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1930s & Earlier / Henry Ford Invents Charcoal
Most people realize that Henry Ford was responsible for the assembly line--a groundbreaking factory innovation that made the manufacturing of automobiles (and everything else) go much faster. Few people, however, know that Ford also invented modern charcoal briquets! Amazingly, Ford's auto assembly line led to the development of the blackened fuel chunks. Here's what happened: One day in the 1920s Ford visited his Dearborn automobile plant and was aghast at the amount of wood that was wasted in the manufacture of his Model T cars. Ford found all types of waste to be unacceptable, so he wanted the wood bits left over from his cars' wheels and interiors to be put to a good and profitable use. He figured that since wood chips were highly flammable, they could be used as a handy portable fuel source. He consulted with some chemists and came up with the idea of charcoal pieces suitable for barbecues. Furthermore, they fit in nicely with promotional literature of the era that encouraged American consumers to buy Ford automobiles for peaceful, long drives in the country. What better way to cap off a serene weekend drive than to have a cookout using Ford's charcoal? This photo shows a package of 1920s briquets bearing the familiar Ford logo.