A History of the Ford Motor Company Archives,
               With Reflections on Archival Documentation of
There is new life in the Ford corporate archives, and in the effort to preserve
and make available Ford's historical recor...
historical importance of business archives, they were able to offer little
incentive to corporate executives for preservin...
Coca-Cola. However, the relatively slow but steady growth in corporate
archives came to a virtual halt in the 1960s, when ...
caution and smaller budgets than the programs launched in the heady days of
the 1970s. Also, there was a great deal of foc...
material that has been published on Henry Ford and establish items reported
as either authentic or inaccurate or untrue."1...
With a sense of urgency, A.K. Mills moved forward with plans for the archives
and the fiftieth anniversary observance. He ...
made part of the company's archives. Company President Henry Ford II
approved the recommendation, ensuring a far richer an...
1953, they certainly didn't expect to have to wait until 1957. But from
Professor Nevins' perspective, even a six-year sch...
the assistance that we might give in developing the book." Edmunds then
stated that he thought Nevins would be willing to ...
exception: "… no veto power shall exist or be exercised with respect to
   statements concerned exclusively with the polic...
Even as arrangements for the Nevins history were being finalized, plans for the
company's fiftieth anniversary were well u...
executives and Nevins were keenly disappointed, they ultimately didn't have
much choice but to go along with Scribner's ti...
may have suited his ambitions regarding the reputation of the program under
his care. But it also may have been a strategi...
the Archives staff members shifted their focus from collecting, organizing and
providing access to historical records, to ...
her interest, and suggested that Frank Hill collaborate with her on the project.
The Ford Motor Company Fund agreed to spo...
McDonald was deeply disappointed by this turn of events (as was Sloan) and
hoped that the book could be published once the...
dispersed to multiple locations. This made it difficult for the Archives staff to
access the records, impeding their abili...
Archives staff had put into assisting the company with current business needs.
The problem was that Edmunds and his staff ...
the ranks of archivists and scholars was commendable. He correctly pointed
out that a decision to effectively close the Ar...
museum staff and the one archivist left behind at Ford appears to have faded.
No plans were made for further regular donat...
After decades of languishing with very little support, the archives at both the
museum and the company once again became a...
action plan and implement it. In December 1996, this writer (Elizabeth W.
Adkins) was hired to take on this role.

The fac...
transferred to the museum. Two projects were launched with the aim of
making historical resources at the museum and the co...
project's architects and construction managers, the Archives has become a key
partner in the continuing revitalization of ...
historians, researchers and others assisted. Ford enlisted the help of two
independent scholars who evaluated the research...
government. Those historians and existing records report that the plant
      was under Nazi control during the war and no...
History Associates assisted Ford in organizing this phase of the project, which
was conducted by the Lower Saxony Institut...
concern and commitment of this group. Everyone took to heart the charge to
avoid conclusions or interpretations. The fact ...
Benson Ford Research Center at The Henry Ford, where they are available to
any researcher who wants to see them. Besides t...
in my archival career, this premise was received with interest and

Two years into my tenure at Ford, I sta...
around the world to help. Similarly, whenever the archivists need research
help on a topic that relates to these other arc...
Ford Industrial Archives History
Ford Industrial Archives History
Ford Industrial Archives History
Ford Industrial Archives History
Ford Industrial Archives History
Ford Industrial Archives History
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Ford Industrial Archives History

  1. 1. A History of the Ford Motor Company Archives, With Reflections on Archival Documentation of Ford of Europe's History Elizabeth W. Adkins, Certified Archivist Director, Global Information Management Ford Motor Company Introduction: The Ford Motor Company Archives and the Story of the Company The history of the Ford Motor Company Archives is intertwined with the efforts to tell the story of the company. Both of these initiatives – the creation of the Archives and the telling of the Ford Motor Company story – began with the approach of the fiftieth anniversary. Company executives and the Ford family realized the importance of Henry Ford and his company in the development and progress of the twentieth century. They accepted the obligation to gather and organize the company's historical legacy to ensure that the broader story could be told. As a result, the first fifty years of the company (including its early international expansion) are fairly well documented and accessible to the public in research materials and in books. The historical record of the next fifty years, including the company's modernization and further international development under Henry Ford II, is less complete. By the early 1960s, for various reasons, the Ford Archives began to experience the "down side" of the up and down cycle that characterizes the history of American corporate archives. Most of the Ford archival holdings were donated to a nonprofit educational institution, Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village (now known as The Henry Ford). The remaining holdings stayed at Ford. For more than thirty years, the renamed Ford Industrial Archives maintained a low profile within the company and within the research community, overseen by a single employee. Very few historical records were culled from the company's business records and sent to the museum during those years. Until 1995, no one took much notice. But the upcoming Ford Centennial – yet another anniversary! – inspired both the executives and the Ford family to revive the Archives and enable the historical record to be completed. Beginning in 1997, the Archives was re-engineered and began to serve both the company's current business needs and the various Centennial projects. -1-
  2. 2. There is new life in the Ford corporate archives, and in the effort to preserve and make available Ford's historical records. Already, there have been several new books, including a single-volume popular history of the founder and the company and a large, pictorial history book with substantial text. But perhaps most important is the collaborative partnership for ongoing joint oversight of the Ford historical legacy by Ford Motor Company and The Henry Ford, which in early 2002 opened a new building for the Ford materials and other collections, the Benson Ford Research Center. There is no question that both the company and the Archives face significant challenges. Yet, as the company continues on track with its revitalization plan, there is hope that the Archives will become an even more important resource for preserving and making available the Ford historical record in all the regions of the world. Part 1: Overview of Corporate Archives in the United States1 Before the 1920s, few scholars studied or wrote about the history of American business. During that decade, a number of historians and economists, including Alfred Marshall, William J. Ashley, N.S.B. Gras, Werner Sombart, Max Weber, Richard H. Tawney and Arthur Cole, began studying the role of companies and entrepreneurs in the development of the U.S. economy and society. In 1925, Harvard University established the Business History Society, helping to lend respectability to this new discipline of business history.2 The interest of these scholars in finding reliable primary sources to assist their studies led to a campaign to open companies' records to researchers. However, requests for access were usually denied because of proprietary concerns, or they were stymied by the sheer volume of unprocessed records stored in warehouses that were inaccessible even to the corporate owners. Many other records were thrown away in an effort to reduce storage costs, and thus were lost forever to both historians and corporate management. Alarmed by these trends, historians and librarians mounted an effort to convince executives of the need to preserve and share the information in their files. Similar concerns about the preservation of important government records led to the creation of the U.S. National Archives in 1934. Two years year, the Society of American Archivists was formed, and the archival profession in the United States was born. In 1937, the Business History Society published a pamphlet, authored by historian Ralph M. Hower, entitled "The Preservation of Business Records." Hower recommended that businesses establish their own archives and allow historians to examine the historical records in order to accurately describe the companies' contributions to their respective industries and to American society.3 While the leaders of the new archival profession recognized the -2-
