Ford Writes Fan Letter
You may not know this but Henry Ford was an avowed pacifist. After living through the First World War he found himself disgusted by war. When Hitler invaded Poland, Britain and France he found himself in despair over the then current global situation.
The automaker also disliked imperialism and was hopeful that Mahatma Gandhi’s campaign to push British rule out of India would be successful, establishing Indian home rule.
On this day in 1941, Ford wrote a letter to Gandhi offering his support and admiration. In part it read: “I want to take this opportunity of sending you a message…to tell you how deeply I admire your life and message. You are one of the greatest men the world has ever known. May God help you and guide your lofty work.” Ford considered Gandhi’s leadership and unwavering commitment to peace an example the rest of the world could follow.
Gandhi didn’t receive the letter until December 8, 1941, the day after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Gandhi was overjoyed with receiving such a heartfelt note from the great industrialist and considered it a good omen for his work. Greatly pleased, he decided to respond in kind by sending a portable spinning wheel, one of the old-fashioned devices that Gandhi famously used to produce his own cloth.
Gandhi advocated the boycott of the machine made European clothing as it caused large scale unemployment in India. He took to making hand-made cloth called Khadi that was inexpensive and suitable for poor Indians. Most importantly, it showed Indians how to be self-reliant. Gandhi spun cloth in jail and also used it as a meditative process.
The wheel, autographed in Hindi and English, was shipped some 12,000 miles sending it across the world, over submarine-infested waters, and personally delivered to Ford by T.A. Raman, the London editor of the United Press of India. Ford kept it as a good luck charm as well as a symbol of the principles of simplicity and economic independence that both he and Gandhi championed.