Ford Village Industries

Answer

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.
  1. 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
  1. 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.
  1. 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)
  1. Flat Rock
  • Opened: November 1923
  • Closed: 1950
  • Output: Head and tail lamps (during WWII bomber parts and lamps for government vehicles
  1. 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 plants)
  • Notes: Each employee was a skilled craftsman, there were no inspectors
  1. Ypsilanti
  • Opened: September 1932
  • Closed:
  • 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 in 1947.
  1. Newburg
  • Opened: July 1935
  • Closed: 1947
  • Output: Twist drills (during WWII twist drills for war projects and parts for Pratt and Whitney engines)
  1. Hayden Mills/Tecumseh
  • Opened: 1935, after Newburg
  • Closed: c. 1947
  • Output: Soybean cleaning and storage during (WII bomber parts) (post WWII generator armatures)
  1. Dundee
  • Opened: April 1936
  • Closed: 1954
  • Output: Copper welding tips (during WWII tank and bomber parts)
  1. 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)
  1. Saline
  • Opened: July 1938
  • Closed: c. 1947
  • Output: Soybean cleaning, soybean oil extraction (during WWII bearings for Pratt and Whitney)
  1. Milford
  • Opened: November 1938
  • Closed: Unknown
  • Output: Carburetors (during WWII bomber parts and fixtures for bomber plant)
  1. Sharon Mills/Sharon Hallow
  • Opened: February 1939
  • Closed: 1946
  • Output: Cigar lighters and light switches (during WWII light switches for government vehicles)  
  1. 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)
  1. Willow Run
  • Opened: early 1941
  • Closed: late 1943/early 1944 and plant demolished
  • Output: Locks and keys (during WWII bomber parts)
  1. Manchester
  • Opened: June 1941
  • Closed: 1957
  • Output: Dashboard instruments (during WWII Army vehicle parts and tools for other war plants)  
  1. 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)
  1. Cherry Hill
  • Opened: July 1944
  • Closed: 1946
  • Output: Locks and keys
  • Notes: Most men on workforce were disabled veterans.
  1. Macon
  • Completed: October 1944 but never actually opened

Village Industries Bibliography

Archival

  • 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 
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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
    • box 2 Generator Design; Village Industries (undated)
       
  • Acc. 524 Plant Engineering Department Records
    • 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 
    • box 110 Village Industries
    • box 133 Village Industries (14 folders)
       
  • Acc. 241 Department Executive Records. 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. 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
    • box 19 Village Industries, 1951
       
  • Acc. 572 Nevins and Hill Research 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
      ​​​​​​​
  • Acc. 1117 David Lanier Lewis Papers
    • box 1 Ford Village Industries , 1972-1976
      ​​​​​​​
  • 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.
      • General
      • Michigan
      • Adrian
      • Alberta; Employee dwellings, sawmills, schools
      • Big Bay; Sawmills, exteriors, interiors
      • Brooklyn
      • Clarkston
      • Coons Mill
      • Dexter
      • Dovers Mill
      • Dundee; General, construction
      • Flat Rock
      • Huron River
      • L’Anse
    • box 164 Village Industries - - Ford Motor Co.
      • Macon; Business establishments and stores, chapels, dwellings, gristmill, schools
      • Manchester
      • Milan; General, construction
      • Milford
      • Munising
      • Nankin Mills; General, schools
      • Newburgh
      • Northville; General, construction
    • box 165 Village Industries - Ford Motor Co.
      • Northville; construction
      • Pequaming; general, bungalow, sawmills, schools, street scenes
      • Phoenix
      • Plymouth
      • Romeo
      • Saline; construction, exteriors, interiors
    • box 166 Village Industries - Ford Motor Co.
      • Sharon Mills; Exteriors, interiors, reconstruction, rivers and streams
      • Tecumseh
      • Waterford
      • Willow Run
      • Ypsilanti; Hydro Electric Plant, construction, exteriors, interiors
        ​​​​​​​
  • Acc. 833 General Photographs Series
    • box 10 
      • 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
    • 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

Audio Visual (materials may be restricted due to format, please contact reference staff in advance for access)

Oral Histories

Vertical File

  • Ford Motor Company – Plants – North America – Michigan
    • Brooklyn
    • Clarkston
    • Dexter
    • Dundee
    • Flat Rock
    • Hayden Mills
    • Milan
    • Nankin Mills
    • Northville
    • Romeo
    • Saline
    • Sharon Mills
    • Ypsilanti
  • Village Industries
    • Ford Heritage Trails
    • General
    • General Articles
      • 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, Undated
    • Maps (See also oversize box 2)
    • Statistics

Books

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

 

  • Last Updated Mar 27, 2024
  • Views 1412
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