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and Gentiles alike, protested Ford's paper by preventing its public distribution.
Libraries in Paterson, New Jersey and in Portland, Maine both removed the
Independent from their files in February of 1921. Chicago, Columbus, St.
Louis, Cleveland, and Cincinnati all temporarily barred the paper from
public sale. The American Civil Liberties Union found itself in a particular
bind. In some cities, its branches condemned the sale of Ford's paper as
promoting anti-Semitism. In others, the ACLU felt compelled to protest
bans on the paper as a violation of Ford's freedom of speech. Certain cities
allowed the Independent to be sold, but instructed news criers to refrain
from quoting its anti-Jewish references. On the corners of Broadway in
New York, however; news vendors could be heard shouting, "Read all about
the traitor Ford! Read all about the liar Ford!"87
There were riots and fights between those selling Ford's paper and those
protesting it. In Michigan, a bill was passed by the House, but defeated
in the Senate, which would have made it illegal for a newspaper to attack
a religious sect. It was called the Welsh Newspaper Libel Bill and was
proposed by Representative George Welsh, who admitted that it was specifically
aimed at Ford.88 A New York Times editorial
of the day declared that "outside of his business affairs, Mr. Ford is
nowhere seriously considered except as a cause of merriment."
statement seriously underestimated the power of Ford's message on the rural
elements of the country. Rabbi Leo Franklin of Detroit underscored its
effect when he stated that Ford's publications "have smirched the name
of Jews in the minds of the great majority, and especially in the small
towns of the country, where Ford's word is taken as gospel."90
While Ford was denounced from the pulpit in many of the East Coast cities,
he was often praised from it in the Midwest. A number of ministers sent
letters of support and encouragement to Ford and requested copies of his
articles. Colonel Charles S. Bryan of the War Department expressed his
approval for Ford's attack on "East Side scum" while The Christian Science
Monitor, following Ford's lead, published an editorial on "The Jewish Peril."91
An emerging factor
in the country at the this time, whose anti-Semitism seemed to mirror Ford's
own, was the Ku Klux Klan. The Grand Lodge Order of B'rith Abraham announced
their belief that Ford was behind the organization and was their sponsor.92
It is certainly true that Ford had the Klan's support. Klansmen used his
publications in speeches and distributed them at rallies. An official Klan
announcement in 1923 proclaimed that the Klan knew of "no better fitted
man in America for the office of president than Henry Ford."93
Ford's position on the Klan was more ambiguous. "I think the Ku Klux Klan
is un-American," he was quoted as saying, "and if I were to join any organization
it would be one that wouldn't require me to wear a mask."94
However, when a reader wrote to the Independent inquiring whether Ford
favored the Klan, he was referred to a November 5, 1921 article. The article
presented the Klan in a sympathetic light as a misunderstood organization.
The Independent had received a personal thank you note from the Imperial
Emperor King Kleagle for that particular article.95
Another issue of the Independent pointed out that "it was not without reason"
that the Klan was undergoing a revival in Georgia "and that Jews were excluded
between Ford and the Klan was perhaps best summed up by Patrick H. O'Donnell,
in a 1923 editorial for the Chicago anti-Klan publication Tolerance. O'Donnell
pointed out that Henry Ford, "by reason of the prestige of his great name
and fortune," had fanned the flame of anti-Semitism and made racial hatred
bear the false semblance of respectability. "Under his cunning tillage,"
wrote O'Donnell, "the vast areas of this country that are superstitious
have become fertile for the upbuilding of the Ku Klux organization. He
has sown broadcast a motive for the Klan's existence. He must stand accused
of having sedulously nurtured the development of the Ku Klux power. Futile
indeed is it for Henry Ford to declare that he is not of the Invisible
Empire after he has furnished by his intolerant publications its strongest
weapon and its rallying cry."97 O'Donnell
went on to point out that the Klan was "insignificant in numbers" when
Ford had begun his campaign. In the two years since, however more than
one hundred hate publications had been established.
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87. Poliakov, 248.
88. New York Times, 22 April 1921, 19.
89. New York Times, 1 December 1920, 14.
90. New York Times, 6 January 1922, 9.
91. Sachar; 315.
92. New York Times, 29 May 1923, 2.
93. Tolerance, 1 July 1923, 5.
95. Lee, 41.
96. International Jew Vol. 4, 181.
97. Tolerance, 8 July 1923, 2.