  3. 3. historical importance of business archives, they were able to offer little incentive to corporate executives for preserving their records. Therefore, when the Society of American Archivists' Business Archives Committee mailed Hower's pamphlets to three hundred companies in 1941, there was little interest.4 The Firestone Tire & Rubber Company Archives, established in 1943, is generally recognized as the first professionally managed corporate archives in the United States.5 The Firestone family had hired former Ohio State Archivist William E. Overman to process the records of company founder Harvey Firestone and his sons during 1937 and 1938. The family's satisfaction with that project led the company to put Overman on the payroll in March 1943 to start a corporate archives. In 1953, in an article for the American Archivist, Overman articulated the tangible – and strategic – benefits that Firestone had hoped to gain from sponsoring an archives program: "In addition to a factual record of the growth and development of the company, Mr. Firestone, Jr., wanted for reference an accurate account of the problems that had confronted the company and the methods used to solve them. This, he felt, would be helpful not only in conducting the daily affairs of the business but also in charting its future course."6 Such an argument helped respond to executives' concerns that an archives looked only to the past; indeed, it supported the firmly established notion that a company must keep its eye to the future in order to succeed. During the 1940s, two historians, Thomas Cochran and Shepard B. Clough, launched an effort to persuade several New York-area companies to establish their own in-house archives. Using surveys and personal contacts, the two historians attempted to convince management of the wisdom and value of preserving business records. In describing their efforts in 1945, Harvard historian Arthur Cole expressed an understanding of the concerns that discouraged executives from launching archives programs: "Who will help [the executives] differentiate the serious, impartial worker from those who might come to the records in search of 'dirt'? How shall the companies have supervision over the interpretations which are made upon the data drawn from [their] often imperfect records? I do not wish to suggest that scholars should be uncritical of business or subservient to the gods of the business world. I am trying merely to present the viewpoint of the average businessman as I know it, when he is confronted with this particular problem."7 Perhaps in part as a result of these more sympathetic lobbying efforts, corporate archives programs began to take root in the United States. During the 1940s and 1950s, programs were established at INA, Time, Inc., Armstrong Cork, Alcoa, Lever Brothers, Eastman Kodak, Ford Motor Company, Sears, Roebuck and Co., New York Life Insurance, Eli Lilly, Bank of America and -3-
  4. 4. Coca-Cola. However, the relatively slow but steady growth in corporate archives came to a virtual halt in the 1960s, when only five major programs were established.8 The 1970s saw an unprecedented spurt of growth for U.S. corporate archives programs, no doubt due in part to the interest in history generated by the preparations for the American Bicentennial in 1976. Each year during the decade, a program was established in at least one major corporation.9 The success of corporate archives in the 1970s helped archivists compile many examples of demonstrable, cost-saving benefits to those corporations that preserved and used their historical records. Documentation of those benefits became essential in the 1980s, as corporate archives faced serious challenges in that decade. Mergers, reorganizations and downsizings put pressure on corporate archives programs to prove their worth or perish. New executives who were brought in as the result of mergers or reorganizations often found the archives' budget an easy target for reduction or elimination. Some of the pioneer corporate archives programs no longer exist. A prime example is the archives of the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company (since renamed Bridgestone/Firestone North American Tire LLC, following its acquisition by Bridgestone Corporation in 1988). By the 1960s, references to the previously influential archival program disappeared from professional literature. Currently, there is no archives there. Eastman Kodak's archives, established in 1949, is no longer administered by an archivist. Public relations professionals, librarians or paraprofessional archivists currently administer archival collections at Alcoa (established 1949), Lever Brothers (established 1949), Texaco (established 1950), and Gulf Oil (established 1965). Bank of America's archives, established in 1958, was closed for three years in the mid-1980s; it is one of the few programs to re-emerge after closing. As the bank reversed its slide in earnings and market share, an archivist was hired in 1989 and the archives reopened.10 Despite the pressures of mergers, downsizing and belt-tightening in corporate America, a number of highly regarded business archives programs were established in the 1980s and early 1990s, including those at Procter & Gamble (established 1980)11, General Mills (established 1980), Kraft Foods (established 1983), Texas Instruments (established 1984), Microsoft (established 1989, just 14 years after Microsoft's founding), American Express (established 1990), Phillips Petroleum (established 1991) and Motorola (established 1993). The late 1990s and turn of the millennium saw a boom in the American economy, and with it came more corporate archives programs, including at American International Group (established 1997), The Gap (established 1997), Cargill (established 2000)12 and Random House (established 2002). As was the case in the 1980s, these new archival programs were launched with a bit more -4-
  5. 5. caution and smaller budgets than the programs launched in the heady days of the 1970s. Also, there was a great deal of focus on serving company needs in the areas of public relations, marketing, strategic planning and the law. The healthy economy enabled some companies – Ford Motor Company and IBM, for example – to reinvigorate older corporate archives programs that had been allowed to languish. Nonetheless, the recent reinvigoration efforts have been restrained by cautious allocation of resources and continual downsizing and re-engineering. It is too soon to assess the ultimate impact of the economic downturn of the last few years on corporate archives programs, but most have undoubtedly been cut back and some may have been eliminated. The struggle to preserve business archives continues to this day. Few corporate archives have successfully addressed the major issues that were raised by Ralph Hower's 1937 pamphlet on the preservation of business records.13 It is still an uphill battle to get corporate support for archival programs, and large volumes of unprocessed records still challenge under- resourced corporate archivists. But the difficult lessons of the last two decades have taught corporate archivists to be resourceful and above all else, to focus on delivering the services needed by their employers. Therefore, not many corporate archives programs allow direct public access to their records, and business historians still have difficulty gaining access to the records they need for their research. The history of the Ford Motor Company Archives, which was established in 1951, is in some ways a microcosm of the bigger corporate archives picture, and in some ways an anomaly. Certainly it has felt all of the economic ups and downs of the last 52 years. It is a fascinating case study in the triumphs and challenges of the corporate archives field. Part 2: The Ford Motor Company Archives is Founded As is the case with many other corporate archives, the Ford Motor Company Archives owed its establishment to an anniversary. Ford's Fiftieth Anniversary Plans Committee was organized in 1950, and held its first meeting on 2 May of that year. J.R. Davis, vice president of Sales and Advertising, headed the committee, which was eventually populated by a large number of influential executives as well as one of Henry Ford's grandsons, William Clay Ford. Henry Ford had died only a few years prior, and his presence and legacy were still widely felt throughout the company, which at the time was led by the eldest of the grandsons, Henry Ford II. As the minutes of the first Fiftieth Anniversary Plans Committee meeting noted, "Since Henry Ford was a controversial figure, and since no definitive biography is available, much controversial and contradictory material is coming increasingly into print. One group of competent research people should be given the assignment of checking all -5-
