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Henry Ford, FDR, and the Automobile Code


Who can forget the heroic Henry Ford, when he was the only major manufacturer in the auto industry to not sign Hugh (Old Ironpants) Johnson's Automobile Code under the National Industrial Recovery Act?

Entrepreneurs who kowtowed to FDR's "voluntary" codes could place the State logo, the NRA blue eagle symbol, in their windows and on the packaging of their goods. Said Ford of the atrocious Blue Eagle: "Hell, that Roosevelt buzzard. I wouldn't put it on the car." The National Industrial Recovery Act was eventually declared unconstitutional by the Supremem Court, but Ford held his ground against Roosevelt, even as FDR led a boycott against Ford products.

In 1934, Roosevelt went so far as to sign an executive order requiring Ford to comply with the NRA's automobile code, or face the elimination of government contracts. This lasted until the end of the year, when government agencies swallowed their bitter pill and resumed purchases from Ford.

From The Public Image of Henry Ford: An American Folk Hero and his Company by David L. Lewis:

Although Henry Ford was heavily criticized for his attitude toward the NRA during August and September 1933, the tide of public opinion, as the stalemate continued, began to run heavily in his favor. "The cheering and marching for NRA," said Business Week in October 1933, "seems to have generated little if any public resentment against Mr. Ford." The magazine added that a newsreel's fleeting shot of Henry Ford, which followed several hundred feet of film on General Johnson [NRA administrator] and NRA activities, elicited applause in the theatres when it was shown.

** From 15 Statement on the Extension of the Automobile Code January 31, 1935:

First, the plan involves introduction of new models of passenger cars in the fall instead of the winter. This should result in a greater regularity of work and in lessening the spread between the peaks and valleys of employment.


Contact Karen De Coster

Karen DeCoster, CPA, has an MA in economics and works in the healthcare industry. She has written for an assortment of publications and organizations, including LewRockwell.comMackinac Center for Public PolicyTaki's MagazineEuro Pacific Capital, and the Claire Boothe Luce Policy Institute. Her website is KarenDeCoster.com.

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