September 25: Henry Ford makes the five-day work week standard on this date in 1926

Justin Hyde

View photo


By the time Henry Ford decided to make his plants work a standard five days a week on this date in 1926, he had already drawn the ire of other industrialists for doubling his workers' pay to $5 an hour for an eight-hour day. The moves weren't altruistic; Ford expected the same level of production from his workers in less time, and expected if he paid them well, he'd create a bigger market for his cars. But his attitudes were generous compared to the view of many Gilded Age bosses who believed most workers would use any off hours to get drunk. Any concern Ford had about that was eased by Prohibition, and because Ford was one of the world's largest manufacturers, most of its suppliers immediately followed suit — making the five-day week a standard for the country.

Ford would explain a month later a lesson some executives struggle with today: "The harder we crowd business for time, the more efficient it becomes. The more well-paid leisure workmen get, the greater become their wants. These wants soon become needs. Well-managed business pays high wages and sells at low prices. Its workmen have the leisure to enjoy life and the wherewithal with which to finance that enjoyment." Here's a look at the work Ford's factory men performed in the era:

View Comments (72)