In the early twentieth century a prominent Michigan business man fathered the American automobile industry. This innovative engineer and machinist would revolutionize the world’s manufacturing techniques with the advent of the “moving assembly line” technique for mass production. Henry Ford’s innovations would forever change transportation and American industry. With his acquired wealth and power, Ford turned his head towards politics. In 1918 Ford became the leading candidate for a Michigan senate seat; however he was unable to achieve this goal. What caused Henry Ford to lose his senatorial bid?
Ford’s political life began in 1917 when he announced his intention to seek election as a senator for the state of Michigan. Once his campaign began, the state’s majority appeared to favor Ford. This voter popularity was gained largely after Ford revealed his life story - the son of a simple farmer; he overcame many obstacles rising to the status of a multimillionaire business person and potential Michigan senator. Many voters also admired Ford for his engineering feats, his notably low costing automobiles, and the high salaries that he paid his employees. Running as a peace candidate and not claiming affiliation to a political party, Ford placed his name on both republican and democratic primary ballots. All of the democratic candidates withdrew from the primary race, securing the nomination for Henry Ford, while Truman H. Newberry would eventually win the republican nomination.
As the election campaign began in earnest, Ford did very little campaigning himself but instead depended on powerful political figures such as President Woodrow Wilson and many Michigan newspapers to relay his political platform to the public. Ford’s popularity began to wane after his opponent; Newberry began spending massive amounts on campaign expenditures and advertising. Newberry charged Ford with pacifism, anti-Semitism, and favoritism in his efforts to help his son Edsel avoid military service in World War I [“Newberry Condemned” Era of Investigations Chapter V, 200 Notable Days: Senate Stories 1787 to 2002, http://www.gpoaccess.gov/congress/senate/notabledays/chap5.pdf]. However, Henry Ford's reputation failed to make up for the impact of the Newberry attacks and on November 5, 1918, Truman Newberry won the Michigan seat.
Ford lost his senatorial bid to Newberry by only five thousand votes. Unfortunately, it was at this time that Ford began to take a more proactive interest in his...