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Scenes From the Assembly Line at the Ford River Rouge Plant

The Ford Motor Company’s River Rouge Plant in Dearborn, Michigan was completed in 1928 at a site along the River Rouge. The manufacturing complex was the largest, and most productive such plant of its time. Henry Ford had the factory set up so that the company could not only manufacture as many parts as possible, but also ship by company boats most the of raw materials needed in production.

Today we are featuring seven images of the assembly line in the 1932-’34 period and following the photos a 1938 video,  A Trip Through the River Rouge Plant showing the operation in detail. The photos are courtesy of the Henry Ford, where you can to learn about the Henry Ford Museum and Dearborn Village.

Ford River Rouge Plant July 1931

  • The Ford Motor Company’s River Rouge Complex August, 1931.

1932 Ford Chasiss Assembly Line

  • Chassis assembly line 1933.

Ford 1933 Assembly Line

  • Completed chassis’ with front sheet metal being added on the assembly line, September 1, 1933.

1934 Ford Engine Drop On Assembly Line

  • Engine drop into the chassis 1934.

Ford Frame Assembly Line 1934

  • Frame assembly operations 1934.

Ford Steering Wheel Molding Machine 1934

  • Steering Wheel Molding Machine November 15, 1934.

Narrated by Lowell Thomas, A Trip through the River Rouge Plant documents the manufacture of a new Ford from the processing of raw materials to the finished product as it winds it’s way through the giant plant in 1938.  The watermark at the top disappears at the 1:30 mark.

11 responses to “Scenes From the Assembly Line at the Ford River Rouge Plant

  1. I JUST took the tour of the Rouge Plant this past Saturday, watching the production of the new F150 pickups. I was completely impressed with the entire presentation. If you haven’t. this you gotta see ! It’s a self guided tour so plan on spending time to enjoy it fully.

    • Assembly of the current F150 is a far cry from the days portrayed in these photos and the video. I agree that the current Rouge Tour is very worthwhile. My wife and I went through when the previous truck was being built. We went through every interactive kiosk in great detail as I was able to explain what the images in them represented. When we arrived we were told the tour would take 1-1/2 to 2 hours. I think we were 4-1/2.

    • Particularly in the area of the frame assembly. No hearing protection and no noise absorbing materials anywhere near where these men were working. The people working at the end of the line where the cars were driven off to the rolls test were relatively well off.

    • Yes, that would have been their stock of rivets to use in the frame assembly. Extra boxes of rivets would have been stored nearby and dumped into those troughs as required.

  2. I’ve come to realize the genius was not only Henry Ford but the men who designed the tooling for the automated processes. The photo of the steering wheel press is a fine example.

  3. In the chassis, front end and frame assembly photos visible on the floor are the creosote soaked wooden blocks that everyone worked and walked on. These floors were still present in some Ford plants up into the mid 1970s. The ideas behind them were several. They were easily replaced if damaged, easily removed to rearrange the floor layout and also reasonably easy to walk on versus being on poured concrete. All the workers had to tolerate was the stench from the creosote.

  4. Touring River Rouge is on my bucket list. But then, so is a tour to Greenfield Village. I hope to make that dream come true within the next couple of years…

  5. My father took me through River Rouge and Greenfield Village on a family holiday in 1952. I was 11 years old. He especially wanted me to see the final assembly line. He had heard me say maybe I’d like to work in such a plant, and he wanted me to see what it would be like. An hour spent watching men doing the same thing over and over and over again made me realise that, for true, I wanted to be a writer and not the builder of cars. I’m 75 now and I can yet see those men going through their restricted ballet.
    Richard Merrill
    Corozal Town
    Belize

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