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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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        One morning early in 1922, William Cameron arrived at his news office to find Henry Ford waiting for him. "You're late aren't you," Ford commented. "I want you to cut out the Jewish articles. Put all your thought and time to studying and writing about this money question. The Jews are responsible for the present money standard, and we want them on our side to get rid of it." Liebold arrived moments later and tried to dissuade Ford: "We can deal with both subjects." "No we can't," Ford retorted. "The Jewish articles must stop, and Cameron must go to work on the money question.98

          Ford officially announced his intentions to the press while in Washington D.C. on January 17, 1922. He explained that The Dearborn Independent campaign "leads us naturally into the money issue, because the 'International Jew' is the greatest money merchant in the world." Ford had become convinced some time before that the money question was "tremendously more important." Therefore, he was determined to close up the campaign on the Jews and move on "to the next line of attack."99 Others, however, weren't convinced that Ford ended his campaign solely to concentrate on the "money issue." E.G. Pipp provided two alternate motives. One was that the articles stopped as the result of a conference Ford had with Gaston Plantiff, who was his representative in New York City. While Ford sales had been satisfactory as a whole, they had dropped dramatically in areas with a large Jewish constituency. Others had already pointed this out, including Ford's own son, Edsel. However, Ford greatly respected Plantiff and listened to him when he brought up the problem. "Whatever his reputation may be," Pipp pointed out, "the dollar appeals to Ford as strongly as to any man on earth."100

          Another, perhaps even more important, factor involved Ford's hopes for a possible Presidential bid. It appeared that Ford, in trying to appeal to popular sentiment through anti-Semitism, had overlooked the electoral vote. In 1922, New York had the most electoral votes with 45, while Ohio had 20, Illinois had 29, and Pennsylvania had 38; there were more in these four states than in the whole solid South. "Running through New York City, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Chicago are strong Jewish influences," Pipp observed at the time. "They seldom unite or act concertedly on political matters, but with Ford attacking them, they naturally would be solid against him.... They are human and would not fall for putting their greatest enemy into a high office."101

          Upton Sinclair offered another explanation. Apparently, Ford's detectives had begun to investigate Jewish film producer William Fox in their ongoing efforts to connect Jews in the entertainment industry with the decline of morals. In the mean time, Fox had decided to conduct an investigation of his own. He soon reported to Ford that he had footage from "hundreds of cameramen all over the country" of accidents and fatalities involving defects in Ford automobiles. Fox planned to go through the footage and put the "best" clips into the newsreels. "The effect of this notice was immediate. Henry sent word to William that he had decided to stop the attack on Jews."102

          Still other, somewhat less likely, possibilities have been suggested. These include the influences of Ford's good friend Thomas Edison and of Ford's son Edsel, as well as a private request from President Harding through mutual friend Judson C. Welliver.103 Whatever his motive, Ford halted a devastating campaign that had gone on for 21 consecutive months. For those who thought that Ford's paper was totally through with the subject of Jews, however, Ford had issued a foreboding statement in his January 17 address: "We have enough material on the 'International Jew' to keep up the campaign for five years. We have had offers of a great deal more important material since I have been in Washington."104 Not surprisingly, many people felt that the halt in the anti-Semitic articles signified no change on Ford's part. Pipp warned in his publication, "The old hatred is there, the old influence is there, and all we have to say to the Jews is, if Ford ever gets into power, look out!"105

          Part of the reason that Ford persisted in his beliefs was because he felt, incredibly, that his articles were not anti-Semitic. He had once laughed at a news dispatch which announced that he was trying to "make peace with the Jews," explaining that he had never made war on them.106 He had always possessed a number of Jewish friends, though most of them severed the relationship after the Independent campaign. Ford's old friend and neighbor, Rabbi Leo Franklin, denounced Ford's actions in the press even as he vainly tried to communicate with Ford on a personal level. For several years, Ford had annually presented Franklin with a Ford automobile. However, Franklin returned Ford's 1920 gift, writing to Ford that: "You are determined to continue the series of articles that must inevitably tend to poison the minds of the masses against the Jews. Under such circumstances, I cannot in self-respect continue to be the beneficiary of your well-meant courtesy. You claim that you do not intend to attack all Jews, but whatever the thought in your own mind, it stands to reason that those who read these articles -inspired and sanctioned by you- will naturally infer that it is your purpose to include in your condemnation every person of the Jewish faith...."107 Franklin received a typically smug reply from Liebold: "It is of course to be regretted that you have seen fit to.. .sever the relations of friendship which have heretofore existed between you and Mr. Ford. I sincerely hope, however, that conditions will so adjust themselves as to eventually convince yourself that Mr. Ford's position is correct... the world and all its people may benefit thereby. No man can follow a principle unless he is ready and willing to make whatever sacrifices are necessary."108 Ford himself was more direct, asking innocently, "What's wrong Dr. Franklin? Has anything come between us?"109

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End Notes

98. Nevins and Hill, 316.

99. New York Times, 17 January 1922, 6.

100. Pipp, 23.

101. Ibid., 24.

102. Sinclair 127.

103. Lewis, 141.

*104. New York Times, 17 January 1922, 6.

105. Pipp, 27.

106. Tolerance, 5 August 1923, 3.

107. Jardin, 143.

108. Ibid.

109. Lacey, 230.


*Article Correction #104. Should read "had", not have. Return to text.    Return to End Notes #104.

Corrections by Yosef Cohen with the invaluable assistance, courtesy, and research provided by Bruce Brigell from the Skokie Public Library.
Special thanks to Albert S. Cohen, my father, and Janet Holmes for various footnote verifications made at the Gary Public Library.

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