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Harry Bennett

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The last several months I have gone through some books on FORD------------------just finished one written by    HARRY BENNETT   him self------------------------------"WE NEVER CALLED HIM HENRY"          quite different than popular impression of what seems to have been Ford's personal assistant     window into Ford's mind .                                                                 very good read    

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Did Harry Bennett accurately portray himself as the thug that he was or did he attempt to blame the violence for which he was responsible on somebody else?

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I've seen references to that book, and quotes from it, in other Ford biographies.

I've gathered that Bennett's writings aren't to be relied upon as accurate.

 

It brings to mind a cartoon I saved.  A hoodlum is standing in court

and being sworn in.  "Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth,

and nothing but the truth?" he's asked.  He replies, "Uh, you do realize I'm a criminal---"

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You know               there are three or four sides to every story    you should read the book and make your own evaluation         I have learned Mr. ford was a very complex man      who had a lot of opinions         he felt he was GUIDED by a supernatural force     harry may have been the messenger for Ford prejudice                    you should not shoot the messenger

Edited by broker-len (see edit history)

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Everything that I have read about Harry Bennett was that he was Henry's strongman, not a nice guy. Actually cracked some heads during the strike years and the only Ford employee to carry a gun.

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Some interesting local history here regarding Harry Bennett. His estate was up in Desert Hot Springs, CA, just 20 minutes from downtown Palm Springs. It was on the market about a year and a half ago for $799,000. It is on Bennett Road which, of course, was named for him. Years ago armed guards used to patrol the property. Locals didn't know who the owner was so they assumed it was some type of mafia gangster's hideaway.

History gets muddled, people forget. Now there's a local yokel who owns a small resort not too far from the Bennett property who plays off that vague history of gangsters hiding out in the desert, except he's moved the story to his property, changed the sinister figure's name to Al Capone and swears it all happened there, years ago. Only trouble with that is, county records show his property wasn't built until Uncle Al had been a guest of the federal government at Alcatraz for quite some time.

Just another predator preying on the uninformed tourists.

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Hey ! Any truth to the rumor I just heard that heinrich ford turned his factory in Koln , Germany , to producing tanks for hitler in '41 or so?  Same source , a fairly well read history buff who speaks German , and spends significant time poking around there , claims ford got all those assembly lines back after the war ! Like the rest of you , my family lost a member (Anzio) , fighting the s.o.b. I think it was Frank Zappa who said : "It can't happen here". Makes me sleep a little better.  ?    - Carl

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Henry Ford was larger than life. More than most people known in history, he truly was a complicated, and flawed, man. He was also a man of extreme intelligence, and passions. Like all real human beings, he was not perfect. Anyone with a limited knowledge of history, can make him out to be one of the best, or worst, human beings in history. There are solid facts that can be used to make him out to be Hitler's buddy, or the most evil of all greedy capitalists. However, for most of his life, he clearly was neither of those things. Late in Henry's life, he became bitter, and angry,  for several reasons. Some of those reasons were in fact his own fault. He had not been a really good father to his son Edsel. Henry was controlling, and demanding, to most people around him. But most of all, he was controlling and demanding with Edsel. Edsel became ill, and died when Henry needed him the most. That Henry's abuse of Edsel contributed to Edsel's early demise has been debated. And likely will never be known for sure just how much it may have contributed to Edsel's early death.

In this same time-frame, Henry met with another major adversary. the unions. Remember, Some years earlier, Henry had gone against all his advisers, and raised the daily pay for most Ford employees to nearly twice the industry standard. At the same time, for that raise in daily wage, he also cut the workday's hours (more pay for less hours). He did not have to do that. NO government agency made him do that. No union in 1913 had nearly enough power to make him do that  He did it, simply because it was the right thing to do. He KNEW, he figured it out. In order to make more money, and sell more cars, he had to have the "best work force money can buy" (Henry Ford is quoted as saying that years before the first model T left the factory).

In addition to paying more, Henry did something else most people don't remember. Henry dug into his own pocket. He bought the land, had the buildings designed and constructed. Then hired and paid for at his expense for health care clinics in the towns where his major factories were. All Ford Company employees, and their families (wives, children, parents and wive's parents), could go to those clinics at no cost to them. Henry KNEW. A healthy work force could do better work, and more work. Henry KNEW that if an employee didn't have to worry about his wife and kids? He could work harder and do a better job. Again, NO government agency made him do that. And no union made him do that.

