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Q: Henry Fords automation engineer ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: Henry Fords automation engineer
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: karatche-ga
List Price: $3.00
Posted: 31 Mar 2003 19:46 PST
Expires: 30 Apr 2003 20:46 PDT
Question ID: 183998
There was a german man that Henry Ford hired to build his assembly
line. One day it shut down and there is a story of how this engineer
was called back to get the line running again. He sent Henry Ford a
large bill for the task and there is a humorus story about how he just
tinkered here and there and how he seperated his price for tinkering
and "knowing where to tinker". I would like to have the whole story of
this event and the source.
Subject: Re: Henry Fords automation engineer
Answered By: juggler-ga on 31 Mar 2003 20:14 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars

Although the story is quite popular, it is probably just a legend. 

There are many variations on the story. Sometimes, the engineer in the
story is Nikola Tesla. Other times, the engineer is Charles Steinmetz.
Sometimes,    Henry Ford isn't even involved in the story!

From's Urban Legend Reference page:

"Nikola Tesla visited Henry Ford at his factory, which was having some
kind of difficulty. Ford asked Tesla if he could help identify the
problem area. Tesla walked up to a wall of boilerplate and made a
small X in chalk on one of the plates. Ford was thrilled, and told him
to send an invoice.
The bill arrived, for $10,000. Ford asked for a breakdown. Tesla sent
another invoice, indicating a $1 charge for marking the wall with an
X, and $9,999 for knowing where to put it."
"Know Where Man" Urban Legend, hosted by

Here's an example of the variation involving Charles Steinmetz:

"Automaker Henry Ford asked electrical genius Charlie Steinmetz to
build the generators for his factory. One day the generators ground to
a halt, and the repairmen couldn't find the problem.  So Ford called
Steinmetz, who tinkered with the machines for a few hours and then
threw the switch. The generators whirred to life--but Ford got a bill
for $10,000 from Steinmetz.  Flabbergasted, the rather tightfisted car
maker inquired why the bill was so high.
Steinmetz's reply: For tinkering with the  generators, $10. For
knowing where to tinker, $9,990. Ford paid the bill.
Source: Today in the Word, MBI, April 1990, p. 27.", hosted by
Christian Globe

Here's a variation on the story which involves CBS radio:
"Kramer cites a story dating from the golden age of radio when a
malfunction in the main transmitter caused CBS to go off the air. When
the company’s own engineers failed to figure out what was wrong, they
called in an outside expert. The expert walked up to the transmitter,
stared at it, then gave it a sharp kick, which put CBS back in
commission. The next day CBS got an itemized bill that read: 'One
kick, $1. Knowing where to kick, $9999.'"
Source: Mcmanweb

Here's a variation where the story happens on a steam ship instead of
a car factory:
"EVER HEAR THE STORY of the giant ship engine that failed? The ship’s
owners tried one expert after another, but none of them could figure
out how to fix the engine. Then they brought in an old man who had
been fixing ships since he was a youngster. He carried a large bag of
tools with him, and when he arrived, he immediately went to work. He
inspected the engine very carefully, top to bottom. Two of the ship’s
owners were there, watching this man, hoping he would know what to do.
After looking things over, the old man reached into his bag and pulled
out a small hammer. He gently tapped something. Instantly, the engine
lurched into life. He carefully put his hammer away. The engine was
A week later, the owners received a bill from the old man for ten
thousand dollars.
'What?!' the owners exclaimed. 'He hardly did anything!' So they wrote
the old man a note saying, “Please send us an itemized bill.”
The man sent a bill that read,
Tapping with a hammer...................................$2
Knowing where to tap................................$9998"

More variations on the story: 

"The Story about Henry Ford and Charles Steinmetz"

Singapore Challenge

search strategy: "know where to", bill, "henry ford", etc

I hope this helps.
karatche-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $2.00
Outstanding- never knew there were so many variations on this story. I
love this service!

Subject: Re: Henry Fords automation engineer
From: juggler-ga on 02 Apr 2003 20:45 PST
Thanks for the tip.

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