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American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Topics:  Tom Humphreys


The New York Times
April 19, 1914

Foreman Uses Fenders as Mirrors to See if Their Surface is Right.

Although he is not in the least vain concerning his personal appearance, there is a veteran foreman in one of the big motor companies' Detroit staff who admits looking at the reflection of his own face several hundred times each day.  Tom Humphreys is his name, and he bosses operations in the enameling department of the corporation's plant 5.  Under his direction a big force of men is continually at work dipping in great tanks of black enamel the fenders, hoods, and other pressed steel parts of cars.  The parts come completed and polished from another part of the plant, where they have been pressed to shape from the cold sheet steel.  It's up to Humphreys and his men to give them the lustre.

Enameling is accomplished by three baths, each of which is followed by a baking process, which makes the enamel virtually a part of the surface.  After each dipping, hoods and fenders are carefully hung in racks until surplus enamel has run off into troughs, to be cleaned and used over again.  The racks and their load are then run into the ovens.  Humphreys keeps a roving eye on the early operations, but never fails to give his close personal attention to the fenders as they come from the final baking.  He tests them by the accuracy and brilliance with which they reflect his own honest features.

"I know about how I ought to look," Humphreys maintains.  "I'm not stuck on myself and I make due allowances.  It isn't my own beauty that interests me, anyhow.  But these hoods and fenders have got to tell me every time just how bad I need a shave, or they don't get by."

When passed by this unique test, a big truck takes each batch of hoods and fenders to another plant, where they meet the complete chassis.  The attachment of these parts is the final operation, which a car undergoes prior to the final test which preceded its trip to the shipping platform.

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