Make the Best Quality of Goods Possible at the Lowest Cost Possible, Paying the Highest Wages Possible

Henry Ford? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The business titan Henry Ford apparently said something like:

The industrialist should endeavor to make the best quality goods and pay the highest wages possible.

Would you please help me to find the precise phrasing and an accurate citation?

Quote Investigator: In 1933 Henry Ford was asked about the Depression which had submerged the economy of the United States and the world. He offered the following guidance to fellow business people. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

There is one rule for Industrialists and that is: Make the best quality of goods possible at the lowest cost possible, paying the highest wages possible. Nothing can be right in this country until wages are right. The life of business comes forth from the people in orders. The factories are not stopped for lack of money, but for lack of orders, Money loaned at the top means nothing. Money spent at the bottom starts everything.

The article with this quotation appeared in “The Los Angeles Times” and was distributed via the “Detroit News” and the North American Newspaper Alliance.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

A decade earlier in 1922 Ford had expressed a similar view about wages within his autobiography “My Life and Work” authored together with collaborator Samuel Crowther. He also advocated that profits should be reinvested to create more and better jobs: 2

The best wages ought to be paid. A proper living ought to be assured every participant in the business—no matter what his part. But, for the sake of that business’s ability to support those who work in it, a surplus has to be held somewhere. The truly honest manufacturer holds his surplus profits in that trust. Ultimately it does not matter where this surplus be held nor who controls it; it is its use that matters.

Capital that is not constantly creating more and better jobs is more useless than sand. Capital that is not constantly making conditions of daily labour better and the reward of daily labour more just, is not fulfilling its highest function. The highest use of capital is not to make more money, but to make money do more service for the betterment of life.

Also, in 1922 excerpts containing the quotation were reprinted in other periodicals such as “The Twin-City Sentinel” of Winston-Salem, North Carolina which acknowledged “McClure’s Magazine”. 3

In 1924 B. C. Forbes, founder of “Forbes” magazine, published a piece titled “Ford Speaks Mind About Employees” in “The Philadelphia Inquirer”. Henry Ford deemphasized befriending workers and running social activities; instead, he emphasized high compensation for his employees: 4

He believes in paying the highest wages possible and in letting it go at that.

In 1933 Henry Ford proclaimed his “one rule for Industrialists” as mentioned previously. 5

In 1937 B. C. Forbes published a collection of quotations titled “Thoughts on the Business of Life” which included the following: 6

There is one rule for industrialist and that is: Make the best quality goods possible at the lowest cost possible, paying the highest wages possible.
— HENRY FORD

In conclusion, Henry Ford should be credited with the passage he wrote in his autobiography in 1922 and with the words he spoke in 1933.

Image Notes: Illustration of Model T from advertisement in “The Illustrated Buffalo Express” of April 1908.

(Great thanks to JohnnyWalker2K1 whose inquiry led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration. JohnnyWalker2K1 noticed a 2013 article on the “Forbes” website that included an instance of the 1937 quotation.)

Notes:

  1. 1933 June 18, The Los Angeles Times, Greed in Trade Decried by Ford: Motor Magnate Gives Views on Depression Cause (North American Newspaper Alliance and the Detroit News), Quote Page 6, Column 1, Los Angeles, California. (Newspapers_com)
  2. 1922 Copyright, My Life and Work by Henry Ford in collaboration with Samuel Crowther, Chapter 13: Why Be Poor?, Quote Page 194, Doubleday, Page & Company, Garden City, New York. (Google Books Full View) link
  3. 1922 September 1, The Twin-City Sentinel, Henry Ford On Cheap and Convenient Power, (From the September McClure’s) Quote Page 8, Column 3, Winston-Salem, North Carolina. (Newspapers_com)
  4. 1924 April 16, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Ford Speaks Mind About Employees by B. C. Forbes, Quote Page 22, Column 6, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Newspapers_com)
  5. 1933 June 18, The Los Angeles Times, Greed in Trade Decried by Ford: Motor Magnate Gives Views on Depression Cause (North American Newspaper Alliance and the Detroit News), Quote Page 6, Column 1, Los Angeles, California. (Newspapers_com)
  6. 1937 Copyright, Thoughts on the Business of Life, Edited by B. C. Forbes, Quote Page 3, B.C. Forbes Publishing Company, New York. (Verified with scans)