 

It must also be remembered, that Henry was a "bit" controlling. There was in fact, a down side. He did have certain "rules" that he expected employees to abide by. No drunkenness,  and a few other things.

 

There he was. The late '20s and early '30s. Old enough that he should have retired a decade earlier. His beloved model T has become archaic, Edsel has finally forced him to replace it with the more up-to-date model A. And the Crash and depression hits. Edsel's health is deteriorating, Henry is trying to save the company, and the unions go after him like wolves to an elderly bull. In Henry's mind, after all he had done for the little man, and with Edsel ailing, the little men went after him.

It is in this climate, that Harry Bennett takes hold. 

I have never read Harry Bennett's book. I have heard of it. And I have read quite a bit of other accounts, many of them taking their information out of Harry Bennett's book. Harry Bennett was a thug. He wanted power, and found it in the form of an angry, and hurt, Henry Ford.

It is my opinion, that much of the worst about Henry Ford, is in reality Harry Bennett's doing. The union busting efforts most among them. In the early '30s, Henry Ford spent much of HIS time building Greenfield Village. He was doing this in part as a testimony of what he (and others) had done in his lifetime. Interesting that the man once quoted as saying "History is bunk" now wanted a memorial to preserve history for generations to come.

It should also be remembered, that an aging and broken Henry Ford stepped up when the nation called upon him to build aircraft for a war we could no longer avoid. That, after Edsel had died and there was no one else in the family to push the effort forward as effectively as Henry still could.

 

Long before Henry was done, Will Rogers said it best: "It will take a hundred years to tell whether he helped us or hurt us, but he certainly didn't leave us where he found us."

 

We are still debating that.

 

As for Harry Bennett? I would take anything he said with the proverbial "grain of salt".

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5 hours ago, C Carl said:

Hey ! Any truth to the rumor I just heard that heinrich ford turned his factory in Koln , Germany , to producing tanks for hitler in '41 or so?  Same source , a fairly well read history buff who speaks German , and spends significant time poking around there , claims ford got all those assembly lines back after the war ! Like the rest of you , my family lost a member (Anzio) , fighting the s.o.b. I think it was Frank Zappa who said : "It can't happen here". Makes me sleep a little better.  ?    - Carl

The way you talk you would think they had a choice. Believe me, Hitler was not the kind of guy to let legality stand in the way of getting what he wanted especially after September 1939. American owned factories, and other assets were taken by the Nazis and used as they wished. According to Alfred Sloan who was CEO of General Motors at the time, GM wrote off their German plants as a dead loss during the war. After the Allied invasion they got them back, and had to go back and revise their income tax statements to reflect this. Do you seriously think the Nazis would let an outsider tell them how to run their war plants?

 

I could also point out that Henry Ford was a pacifist who refused to produce weapons or war material during WW1 with the exception of Model T ambulances used to save lives. He also spent $400,000 of his own money on his Peace Ship initiative, meant to negotiate an end to the war.

 

During WW2 the government took his grandson, Henry Ford II out of the Navy and put him in charge of the Ford company as it was the only way to get the war production they wanted. By this time old Henry was over 80 years of age.

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Harry Bennett was originally hired as a bodyguard or security chief to protect the Ford family from a kidnapping scare. This was no joke as there were a lot of kidnappings for ransom of rich people at the time. The Lindbergh baby being the best known.

 

As time went on Bennett acquired more and more power, as Ford grew old and senile. The US government took Henry Ford II out of the Navy during WW2 and put him in charge of the Ford company. His first act was to fire Bennett and take over day to day management himself with the help of a group that became known around the company as the Quiz Kids.

Edited by Rusty_OToole (see edit history)
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Here's an example of the Ford family's account, versus Bennett's,

as described and quoted in Wheels for the World, by Douglas Brinkley.

 

Henry Ford II (speaking later):  "Harry Bennett is the dirtiest, lousiest

son-of-a-b**** I ever met in my life."

