Hall of Fame

Even Ford Motor Co. almost ran out of cash.

When Henry Ford opened his company, on June 16, 1903, he decided to start manufacturing before he had lined up a market--so his business burned through its $19,500 in seed money distressingly quickly. Treasurer James Couzens's checkbook recorded the drainage: $10,000 to the Dodge brothers for motors and other parts, $640 to the Hartford Rubber Works for 64 tires, and other payments. By July 1, there was only $7,013.38 left in the account. After shelling out $31.40 for office furniture, $7 for fenders, and another $5,000 to the Dodges, among other expenses, Ford's total cash on hand on July 10 was exactly $223.65. Payroll needed to be met and more parts had to be purchased. With Ford's capital nearly expended, it seemed that the 25-day-old company would go kaput before it even got started.

The July 11 checkbook entry shows the turning point. "You literally turn the page," says Terry Hoover, archivist of the Henry Ford Museum, in Dearborn, Mich., "and you see that an investor paid in $5,000." Four days later Ford sold its first car--to Dr. E. Pfennig of Chicago. Liquid cash soared to $6,486.44. "If you didn't see the original entries in front of you," says Hoover, "you'd say that someone had taken dramatic license. This company was truly on the brink of going over."

From the collections of Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village