  6. 6. material that has been published on Henry Ford and establish items reported as either authentic or inaccurate or untrue."14 The minutes went on to recommend that a "group of competent reporters" should be assigned the task of interviewing anyone who knew and worked with Henry Ford. The executives didn't realize that they were suggesting an idea that would converge nicely with the newly emerging field of oral history. Another primary recommendation from this first meeting was to identify all pertinent files on the early history of the company, gather them together from their scattered locations and centrally store them. The committee considered the idea of creating a permanent repository, tentatively called a "Henry Ford Archives." From the moment of these earliest discussions of a possible company-sponsored archives, it is obvious that the executives recognized the value of the historical record, not just to the company, but to the general public: "It is probably true that since Henry Ford is destined to occupy an important niche in history, Ford Motor Company can best serve itself and the public interest by establishing such a central library of information about him and his work."15 This forthright acknowledgment of the importance of the company's historical records to the public is probably due in part to the unusually prominent role that Henry Ford and his company played in both society and industry. The minutes also documented the early desire of the executives to sponsor a book: "As soon as practically possible, a competent author and historian should be authorized to write a definitive biography of Henry Ford. He should have unrestricted access to all material. … "16 In a memo presented to the committee that day, a preferred author was specifically identified: "It is suggested that Allan Nevins – top biographer and historian – might be persuaded, provided he were given a completely free hand and if he knew he would have the research assistance … to take this assignment."17 On 14 September 1950, J.R. Davis announced the formation of a Fiftieth Anniversary Plans Office. A.K. Mills, formerly director of Public and Employee Relations, was named to head the office, reporting to Davis.18 Mills quickly began refining and implementing the ideas presented in the first meeting of the Fiftieth Anniversary Plans Committee. He recognized that in order to achieve all the goals of the committee, the first step was to build a solid foundation by hiring an archivist and establishing an archives. Within a few weeks, the plans began to take shape: The committee agreed that the initial idea to focus the archives and the book on Henry Ford was too limiting, and that the focus should be expanded to include the company as a whole. It was a recognition that the history of the company and the founder were interconnected.19 -6-
  7. 7. With a sense of urgency, A.K. Mills moved forward with plans for the archives and the fiftieth anniversary observance. He visited a number of prominent archives, including the National Archives in Washington, D.C. He met with the Archivist of the United States and enlisted his support and the support of his staff in preparing a proposal for how to structure an archives at Ford Motor Company, and how to find an appropriate archivist to lead the effort. Dr. Robert Bahmer, Assistant Archivist of the United States, prepared the proposal, which was presented to Ford management in December 1950. As Bahmer observed, "The establishment of a formally organized archives by the Ford Motor Company is warranted both by the importance of the considerable volume of historical materials accumulated by the Company and by the present dispersed, uncontrolled, and in many cases, disorganized state of these materials." The proposal reflected an unusual (for the time) understanding on the part of Dr. Bahmer of the need to demonstrate the business value of corporate archives. Bahmer recognized and emphasized the administrative benefit that Ford Motor Company would gain from establishing an archives, pointing out the value of the records for legal purposes, policy formulation, and public relations and advertising support. He urged management to expand the focus of the archives' holdings to include all of the historically significant records that were no longer needed for current business purposes, rather than focusing only on the early history of the company. He pointed out the need to address privacy concerns in the records through careful processing and screening, and the need for a written access policy. He discouraged the notion of transferring the older records to a public repository, as had been discussed by management previously, and advocated keeping the archives "an integral part of Ford Motor Company's organization." He noted that there were gaps in the records that had survived the company's first fifty years, and recommended the implementation of an oral history program to fill those gaps. Bahmer's eleven-page report provided guidance and advice that helped ensure that Ford's archives would be a model for others to follow.20 His advice holds up well more than fifty years after it was submitted. Bahmer's report raised an issue which could only be addressed by the Ford family – that of the personal records of Henry Ford and his family. On 30 September 1950, shortly after the Fiftieth Anniversary Plans Committee was launched, Henry Ford's widow, Clara, died. Bahmer was invited to join A.K. Mills and two other Ford executives in an exploration of Clara and Henry Ford's home, where the group discovered desks, tables and cartons filled with papers. These ranged from receipts and Christmas cards to business correspondence taken home from the office, as well as Henry Ford's personal correspondence with world leaders. One item the group picked up at random was a letter from Robert McCormick of the Chicago Tribune, expressing his regret for the editorial that years before had led to Henry Ford's lawsuit for libel.21 Bahmer, Mills and J.R. Davis recommended that the records discovered in the Fords' home be -7-
  8. 8. made part of the company's archives. Company President Henry Ford II approved the recommendation, ensuring a far richer and more significant resource for historical research than otherwise would have been the case.22 Mills had been associated with Ford's public relations agency, the Earl Newsom agency of New York. The Newsom people assisted as Mills moved apace with plans during that busy fall of 1950. Following discussions involving representatives from Ford, the Newsom agency and Columbia University, Ford hired Owen Bombard, a Ph.D. candidate at Columbia University, to begin an oral history program at Ford. Bombard had been chosen by Allan Nevins to work with him on the groundbreaking oral history program at Columbia. In January 1951, Bombard began laying the foundation for what would eventually become an extensive oral history collection in the soon-to-be formed Ford Motor Company Archives.23 Plans for the Archives accelerated when the company hired Henry ("Hank") Edmunds as chief archivist in early 1951. Edmunds came to Ford from the International Monetary Fund, where he had served as archivist since 1946. His previous archival experience included work for the Office of Production Management for the War Production Board, and the U.S. National Archives. The announcement of Edmunds' appointment acknowledged the importance of the Ford Archives not just for the company, but for society: "The records of the company, when arranged and cataloged, will be one of the most significant private collections of research materials in the field of American business records. Since the operations of the Ford company, from its founding to the present, cover perhaps the most important fifty years of America's economic and industrial growth, company records will provide an unprecedented quantity of original research material hitherto unavailable to the serious scholar."24 With a chief archivist hired and in place, A.K. Mills turned his full attention toward hiring an eminent historian to write a company history. Since the fall of 1950, Mills had been working on putting together an agreement with Nevins, the Columbia professor, historian and biographer who had been under consideration for months.25 By early 1951 there was an agreement in principle that Nevins would write the book, although the details were yet to be worked out. Nevins met with Mills, representatives from the Newsom agency and Henry Ford II in May 1951 to start working out the details. Following the meeting, the company waited somewhat impatiently for Professor Nevins to prepare a plan for researching and writing the book. When he finally submitted it in July, Ford executives experienced a rather severe shock when they learned that Professor Nevins proposed a six-year schedule for his two- volume biography of Henry Ford. While Mills and Henry Ford II knew from their discussions in May that Professor Nevins thought it would be impossible to produce a book in time for the company's upcoming fiftieth anniversary in -8-