[After a Board of Directors' meeting at which Henry Ford Sr's resignation

was read, and Henry Ford II was made President] "I immediately walked

out, took Bennett in my office, and fired him....I was physically scared

and mentally scared," because Bennett had nefarious connections and

had worked steadily to undermine even Henry Ford II.

 

Bennett's account, in contrast:  He says he spoke to Henry Ford II

as follows:  " 'I've tried awfully hard to like you, and had hoped to part friends.'

Henry said the same thing and added, 'I don't know what I'd have done

without you.  You know you don't have to leave--you can stay here the

rest of your life.'  But my mind was made up.  I had always said that when

Mr. Ford left I would go, and I meant it now as I had meant it before."

 

Interviews with other Ford executives appear to corroborate

Ford's account, not Bennett's.  Let's not let evil sanitize itself! 

 

 

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Did you know that Bennitt went to art collage before he met ford       Ford would get people to do things he did not want to face then pretend he know nothing about it          bennitt states that many of his tasks were distasteful        Henry had a morbid interest in criminals and hired them for factory under his         REHABILITATE PROGRAM-----------Ford always carried a gun-------------he also had every third worker on payroll as spies         this was ford's idea   not bennitt --------when he left in 1945   the year ford died he was making     $ 75000 a year---------Mrs Ford drank       ROLLING ROCK    beer and bought it by truck loads----------------------------AS I SAID      4 SIDES TO EVERY STORY    

Edited by broker-len (see edit history)
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9 hours ago, wayne sheldon said:

Henry Ford was larger than life. More than most people known in history, he truly was a complicated, and flawed, man. He was also a man of extreme intelligence, and passions. Like all real human beings, he was not perfect. Anyone with a limited knowledge of history, can make him out to be one of the best, or worst, human beings in history.

 

9 hours ago, wayne sheldon said:

Harry Bennett was a thug. He wanted power, and found it in the form of an angry, and hurt, Henry Ford.......I would take anything he said with the proverbial "grain of salt".

    

Wayne is correct on the above.  I have the Bennett book which was first published circa 1951 and like yourself I found it interesting to read his side of the story.  Likewise Charlie Sorenson's "My 40 Years With Ford" and Alfred Sloan’s “My Years with General Motors”, both written (or ghost written) while the subjects were still alive and within memory of the events. 

 

My take is that most autobiographies have the author doing some "spin" to doctor his side of the story and when compared to other outside accounts the truth is usually somewhere in the middle.  But compared to something written 50 years later you can often find valuable nuggets in there, particularly with Alfred Sloan who probably had fewer idiosyncrasies to downplay or cover up. 

 

Rusty O’Toole mentions Ford in Germany, the recent book “Arsenal of Democracy” by A.J Baime covers some of the meetings between the Fords and the Nazis in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s, another very interesting read.  As Wayne says above today’s reader can take Henry Ford facts and spin them to make their point.  Regarding Henry and Hitler I think there is no doubt that Henry admired Germans generally and probably the Nazis and the story of their 1930s “economic miracle.”  

 

There is also no doubt that the feeling was mutual, Hitler had been a great admirer of Henry since before he wrote Mein Kampf.  The attached photo shows Henry being awarded the “Grand Cross of the German Eagle” in 1938 by two German representatives in Detroit.  This was the highest award Germany could bestow on a foreigner and IMO was almost certainly an example of:

 

1. The PR savvy Nazis using the award to attach themselves to Henry and

2. The 75 year old Henry not recognizing (or caring) that this ploy could harm his own public image outside Germany. 

 

Henry is indeed an interesting and complex figure even today, Todd C

 

 

henry_ford_grand_cross_1938.jpg

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It's only fair to point out that before WW2 nobody saw anything wrong with Hitler. He was Time Magazine's Man Of The Year in 1938 and he got a lot of positive press around the world. Hard to believe today, but true.

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3 minutes ago, Rusty_OToole said:

It's only fair to point out that before WW2 nobody saw anything wrong with Hitler. He was Time Magazine's Man Of The Year in 1938 and he got a lot of positive press around the world. Hard to believe today, but true.

 

Rusty is correct in the above, this award happened in July/Aug 1938 when most Americans did not reject Hitler yet.  He was already occupying Austria but this was a German speaking neighbor annexed without firing a shot.  And he would not invade Czechoslovakia until October and did not have Kristallnacht until November.       

