, Nankin Mills, Newburg, Northville, Phoenix, Plymouth, Saline, Sharon Mills/Sharon Hallow, Waterford, Willow Run, Ypsilanti


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