  9. 9. 1953, they certainly didn't expect to have to wait until 1957. But from Professor Nevins' perspective, even a six-year schedule was very aggressive. As he pointed out, "Douglas Freeman took twenty years to write his life of Robert E. Lee. Burton J. Hendrick took six years to write his life of Andrew Carnegie. I would not like to undertake so large a subject as the life of Henry Ford, with all its ramifications, and with the necessity of treating some very complicated topics with minute precision and a scholarly evaluation of all the factors, in less than half a dozen years – though I would work with all possible celerity, and would try to complete the task earlier."26 A.K. Mills forwarded a copy of Professor Nevins' plan to Hank Edmunds with the comment, "Needless to say, we are somewhat flabbergasted because it had certainly been our impression that the book would come out in something less than several years, and we were also under the impression that a good deal of the research work he describes was already being done by your group." He then explained that he and the Newsom people would talk further with Nevins to see if they could get him to revise his plans.27 Edmunds sent a well-crafted, somewhat acerbic reply to Mills in which he raised questions about some of Nevins' proposals. In particular, he wondered why Nevins would want to employ a team of researchers to seek out and assemble source materials when that would duplicate work being done by the Ford Archives. He commented, "I venture to say that even at this moment we could provide Nevins with a more extensive research facility than he has ever encountered in the preparation [of] any of his previous twenty or thirty books." Edmunds went on to say, "We think we have the beginnings of the best archival establishment of its kind. The staff is rounding out extremely well and collectively they can provide a research service in the Ford subject area that cannot be matched by any personal research aide or casual graduate student who might undertake a limited area of the subject in connection with his PhD requirements. Every move that we have made in organizing the Ford materials has been with a view to providing fast competent reference assistance to scholars (or a service of comparable reliability). The Nevins' proposal ignored entirely the aims and accomplishments of the Archives and apparently assumes that he will have to start with nothing more than a clean sheet of paper and a library card. This is, as you know, not the case."28 Mills communicated the main points of Edmunds' persuasive rejoinder during a discussion with Nevins, and invited Professor Nevins to visit Edmunds and his staff at the Ford Archives to see for himself. This visit took place in August 1951, and it succeeded conclusively in changing Nevins' thinking. As Edmunds reported to Mills, "It is quite clear that he had not expected to find anything approaching a general archival establishment and I feel sure that his compliments on the caliber and competence of the staff were sincere. He commented repeatedly on the progress that we had made and appeared to be impressed with the professional approach to all phases of the operation and -9-
  10. 10. the assistance that we might give in developing the book." Edmunds then stated that he thought Nevins would be willing to revise his timetable for the project to one that was closer to the company's wishes.29 He was right. Early in September 1951, Nevins submitted a revised work plan for the project to the public relations firm. His new plan identified the project as a company history as well as a biography of Henry Ford, since the histories of the two were so closely bound. He also specifically acknowledged the "excellent work" being done by Edmunds and his staff, and stated that their efforts would make his task much easier. And he said that he would complete the first volume of his two-volume work so that it could be published in the fall of 195330 – in time to be included in Ford's fiftieth anniversary plans. Eleven days later, the company conveyed its approval of his plan, subject to review by company attorneys.31 Nevins chose a number of research assistants to help with the research and writing. Frank Ernest Hill, a poet, Chaucer scholar and journalist whom Nevins had known from their days at the University of Illinois, quickly emerged as his chief assistant and (eventually) co-author. Their work grew to encompass three volumes, instead of the two volumes originally envisioned. While no contract between Allan Nevins, Columbia University and Ford Motor Company appears to exist, the company's files do contain correspondence and a draft copy of a proposed agreement, submitted to Ford by Columbia University in October 1951. These records indicate a healthy tension between the company and the author. Clearly, it was a major coup to have the enthusiastic interest and commitment of a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian to write a history of Henry Ford and Ford Motor Company. Just as clearly, Nevins was excited at the idea of working on a project that had enormous societal relevance and interest. He wanted the full cooperation of the company in conducting his research, but he also wanted to ensure that his academic integrity could never be called into question. The company wanted to cooperate, but there was concern about how the history might be interpreted. The following points summarize the Columbia University proposal for addressing the relationship: Standards: Nevins would agree in writing that "the history and biography shall be a thorough, scholarly and literarily attractive work, sympathetic in character to Henry Ford and the Ford family; provided, however, that the work shall meet standards of critical scholarship and that the requirement of sympathetic treatment shall not in any way operate to limit the attainment of such standards." Limited "veto" power: In the event of a disagreement over content, Ford Motor Company could exercise "veto" power over specific points, or it could express its views in a footnote or an appendix – with one very important - 10 -
  11. 11. exception: "… no veto power shall exist or be exercised with respect to statements concerned exclusively with the policies, ideas, acts or personal relationships of Mr. Ford as an individual." Arbitration process: Recognizing that this concept of "veto power" might lead to serious disagreement between the company and the author, the draft contract called for an arbitration process for settling disputes. The proposed arbitration committee would consist entirely of representatives from Columbia University (including Columbia's president, the dean of the Graduate Faculties and the dean of the School of Business). Ownership and royalties: Nevins would have "complete control over the contents of the work and the property of the manuscript," including copyright. Publication royalties would go to Columbia University. Compensation: The only compensation Nevins would receive would be his salary from Columbia University. Ford was to provide financial support to Columbia to cover salaries, expenses and overhead for Nevins and two research assistants. Access: Ford would make its archival records available to Nevins and his research assistants, and would work to obtain the consent of the estates of Henry Ford and Edsel Ford for access to their records.32 Ultimately, the funding was provided through grants to Columbia University from the Ford Motor Company Fund, a nonprofit corporation organized in 1949.33 A later, and apparently final, version of the agreement for the book project was described in an exchange of letters in November 1951 between Columbia University's president and the vice president of the Ford Fund. The letters stated that Professor Nevins would create a two-volume history and biography, under the aegis of Columbia University; identified a total amount for the undertaking (to be paid over a four-year period through a series of grants); stated that Columbia University would receive the publication royalties; and promised that the Ford Fund would receive a copy of the manuscript at least three months prior to publication.34 By choosing to fund the project through the Ford Fund, a separate legal entity that by its charter could not impose controls over a grant project of this sort, the company appears to have relinquished any influence over Nevins' scholarly interpretations. Later correspondence does not indicate any effort by Ford to "veto" any part of Nevins' work. As it happens, the arrangement proposed by Columbia University was probably unworkable – there were too many opportunities for conflicting interpretations. It took a leap of faith on both sides – Ford, on the one hand, and Nevins and Columbia, on the other – to make the project work. Part 3: The Fiftieth Anniversary - 11 -
