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The Ford Story
Back in 1913,
twenty-year old Ford Mason was groping for the bottom rung of the ladder to success. He
was an itinerant roofing salesman who spent spring, summer and early fall traveling in
horse and buggy over the winding country roads of western New York State. But he was idle
during the winter because nobody repaired barn roofs in cold weather.
Looking for work that winter of 1913, Ford met a man engaged in the odd business of
operating vending machines for chewing gum. The first such machine had been invented only
a few years before, and just a handful of men had ventured into the gum machine business.
Ford immediately sensed the opportunity for which he had been searching.
He borrowed the money to lease 102 machines from a manufacturer, and placed the machines
in the stores and shops of Hornell and other communities in western New York State. Then
Ford spent the winter collecting pennies from his machines and filling them with gum.
"It was fun," Ford recalls, "to try to figure out which locations would be
the most productive."
Ford went back to the more orthodox business of selling roofing as soon
as April showers washed the winter's ice from the back country roads. Each succeeding
winter he reentered the gum business and as Ford gained more experience he became
convinced that the penny gumball could be parlayed into big business.
It would be a full-time job, however, because the newborn industry was
thoroughly unprincipled. Most gum machine operators were fly-by-nights, more interested in
making immediate profits than in satisfying customers. Vending machine gum was so poor
that most people would buy only once and never again waste a penny. Also, machines often
took coins and then failed to deliver merchandise.
Ford realized that these conditions would have to be overcome, and he was
smart enough to recognize that success awaited the first businessman who would give the
people their money's worth. Here was a challenge which intrigued the young man and roused
his sense of decency. He would make good gum! He would make reliable machines! He would
give the public a square deal! So Ford quit the roofing business to devote all his
energy to selling gum.
Ford's father, a Baptist minister, was highly pleased with his son's
decision. And soon after Ford began his crusade for better business ethics, Reverend Mason
said: "Make your own machines, my boy, and share your profits with God."
That Ford Mason took his father's advice is now a matter of history. He
began with almost no money, but unlimited enthusiasm and self-confidence. He bested one
obstacle after another creating a business empire stretching from coast to coast. Over
500,000 vending machines perched on store counters and pipe pedestals in countless North
American communities testify to the magnitude of his operations.