~ A ~
Ford found himself
in the press spotlight again in 1919, when a $1 million libel suit he had
filed against the Chicago Tribune went to court. A June 23, 1916 editorial,
entitled "Ford is an Anarchist," had characterized Ford as an "ignorant
idealist," an "anarchist enemy of the nation," and as being "so incapable"
of thought that he cannot see the ignominy of his own performance."6
In Ford's defense, the article was based on a false report that Ford would
not guarantee the jobs of workers who were called away for military operations.
However; this did not prevent Ford from enduring one of the most embarrassing
episodes of his career. When Ford took the stand, Tribune lawyer Elliott
Stevenson took issue with his influence on the public. "You call yourself
an educator;" he noted to Ford. "Now I shall inquire whether you were a
well informed man, competent to educate people."7
Stevenson then launched into a series of questions which Ford's lawyer;
Alfred Lucking, had been dreading:
"Have there ever been any revolutions in this country?"
"There was, I understand."
"Did you ever hear of Benedict Arnold?" "I have heard the name."
"Who was he?"
"I have forgotten just who he is. He is a writer; I think."8
was forced to admit to Stevenson that he was "ignorant about most things."9
After enduring the cross-examination for a grueling six days, Ford left
the witness stand, vowing, "Never again." The jury eventually ruled in
favor of Ford, but awarded him, as damages, the insulting sum of $.06.
The press had a field day over the trial's outcome. One paper described
Ford as "a man with a vision distorted and limited by his lack of information,"
while The Nation commented that "the unveiling of Mr. Ford has much of
the pitiful about it, if not the tragic."10
Most brutal of all had been Stevenson's closing remarks to the jury, in
which he declared that he had never been so shocked as he was in this case
"when Henry Ford disclosed the pitiable condition of his mind."11
was not in court to hear Stevenson's comments. He had departed on a camping
trip with his good friends Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone, and naturalist
John Burroughs, their third such outing together. During this particular
trip, Burroughs noted in his diary that: "Mr. Ford attributes all evil
to the Jews or Jewish capitalists- the Jews caused the war; the Jews caused
the outbreak of thieving and robbing all over the country, the Jews caused
the inefficiency of the navy which Edison talked about last night."12
By now, it was
not just close acquaintances to whom Ford was expressing such anti-Semitic
beliefs. An executive at the Ford Company was up late one night and decided
to tide himself over with a candy bar. Ford walked up to the man, started
some small talk, and took a bite of the man's snack. A look of dissatisfaction
came over his face. "This stuff isn't as good as it used to be, is it?"
The executive replied that he had not noticed any change. "The Jews have
taken hold of it," Ford replied. "They're cheapening it to make more money
out of it." Since it happened to be the fourth anniversary of the ill-fated
Peace Ship expedition, the subject came up in their ensuing conversation.
"What did you get out of that trip, Mr. Ford?" the executive enquired.
"I know who makes the wars," Ford responded. "The international Jewish
bankers arrange them so they can make money out of them." He then cryptically
added, "I know it's true because a Jew on the Peace Ship told me.. .That
man knew what he was talking about- gave me the whole story. We're going
to tell the whole story one of these days and show them up!"13
By this time,
Ford had been in possession of The Dearborn Independent for several months.
A typical small country newspaper of the time, it was Ford's intention
to use it as his public mouthpiece. He had "practical" ideas that he wanted
to give to the public "without having them garbled, distorted, or misrepresented.
"14 In order to promote its absolute purity
against outside influences, Ford refused to accept advertising among its
pages. He hired as Editor-in-Chief E.G. Pipp, who had served for 12 years
as manager and editor of the Detroit News. Pipp shared Ford's outspoken
liberalism and was quite pleased with the chance to work with him.
Ford also hired
William J. Cameron, another veteran of the Detroit News, to ghostwrite
"Mr. Ford's Own Page." The bookish Cameron had been nicknamed the "Walking
Dictionary" at the News. He was unflatteringly described by one Ford associate
as a "short, stout, round-faced man; he looked and talked a lot like W.C.
Fields, with the difference that Fields was funny."15
Cameron was also liberal in his outlook, and had formerly been a village
preacher for six years in Brooklyn, Michigan.16 He was also well known
among prominent local Jews. Philip Slomovitz, editor of the Detroit Jewish
News, recalled that "he always appeared at Jewish meetings back then and
was always supportive of our community."17
his newspaper to the "common people." When he began to expand its circulation,
two-thirds of its readers lived in small towns or in the country. Ford
himself had been born and raised on a farm outside of Dearborn and was
extremely proud of his origins. An early article in the Independent claimed
that the real United States was located outside of the cities. "When we
stand up and sing 'My Country Tis of Thee'" the article noted, "we seldom
think of the city." Likewise, rural Americans looked affectionately to Ford as one of their
own. Significantly, it was rural publications that had defended Ford after
his disastrous trial testimony. The Ohio State Journal admitted Ford's
ignorance, but added, "We sort of like old Henry Ford, anyway,"18 while the
Nebraska State Journal chided that "The Tribune was silly."19
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6. Gelderman, 154.
7. Gelderman, 177.
8. Ibid., 178, 180.
9. Peter Collier and David Horowitz, The Fords: An American Dynasty,
(New York: Summit Books, 1987), 89
10. Gelderman, 191.
11. Ibid., 188.
12. Jardin, 141.
13. William C. Richards, The Last Billionaire: Henry Ford, (New York:
Charles Scribner's Sons, 1976), 90.
14. David Lewis, The Public Image of Henry Ford, (Detroit: Wayne State
University Press,1976), 135.
15. Harry Bennett, Ford: We Never Called Him Henry, (New York: Tor Books,
16. Keith Sward, The Legend of Henry Ford, (New York: Rinehart and Company,
17. Albert Lee, Henry Ford and the Jews, (New York: Stein and Day, 1980),
18. Sward, 192.
19. Gelderman, 192.