  12. 12. Even as arrangements for the Nevins history were being finalized, plans for the company's fiftieth anniversary were well under way. By September 1951, in addition to the Fiftieth Anniversary Plans Committee, several subcommittees had been established: a Coordinating Committee, Archives, Books, Dealer Participation and Advertising, Detroit and Plant Celebrations, International Coordination, Motion Pictures, and Press and Photo Coverage. Henry Ford II's youngest brother, William Clay Ford, served on the Fiftieth Anniversary Plans Committee, the Detroit and Plant Celebrations Committee and the Archives Committee. Ford archivist Hank Edmunds also served on the Archives Committee. These must have been heady days for Edmunds. He was working for a company that was emerging from the brink of ruin to a place of strength in the automotive industry. His work brought him in contact, not only with some of the top executives of the company, but also with members of the Ford family. In September 1952 he and his staff moved from their original space in the Engineering Building to Henry and Clara Ford's former residence, Fair Lane. The home had been remodeled to accommodate the needs of the Archives. Among other renovations, the swimming pool was filled in with concrete and converted to a records storage area. At one point, Edmunds had a staff of 17 reporting to him, including eight in Records, seven in Oral History and two in Reference. His program was a model for other companies. The Archives was dedicated in May 1953, with several members of the Ford family in attendance. Mrs. Edsel B. Ford, widow of Henry Ford's only son, dedicated the commemorative plaque at the Archives entrance. Edmunds became an important liaison between the company and Allan Nevins and Frank Ernest Hill. Edmunds' staff provided detailed research assistance to the authors while simultaneously bringing order to what had been a confused mass of paper, helping Nevins and Hill to realize quick progress on their efforts. Owen Bombard, drawing on his experience with Nevins at Columbia, assisted by conducting and providing oral histories. Despite Nevins' early hesitancy regarding prompt delivery of a manuscript, he became as excited as company executives at the prospect of publishing his first volume during Ford's fiftieth anniversary year. That is why it came as an extreme disappointment when he received word in March 1953 that his publisher, Charles Scribner's Sons, had decided to issue the book in the spring of 1954 instead of the fall of 1953.35 The original reason given for the delay was the desire to not compete with other Scribner offerings coming out that fall, including an autobiography of Charles Lindbergh and a biography of Mamie Eisenhower, wife of the war hero and then-current U.S. President, Dwight Eisenhower. In a follow-up letter to Earl Newsom of the Newsom agency, dated 1 April, Charles Scribner suggested that the reasons for the delay were related to designing a proper book jacket, choosing illustrations and other production details.36 While both Ford - 12 -
  13. 13. executives and Nevins were keenly disappointed, they ultimately didn't have much choice but to go along with Scribner's timetable. Ford: The Times, the Man, the Company was published in February 1954, to favorable reviews. Many of the reviews mentioned the importance of the "newly opened Ford archives" in adding detail, color and authenticity to the account. Ford: Expansion and Challenge, 1915-1933 followed in 1957, and Ford: Decline and Rebirth, 1933-1962 was published in 1963 – finally ending the twelve-year association between Nevins and Hill and Ford Motor Company. To this day, these three volumes, along with Mira Wilkins' book, American Business Abroad: Ford on Six Continents (published in 1964), remain a virtual "bible" of Ford Motor Company history to our archivists. As might be expected, much of the energy and efforts of the Ford Archives staff went into preparing for the fiftieth anniversary. At the end of that milestone year, the Fiftieth Anniversary Plans Committee reflected on the accomplishments of the anniversary celebrations and decided that, "There is one result which, while more elusive, may have greater permanence than all the others. This is the new position which the Ford Archives seems to have established for Henry Ford in the twentieth century." The committee concluded that the Archives had contributed toward a recognition by opinion leaders and key thinkers of the contributions of Henry Ford to society, despite what was widely acknowledged as his controversial nature: "The new image of Ford is the achievement of the Archives and the chroniclers who are using its resources. What the Archives has done – and continues to do – is to organize in an objective and dispassionate way the history of Ford Motor Company as it exists in documentary papers and pictures, and then make its files available, concealing nothing. What the journalists and historians seem to be doing, after using the vast resources of the Archives, is to show that in the balance Henry Ford's accomplishments were great and many, and contributed far more to the common good than Americans have a right to take for granted."37 This view of what the Archives brought to the anniversary reflected a remarkable and early appreciation for the benefits of what we refer to today as corporate "transparency." Hank Edmunds headed a corporate program that was widely admired and praised, and he took great pride in it. He made no secret that he wanted the Ford Motor Company Archives to be the best in the still fledgling corporate archives field. He decided to take it one step further. In 1952, he and his staff developed a collecting strategy that would make it the repository for not just company records, but materials from a number of American and European automotive manufacturers.38 Indeed, several competitors had already agreed to deposit their sales literature, periodicals and similar material with the Ford Archives, including Cadillac, Haynes-Apperson, Conrad Motor Carriage Company, Studebaker and the Autocar Company.39 Edmunds' initiative is commendable in terms of the desire to document the entire industry, and it - 13 -
  14. 14. may have suited his ambitions regarding the reputation of the program under his care. But it also may have been a strategic error. Much of the most high- profile work conducted by the Archives staff had been to help scholars publish books. As a result, much of the credit and all of the benefits of collecting information on competitors also went to scholars. It is hard to tell how much this scholarly emphasis may have unintentionally hurt the long-term viability of the company's archival program, but the Archives did run into hard times shortly after the fiftieth anniversary. Part 4: Decline… The fortunes of the Archives were not helped when its executive champion, A.K. Mills, died unexpectedly on 12 September 1954. Mills had been a direct line of communication to Henry Ford II; apparently at some point he and the Archives had gone from reporting to the vice president of Sales to reporting directly to the president's office, which meant reporting to Henry Ford II. Within eight days of Mills' death, Henry Ford II announced that the Archives would now be reporting to Public Relations, as part of Research and Information Services, rather than directly to him.40 This was the beginning of the migration of the Archives from group to group and reporting structure to reporting structure. It was (and is) typical of the experience of most corporate archives. Public Relations is a very common reporting structure for business archives. It probably made sense, given the choices at the time. Edmunds did his best to adapt, but he most likely had to struggle much more to make his voice heard than just one or two years earlier. He and the company were not helped by the economic downturn of late 1955 and early 1956. The downturn led to cost-savings measures across the company, and the Archives was not spared. One obvious step was to move the operation to a new facility, as maintaining an archives in an estate home is not cost-effective. In February 1957, the Archives was moved to the Ford Rotunda, a visitors' center and jumping-off spot for public tours of the famous Rouge manufacturing complex. The volume of Archives' holdings also had to be reduced to accommodate the smaller available storage space at the Rotunda, from a total of 11,000 cubic feet (approximately 311.5 cubic meters) to a more manageable total of 4,200 cubic feet (approximately 119 cubic meters). The reduction was achieved in part by eliminating duplicate materials and some secondary source materials, as well as transferring less frequently accessed archival material to offsite storage. The Autocar Company collection of photos and prints, together with several book collections, were transferred to Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village (now The Henry Ford), setting the stage for future company donations of Ford archival records to that institution.41 The Archives staff adapted to their new home and new role as best they could. Edmunds became manager of the Research and Information Department, and - 14 -
