His History Is Bunk; ANSWERS TO CORRESPONDENTS

Daily Mail (London), January 25, 2010 | Go to article overview

His History Is Bunk; ANSWERS TO CORRESPONDENTS


Byline: Compiled by Charles Legge

QUESTION Did Henry Ford actually say 'History is bunk'? If so, what was the context?

HENRY FORD (1863-1947) was a giant of American industry. He founded the Ford Motor Company and introduced the first modern assembly lines for mass production. His Model T automobile revolutionised transport and American industry.

There's no evidence that he ever actually claimed history was bunk. He actually said: 'History is more or less bunk', and the qualification makes a big difference. He said it in an in-depth interview with Chicago Tribune journalist Charles Wheeler, which ran through three issues of the paper in 1916.

There was much hidden context woven into the interview. World War I was in its second year and Ford was a committed pacifist, whereas the Tribune was pro-war.

One of Ford's most publicised acts was to charter an ocean liner to carry himself and a party of pacifists to Europe in November 1915 in an attempt to end the war by means of 'continuous mediation'. The so-called Peace Ship episode was widely ridiculed.

In spring 1916, Ford exasperated the Republican Tribune by winning Michigan's first ever Republican Presidential Primary. So the Tribune interview was part smear, part debate, and part PR exercise for Ford.

The key passage was:

Wheeler: 'Take England, for instance. For 1,000 years France have been unable to invade this little strip of land you might tuck away in Michigan. Because England has a navy. Napoleon, with all of Europe at his feet, couldn't get across 21 miles from Calais to Dover. What you ought to stand for is an American Navy. With an adequate navy we could live in peace and security for a million years.'

Ford: 'What do I care about Napoleon? What do we care what they did 500 or 1,000 years ago? I don't know whether Napoleon did or did not try to get across there and I don't care. It means nothing to me. History is more or less bunk. It's tradition. We don't want tradition. We want to live in the present and the only history that is worth a tinker's damn is the history we make today.'

It was not until three years later that the aphorism entered common parlance. Ford famously sued the Tribune for a million dollars for an article entitled Henry Ford Is An Antichrist, in which the paper described him as an 'ignorant idealist'.

The Tribune's high-powered legal team deliberately kept Ford on the stand during most of the eight days, asking him hundreds of questions a day, many about American history. Under this intense pressure Ford answered many questions sensibly, some shrewdly, but had forgotten some basic facts of American history.

When questioned about this statement he slipped up, stating: 'I did not say it was bunk. It was bunk to me, but I did not say -- .' The American Press seized upon this, running the headline 'History Is Bunk'. Though the jury found for Ford, it awarded him a humiliating six cents damages.

Carl Wrey, Manchester.

QUESTIONAre there any innovative alternatives to road salt for de-icing?

THERE are some alternatives to sodium chloride that are desirable because they are relatively harmless to the environment. Calcium magnesium acetate and potassium acetate are two chloride alternatives that have been exten-sively trialled in Canada. They are non corrosive and biodegradable. Unfortunately they're at least three times more expensive than road salt. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

His History Is Bunk; ANSWERS TO CORRESPONDENTS
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.