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©The Hanover Historical Review 1999.   Used by permission.
Power, Ignorance, and Anti-Semitism:
Henry Ford and His War on Jews
by Jonathan R. Logsdon
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          The Dearborn Independent was sold in newsstands and on the street. It also had displays at State Fairs, received advertisement through two promotional films, "The Dearborn Independent" and "Romance of Making a Modern Magazine," and was even hawked at churches and schools. However; street sales only averaged .009% of the paper's total circulation.64 The Independent gained its real audience through Ford dealerships across the country. Ford felt that the paper needed a "boost" in order for it to reach as many Americans as possible. Therefore, the Ford General Sales Manager sent out a memo instructing dealers to think of the Independent as a "standard Ford product."65 In California, one director recalled, "We had continual directives that they wanted the subscriptions of The Dearborn Independent increased and that everything possible should be done to give it the best possible ~~~"66 As a result, dealers were expected to sell a certain number of newspaper subscriptions in addition to their quota of cars. Some dealers sent free subscriptions to family, friends, and names picked randomly from a phone book. Most simply factored the subscription fee into the price of a Model T, giving all of their Ford buyers an automatic subscription. Not all dealers, however; actually sent out the papers. Recalled Ford employee Jack Davis, "We had many Jewish dealers and they used to throw the things in the trash without even untying the bundles. They weren't the only ones. There were a lot of other dealers who were disgusted with the whole thing."67

          Some Ford dealers gave up their business rather comply with the directive. Most, however; tried to make due as best they could. One unfortunate dealer in Virginia wrote to the company that his Jewish landlord was threatening him with eviction over the articles. An unsympathetic Liebold wrote back: "Does it not appear to you that a Ford agent should own his own building to place him beyond the exertion of such pressure! We naturally expect, and our agents must also feel,  that the Jews will endeavor to make victims of them whenever possible."68 Despite any protest, Ford's so-called "lead pipe" circulation accomplished just what he had desired. When Ford first gained control of the Independent in 1919, it was distributed only in Dearborn. When the first anti-Semitic article appeared, it had a circulation of 72,000 per week. By 1922, the figure had increased to 300,000. In 1924, the Independent reached its peak with 700,000 subscribers. The largest daily newspaper in America at the time, the New York Daily News, had a circulation of only 50,000 more.69

          In the meantime, certain members of the press began to keep track of Ford and his activities. Norman Hapgood kept monthly updates on Ford in the pages of Hearst's International Magazine. Hapgood had visited Ford in Detroit and was shocked by what he found. On any subject unrelated to the manufacture of automobiles, Ford's head seemed to be "full of wheels," while his overall mentality was like "that of a child."70 Hapgood was convinced that Ford had been corrupted by the former Czarist agents working for him, and was the first to reveal the activities of Ford's detective agency to the public.

          The most active opponent of Henry Ford in the press, however; was his own former editor. After resigning from his position on the Independent, E.G. Pipp formed his own newspaper entitled Pipp's Weekly. His advertisements promised that: "Inside Facts About Henry Ford and his Activities are Always Printed Faithfully and Fairly in Pipp's Weekly." Pipp's paper offered the most regular and complete updates on Ford's sordid campaign against the Jews and went to great lengths to prove its falsehood. "There is always something strong in knowledge," Pipp proclaimed, "and every Jew and every Gentile is better equipped to answer and beat back the Ford charges by being posted on what his men are doing and propose doing."71

          Despite the Independent's large circulation, Ford often pointed out that he lost hundreds of thousands of dollars on it annually due to its low price and lack of endorsements. Ford implied that such things did not bother him; he would gladlydonate millions if it meant exposing the public to the truth. Pipp, however; revealed that Ford recorded these as "business losses," deducted them from his taxes, and reduced his income tax accordingly. One year; for example, Ford actually suffered a personal loss of only $57,652 from the Independent. The government, in the meantime, had absorbed $226,348 out of the total $284,000 lost on the paper.72 As Pipp once pointed out, "All of his roads lead either to wealth, to power; or to self glory, or to all three- for himself."73

          It was Pipp's belief that Ford's anti-Semitism was largely the result of the company he kept with shady Jew-baiters such as Liebold and Brasol. However; Pipp also believed that Ford used anti-Semitism as a tool for possible political ambitions. Various polls in newspapers had revealed that Ford stood a good chance of winning the office of President if he chose to run. A 1920 survey of college students had even ranked Ford as the third greatest man who ever lived, behind Jesus Christ and Napoleon.74 Pipp, therefore, believed that Ford hoped to win votes by attacking the Jews. "He knew there were about 3 million Jews in the United States," theorized Pipp, "and he figured he would gain three or four or five votes of non-Jews for every Jewish vote lost. He knew the feeling existent in thousands of small towns because he was a small town boy himself."75

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End Notes

64. Lewis, 142.

65. Sward, 191.

66. Collier and Horowitz, 102.

67. Booton Herndon, Ford: An Unconventional Biography of the Men and their Times (New York: Weybright and Talley, 1969), 135.

68. Lee, 39.

69. Leonard Dinnerstein, Anti-Semitism in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994), 81.

70. Sward, 147.

71. E.G. Pipp, "Some Inside Facts About Who Pays For Ford's Attacks on the Jews," (pamphlet circa 1922) 3.

72. Ihid., 1.

73. Ibid., 4.

74. Smith, 93.

75. Richards, 96.

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