  15. 15. the Archives staff members shifted their focus from collecting, organizing and providing access to historical records, to responding to inquiries for information of all types. In 1958, Edmunds characterized the daily work of his department as "answering the mail."42 A public relations professional at Procter & Gamble who was trying to set up an archives at his company summed up his gloomy feelings regarding this turn of fortunes when he reported to his management on a visit to the Ford Archives that same year: There is no future in Archives. Two years ago when I visited the Ford Archives, they had met the challenge of the 50th Anniversary and were on top of the world. They were sprawled through the Ford Mansion "Fairlane", with fine display rooms and miles of shelving. They had 15 people and a budget big enough to include 10 gardeners in the Ford rose gardens and grounds. Their oral history project under Owen Bombard was the envy of all other business historians. They could have anything they needed or wanted. The Ford family was in their corner and the sky was the limit. Since then, the Ford family's interest has palled and Mr. Ernest Breech, a tough-minded man in a shrinking automobile market has cut their space in half and their budget even more. They have shucked the name Archives, which they put into the vocabulary of millions of Americans and are now called the Research and Information Department.43 Under this arrangement, Edmunds and his staff distributed copies of speeches by Ford executives, provided educational materials to schools and libraries, and prepared public relations summaries on topical issues of the day. They responded to more than 100,000 such requests each year. They also provided current information in the form of economic forecasts, market analyses and public opinion research. In addition to all of this, the staff responded to archival research requests within the company. Edmunds and his staff were demonstrating basic survival skills for all corporate archivists: flexibility and adaptability. Nevertheless, they continued to experience staff cuts that reduced the group to seven by 1961.44 Despite this shift in responsibilities and focus, the Archives team continued to assist Nevins and Hill with their research for the third volume of their Ford history. A young Ph.D. graduate from Cambridge University named Mira Wilkins was a key research assistant for that volume. A major topic of the third volume was Ford's effort to develop its international markets. As she assisted with the research, the breadth of information she found on Ford's international business excited Wilkins. She decided to propose a book that would focus on the story of Ford's international operations, from the first exports to Canada in 1903, to the then-present day.45 Allan Nevins encouraged - 15 -
  16. 16. her interest, and suggested that Frank Hill collaborate with her on the project. The Ford Motor Company Fund agreed to sponsor the project through Columbia University.46 Research for the book began in January 1960, and involved travel to Canada and Europe. As Wilkins and Hill immersed themselves in the subject matter, they found that the amount of material to be reviewed was greater than they had anticipated and that the topic was even more interesting and absorbing than they had hoped. In June 1961, Wilkins contacted Hank Edmunds to see if he could help her in advocating for additional funding for her project, in part to permit travel and further research in Latin America.47 It is interesting to note that Edmunds became the conduit of Wilkins' funding request, which was successful. Despite the fact that company executives around the world had expressed interest in and support for the book project, the intense interest of the family and top-level executives in written histories had subsided a bit with the passing of the fiftieth anniversary milestone. Still, Edmunds and his staff were able to assist Wilkins and Hill with their research, and American Business Abroad: Ford on Six Continents was published in 1964. Wilkins' experience in researching and writing the book "hooked" her into the field of international economic and social history, and launched an impressive and prolific career in that area. Ford Motor Company's experience in working with Allan Nevins, Frank Hill and Mira Wilkins on company histories stands in remarkable contrast to the experience of General Motors Corporation with Alfred Sloan's memoir, My Years With General Motors. In the early 1950s, after he had retired as chief executive officer but while he was still serving as GM's chairman, Sloan determined to write a memoir about General Motors and the shifts in company policy and strategy that he helped bring about, ultimately leading to GM's dominance of the automotive industry. He made this decision independently, although he informed General Motors of his intent and agreed to permit the company to review the text prior to publication. He engaged John McDonald, a journalist who was a respected business writer and member of Fortune magazine's editorial board, to assist him with the project. McDonald thought the book would take a year to write, but as he and Sloan delved into the subject, they discovered that it was necessary to confirm Sloan's memory of events by referring to the archival records of General Motors. This, combined with the complexity of the topic, meant that more time was required. In 1959, after five years of work, Sloan and McDonald had the manuscript ready for publication. While they had conferred with GM executives and lawyers every step of the way, at the last minute, nevertheless, Sloan was told that General Motors feared that some of the material in his book might be used against the company in an antitrust investigation launched by the U.S. government. GM asked him not to publish the book, saying it might "destroy" the company. Out of loyalty to General Motors, Sloan agreed to the request. - 16 -
  17. 17. McDonald was deeply disappointed by this turn of events (as was Sloan) and hoped that the book could be published once the antitrust concern had abated. But McDonald came to believe that General Motors never intended to allow the book to be published, and in 1962 he sued GM for suppression of the book. He kept Sloan out of the lawsuit and didn't inform Sloan of his intention to sue, enabling Sloan to maintain neutrality. After prolonged negotiations, GM and McDonald worked out a compromise in which he and Sloan made certain revisions and agreed to eliminate an appendix containing verbatim transcripts of key General Motors documents. In January 1964, ten years after work began on the manuscript, the book was finally published, receiving very positive reviews and quickly becoming a best-seller. The book is considered a classic in business history and management theory to this day.48 Ford had some significant advantages over General Motors in the mid-century documentation of its history. Ford's history was written by independent historians, and was therefore not under the name of a company officer, so the analysis of business strategy didn't pose the potential legal concern of the Sloan book. Ford was not facing government scrutiny. And, most important, in Ford's case the interested parties had considered and discussed their respective interests and concerns before the project began, leading to a greater comfort level and a sound working relationship. There also were important differences in the roles played by archival records in presenting the histories of these two companies: Ford executives, realizing that well-organized archival records are key to a successful history, worked to make sure that the records would be available. In Sloan's case, the records were an afterthought. There was no corporate archives at GM. In fact, according to McDonald, at one point, GM's chief general counsel said, "We don't believe in archives."49 Sloan and McDonald had to work hard to find and incorporate GM's archival records into their book, probably accounting for some of the additional time required. But at Ford, the Archives actually reduced the historians' workload. By presenting Allan Nevins with complete access to an organized set of records, Ford succeeded in getting a corporate history from a preeminent historian three years earlier than he had originally projected. And it was partly because of the wealth of archival material that additional historical volumes followed during the 1950s and early 1960s. During the early 1960s, the Archives staff was learning to function with declining resources. In November 1962, they suffered a major setback when the building in which the Archives was housed was destroyed by fire. Fortunately, the Archives was in a wing of the building that escaped the worst of the damage, but the event prompted a company reexamination of the entire archival program. When it was determined that the company could no longer store all of the archival records in a single storage area, the holdings were - 17 -
  18. 18. dispersed to multiple locations. This made it difficult for the Archives staff to access the records, impeding their ability to service research requests.50 In addition, the Archives' "parent" department, Public Relations, was undergoing a change in focus. Instead of trying to generate a general sense of public goodwill about the company, the department would focus on activities that directly supported publicity for new vehicles.51 Much of the PR benefit that the Archives had been able to demonstrate in the past was no longer deemed as relevant or important. It was at this point that Ford's Finance staff was brought in to analyze the situation and make recommendations. By the early 1960s, the Finance staff had risen to a position of dominant influence within the company. The "Whiz Kids" whom Henry Ford II had brought into the company after World War II were driving much of the decision-making in the company. Their judgments were based on financial and business analyses; the "soft benefits" of the company's improved public image as a result of the work of the Archives would not carry much weight with them. Edmunds and his staff must have viewed the company's analysis of the Archives with some apprehension. It did not help that the analyst assigned to conduct the study, who had spent a significant amount of time talking to the Archives staff, was transferred to another department