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Lot 48A: Henry Ford Sends Birthday Greetings to Controversial Head of Ford Internal Security, Harry Bennett
Presidential Letters, Free Franks & Speeches: Washington to Bush + Important Autographs in History, Science & the Arts
26 October 2016
New York, NY, USALive Auction
Description: FORD, HENRY. (1863-1947). American auto manufacturer who changed the face of industrial production with the implementation of the assembly line and other innovations. TLS. (“Henry Ford”). ½p. 4to. Dearborn, January 17, 1944. On his personal stationery. To HARRY BENNETT (1892-1979), Ford’s controversial head of internal security. ********** “On your birthday I again send my congratulations. You are doing a good and much appreciated job in handling your responsibilities, and I know you will continue to do so in the future. To that good end, I send you my best wishes.” ********** From the beginning, Ford’s Irish immigrant father, a farmer who had moved to Detroit during the potato famine, disapproved of Henry’s interest in engines and automobiles. He tried to persuade his son to return to farming but with automotive pioneers like Daimler, Benz and others rapidly developing their inventions, Henry only became more determined to create an American vehicle powered by an internal combustion gasoline motor. Employed at the Edison Illuminating Company in Detroit, Ford “used his spare time for experimenting with a gasoline engine in an effort to find a portable power plant capable of being used as the motor of an automobile. From the end of 1893 to the spring of 1896 his experiments were conducted in a workshop set up in a small brick shed behind the two-family house at 58 Bagley Avenue, where the Fords had lived since December 1893,” (DAB). In 1896, Ford developed a four-cycle, air-cooled, ethanol-fed engine, mounted onto a four-wheeled vehicle he called a quadricycle. The 500-hundred-pound automobile was such a success that his second effort was financed by Detroit’s mayor and garnered Ford the support of a group of investors called the Detroit Automobile Company. In 1903, he introduced his first automobile, the Model A, and five years later, his new Model T. The car was built for the masses and the masses embraced it, with production exceeding 15 million units between 1908 and 1927. To meet increasing demand Ford needed to boost productivity, which he accomplished by introducing the assembly line to automobile manufacturing. This revolutionary innovation brought Ford enormous financial success and turned him into an international celebrity. ********** Ford was adamantly opposed to labor unions, and in 1920 he hired a colorful former boxer and U.S. Navy sailor as head of security to help forestall the unionization of his workforce. Bennett was a master of intimidation, conducting target practice inside his office and bringing his pet lions to work. He became known for his unwavering loyalty to Ford and, during the 1930s and 1940s, for his brutal union busting, including opening fire on protesters during the Ford Hunger March in 1932 and leading his staff to beat protestors at the 1937 Battle of the Overpass which touched off a four-year war between Ford and labor leaders. When Henry Ford II took over his grandfather’s business in 1945, his first official act was to dismiss Bennett. ********** Folded into thirds and vertically creased in the left margin. In very fine condition and an unusual association.