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Harry Bennett also had a compound in Northern Michigan.  It is now a Boy Scout camp named Lost Lake.

 

The main house looks like a log cabin but is made of reinforced concrete, surrounded by a moat and has all kind of defense mechanism incorporated in the design. The property also has a large runway.

 

As you read about the property, you will see a profile of a man that was incredibly insecure with his surroundings.

 

Here is a link to the history of the property.   http://harrybennettlodge.com/

 

I have spent time there when my son was in Scouts.  The building is a great tornado shelter.

 

 

Edited by Larry Schramm (see edit history)
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That's quite the house!

 

Here's another quote directly from Henry Ford II on the subject

of Harry Bennett.  Under the senior Henry Ford, the company

had been organized very informally--some might say haphazardly.

The company had no modern accounting controls.

Henry Ford II said, "I don't know how much he pilfered.  I don't know

how he did it, but I'm positive--although I don't have any proof--

that he could not have lived the way he did on the salary he had.

I'd have called his salary very, very low considering his position

with the company.  He had had cattle, and he had a house on top

of a mountain out west.  He stole the place blind either through

the dealers or some other fashion.  I don't know how the heck he

did it, but he did it."

 

Evidently Bennett can still pull the wool over people's eyes

if they believe everything they read in his autobiography.

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When Bennett wanted to build a house in Detroit Ford loaned him the money and never pressed for payment. This was his way of getting a hold over Bennett. He was always looking for ways to guarantee someone's loyalty or get a hold over them some way. Sorry I can't remember the details but I read about this a long time ago, possibly in Bennett's memoirs.

 

It is quite possible Ford supplemented Bennett's salary with loans, gifts, the use of cars etc belonging to the Ford company and other 'perks'. In later years this became a common way of rewarding executives without putting them in a high tax bracket but in Ford's case he had other motives.

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A lot of people believed in the 1930s that the average union organizer carried a gun and would shoot to kill. It is well known today that the larger unions were dominated by the Mafia and were basically rackets. Much is made of Bennett's violence against the unions but you don't hear much about violence by union organizers, Communists, and other radicals. Most of it has been whitewashed away.

 

Nobody ever accused Bennett of being a coward. If he only felt safe in a fortress, he had his reasons. Plenty of people would have loved to see him dead.

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A while back I was offered a tour of the Ford Motor company archives( not to be confused with the Benson Ford)  in their new digs. when there I saw and read  the following original  letters.

 

The letter that Clara and Josephine wrote to Henry telling him that if he did not resign the presidency they would sell their Ford stock on the open market. This was in 1945 and they were the major stock holders.

 

The letter that Henry wrote and signed resigning his Presidency. Not many people understood that Harry was appointed president when Henry resigned.

 

The letter Henry Ford the 2nd wrote to the board of directors accepting the Presidency of the Ford Motor Company if Harry Bennett was removed as President of the company. Harry was President for the shortest time in Ford history. 

 

I saw the letter from Harry Bennett resigning as President of the company.

 

I also saw Lee Iacocca's letter of resignation from Ford.

 

These were the originals not copies.

 

just sayin'

 

brasscarguy 

 

 

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10 hours ago, Rusty_OToole said:

When Bennett wanted to build a house in Detroit Ford loaned him the money and never pressed for payment.

... I can't remember the details but I read about this a long time ago, possibly in Bennett's memoirs.

 

Please remember that Bennett's writings are not

relied upon for accuracy.  Posting #18 here is a 

quote from Henry Ford II, saying that Bennett

robbed the company blind.

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Henry II said he didn't like Bennett and that he robbed the company but he had no idea how. I am saying the so called robbery was Henry I giving him money, loans, and other perks to secure his loyalty and prevent his resigning. Bennett is on record as being pressured by Ford to do things he didn't want to do, and it is well known that Ford was in the habit of firing people and taking other disagreeable actions then blaming other people, especially Bennett.

 

Is it possible Bennett had some kind of scams or side hustles going? It is possible but I don't believe Ford would have stood for it if he found out . I believe Bennett was smart enough to take advantage of his position and also smart enough not to do so without Ford's approval. It is also well known that Ford's accounting system was a joke and all kinds of things went on that were not recorded.

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