shortly after submitting his preliminary findings. On 6 May 1963, Administrative Systems manager M.H. Farris submitted a three- page report to his management, based on the input he had received from his now-departed subordinate. Farris acknowledged the role that the Archives played in public relations activities, and stated that the Archives had attained a position of prestige in the archival profession. But his report essentially recommended closing the current program and dispersing the records to offsite storage, as well as to libraries and archives outside the company. Significantly, however, he recommended removing and destroying some of the more "controversial" content in Henry Ford's files before transferring them to a museum or archives.52 At this point, one of Hank Edmunds' remaining archivists, Winthrop ("Win") Sears, played a key role in rising to the defense of the Archives. It is curious that Edmunds himself did not refute the Farris report, although it may have been politically advantageous to him to have Sears respond instead. Sears clearly felt passionately about the importance of the records, and he disagreed strongly with some of Farris' recommendations. Sears spent a number of months conducting his own analysis and research. As Sears analyzed the Farris report and considered how to respond, he realized that one of the points he needed to emphasize was the value of the Ford Archives to the company, not just for public relations purposes, but also for many different functions within the company. He needed to study the Archives' own records to document the many hundreds of hours of work the - 18 -
  19. 19. Archives staff had put into assisting the company with current business needs. The problem was that Edmunds and his staff hadn't anticipated the need to create such a defense, and hadn't systematically identified the departments represented by the individuals who were contacting them, hadn't kept track of the numbers of requests that were coming from each operational area of the company, and hadn't recorded the time spent researching each of the answers. Nonetheless, after painstaking analysis and reconstruction, Sears was able to show that the Archives had provided considerable assistance to Engineering, various divisions (including Ford, Lincoln-Mercury, Tractor and Aeronautic), manufacturing operations, Industrial Relations, Sales, Advertising and dealers. He recommended that in the future the Archives staff keep records tracking the names of the departments asking for information as well as the time spent on each request.53 This type of tracking and reporting is now widely done by corporate archivists who want to continually convey to their management the business value of the work that they are doing. In September 1963, Sears issued a four-page memo, backed up with more than one hundred pages of attachments and supplements, carefully refuting many of Farris' conclusions. Among other points, Sears argued that: • Farris' recommendation to destroy some of the more controversial elements of Henry Ford's personal papers was "both unethical and unnecessary." • By closing and/or dispersing Ford archival collections, the company would be violating the public's trust in the company, and damaging the company's image. "By our actions in setting up the Archives with such wide publicity we have created a public institution, a gift to the people of Michigan and America; and we will arouse hostility if we close it." • The Farris report did not acknowledge the full extent of the business value the Archives had brought to the company. (In all probability, the fire's impact in seriously restricting access to archival records had greatly diminished the value of the services provided by the Archives. It would have been next to impossible for Sears to quantify this loss, or to convey to the financial analysts the potential benefit to the company of an Archives with full access to its resources.) • The idea of breaking up the archival records into multiple collections would create problems that were not acknowledged or anticipated in the Farris report. Foreseeing issues that would arise decades later, Sears stated, "An Archives split between two independent administrations with only one complete set of finding aids cannot succeed without a coordinating link, a central starting point for searches, equipped with experienced personnel and finding aids to all of the collections."54 Sears' report reflected his passion for the archival records under his care, as well as for the role the Archives had played not just within Ford, but within society. His concern for the professional standing of the Ford Archives within - 19 -
  20. 20. the ranks of archivists and scholars was commendable. He correctly pointed out that a decision to effectively close the Archives would hamper important research and writing projects. And although he effectively documented the business role of the Archives, his viewpoint was clearly more academic than the bottom-line approach that would have appealed to the financial analysts. That said, his report nonetheless had an impact. Edmunds forwarded Sears' report to his management, where it was circulated among executives. Sears apparently never received an official response. However, the destruction of "controversial" records that had already begun (with files from the offices of the Dearborn Independent) stopped. The plan to split up the holdings of the Archives and donate them to multiple public archives and libraries was simplified. Instead, the decision was made to donate the holdings of the Ford Archives to Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village (now The Henry Ford). To the credit of the Ford family, a conscious decision was made to not hold back on the contents of Henry Ford's personal or business records. William Clay Ford, who had chaired the Archives Committee during the fiftieth Anniversary, exchanged letters with the museum's director, Donald A. Shelley, regarding the plans for donating the records to the museum.55 The donation was made in December 1964. Although the original idea had been to donate all but the most recent records to the museum, a small subset of records was held back due to legal concerns, mostly the need to control access to attorney-client privileged communications. The donated records carried no access restrictions, partly to ensure that the company received the greatest possible tax benefit from its gift. A one-time donation of $52,000 was provided to the museum to help defray the costs of processing and servicing the records.56 The company received a tax deduction for the donation, which included the copyrights and was valued at $4,375,000.57 Hank Edmunds, Win Sears and a secretary became museum employees and transferred to the museum along with the records.58 One archivist, Alice Benn, remained behind at Ford, where she did her best to service the internal research requests previously handled by a much larger staff. At the museum, Edmunds and his now considerably reduced staff at first tried to protect what they regarded as Ford's interests by carefully controlling access to the records. Access to the collection was by application only. Applicants who did not demonstrate that they were doing serious research were sometimes turned down. Steve Hamp, currently president of The Henry Ford, likes to talk about the time when, as a graduate student, he applied for access to the Ford records at the museum and was turned down. But, as the years passed, and as the original staff members were replaced with new employees, the attitude and culture shifted. The staff eventually came to embrace the mission and values of a facility that strives to permit records access to any and all interested persons, regardless of their credentials or the nature of their projects. However, over the years, communication and coordination between the - 20 -
  21. 21. museum staff and the one archivist left behind at Ford appears to have faded. No plans were made for further regular donations of records. The difficulties of maintaining a split collection – presciently described by Win Sears in his 1963 report – were not addressed. Neither the public nor the company had complete and efficient access to the historical records of Ford Motor Company. The news of the company's virtual abandonment of its archives program was duly reported by the media, and was doubtless widely discussed within the archival profession. We will never know, but can always wonder, whether the decline in the growth of U.S. corporate archives programs in the 1960s was in any way influenced by Ford's decision to scale down its corporate archives program. After all, only a few years earlier, the Ford program had been held up as an example for other companies to follow. Alice Benn and the succession of lone archivists who succeeded her, primarily librarians with little to no formal training in archival theory or practice, did an admirable job of servicing the company's needs with virtually no financial or moral support. The Ford Industrial Archives, as the company's archives was called from 1964 to the mid-1990s, became an "orphan" function that was transferred from department to department. During this time Ford Motor Company grew from a very large global company into an even larger one. The company was generating records at an alarming rate, not just in North America, but increasingly in Europe and other regions of the world. The succession of archivists could not keep up with the influx of records requiring their review for possible transfer into the Ford Industrial Archives, let alone do anything to process the records to make the information in them more accessible. The company did little to support the professional development of each successive archivist, with the result that the basic and somewhat primitive archival arrangement and description methods developed in the 1950s did not evolve to keep up with the latest developments in the profession. The museum staff didn't fare much better, since it was nearly impossible to fund a proper staff to service the Ford Archives within the museum once the company's initial financial support ended. They were occasionally boosted by grants from the Ford Fund (in one case, specifically to convert a former gymnasium into a records storage area) or from government agencies. But finding aids for the Ford Archives at the museum were rudimentary at best. The bulk of the museum staff's time was spent on servicing research requests, as was the case with the archivist at the Ford Industrial Archives. Ford's historical records suffered another serious blow in August 1970, when a fire at the museum destroyed many production records, automotive drawings, building blueprints and artwork by Norman Rockwell.59 When Hank Edmunds retired in 1977, the archival program he oversaw was modest and chronically underfunded, unlike the program he had started 26 years earlier. Part 5: … and Rebirth (With Apologies to Nevins and Hill) - 21 -
  22. 22. After decades of languishing with very little support, the archives at both the museum and the company once again became a focus as the company began to plan for the celebration of an anniversary that was even more significant than the fiftieth – the Centennial. Ford started planning for the Centennial eight years prior to the big event, with the Public Affairs department taking the lead. Once again, the company's senior executives realized that a well-run archives was essential to the anniversary preparations. In 1995, as part of the global corporate reorganization known as Ford 2000, the Ford Industrial Archives was transferred from Technical Affairs to Public Affairs. The Public Affairs staff realized that they needed professional help in assessing the state of the company Archives and preparing a plan for cooperating with the museum, which held so many of Ford's important early records. The museum staff had become frustrated through the years with the sporadic and unpredictable transfer of records to their care. Transfers were made mostly at the convenience of the company, such as when the Ford Industrial Archives ran out of storage space or had to move to a new location. But in 1995, the company took an important step toward recognizing the ongoing role of the museum in the management of Ford's historical records. Ford Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Alex Trotman issued a memo recognizing Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village as the official and permanent repository of Ford historical records. After three decades, it was clear that the effort to unite the historical legacy of Ford Motor Company was gaining momentum. Shortly after that memo was issued, the company and the museum jointly sponsored a professional review of the museum-company relationship and the status of the archival programs at both institutions. The company hired The Winthrop Group, a business archives consulting firm based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to conduct the analysis. For the first time in more than thirty years, executives at the company and the museum began discussing how the archival records should be managed. Winthrop's report recommended extensive re-engineering of the company's archival program, a fresh commitment to the company-museum relationship, and a permanent, professional process for managing the Ford historical legacy. As a result of that report, in 1996 the company launched a search for a new archival manager who could bring the Ford Industrial Archives into the company's second century. Much as the fiftieth anniversary planners had done, the Ford executives who were conducting the search consulted with leaders in the archival profession. The company was looking for a respected professional archivist with a track record in the business world, someone who could take the Winthrop re-engineering proposal, refine it, develop a strategic - 22 -
  23. 23. action plan and implement it. In December 1996, this writer (Elizabeth W. Adkins) was hired to take on this role. The fact that the Centennial seemed to be the motivating factor for reinvigorating the program was worrisome, because of Ford's uneven history of support for its archival program. But Winthrop had done an excellent job of building a case for the assistance that a vibrant archives could bring to Ford for conducting its ongoing business. As a result, Ford management had become enthused about building a sustainable archives program. Besides, the unique challenge of building a collaborative relationship with an outside – and publicly accessible – repository that held some of the company's most significant records was intriguing. During 1997, my efforts were focused on developing a strategic plan to implement most of the recommendations provided in The Winthrop Group report. One important goal was to establish an ongoing collaborative partnership between the museum and the company to enhance the preservation, sharing and access to Ford's historical resources. The strategic plan addressed the need to build a staff capable of addressing the enormous backlog of archival records awaiting review for possible transfer from storage to the Archives (17,000 cubic feet, or 481 cubic meters). The plan also recommended changing the name of the Ford Industrial Archives to the Ford Motor Company Archives. (This welcome change took place shortly after the plan was submitted.) The plan addressed numerous pressing concerns: A database was needed to help manage the archival collections. It was important for the Archives to start discussions with Ford's Information Technology and Records Management groups on the difficult issue of long-term preservation of electronic records. The plan proposed the establishment of a network of satellite archives for Ford around the globe. This was important because, over the years, as interest in the Ford Industrial Archives languished in Dearborn, the company's worldwide operations were forced to create their own storage and archival solutions, without any direction or coordination. During the first few years after the plan was launched, the Archives made progress on all these fronts. But some of the greatest strides were made early on, by defining a clear and mutually beneficial relationship with Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village (now known as The Henry Ford). The company and the museum signed a collaborative agreement in January 1998. It was a major step forward for both institutions, and for the public. Written policies were established for handling images and other shared assets. The agreement clarified the complementary missions of both institutions – the museum primarily serving the public, and the newly renamed Ford Motor Company Archives primarily serving the company – permitting both to focus on their core responsibilities. The agreement stipulated that older records that were less frequently accessed for company research purposes should be systematically - 23 -
  24. 24. transferred to the museum. Two projects were launched with the aim of making historical resources at the museum and the company more accessible. The first was a survey of records at both repositories, and an access review of records held by the company, bringing to light information about the contents and identifying criteria for determining access restrictions for company-held records. The second was a three-year grant from the company to the museum to permit the processing of the collections of Henry Ford and his son, Edsel, and to catalog historic images in the museum's collection of Ford audiovisual materials. The foundation that was laid through these discussions, processes and projects (and embodied in the written agreement) was the basis for a later initiative that enhanced and deepened the working relationship between the company and The Henry Ford. As a result, both organizations were able to take full advantage of the new Benson Ford Research Center that opened at The Henry Ford in early 2002. Since 1997, the re-engineered Archives has helped the company research and document several important initiatives, many related to the Centennial. Archivists assisted popular historian Douglas Brinkley with research for his book, Wheels for the World: Henry Ford, His Company, and a Century of Progress, which was published in the spring of this year. The Archives did extensive research on the historical record and images for a pictorial history book that included a considerable amount of text. This book, The Ford Century: Ford Motor Company and the Innovations that Shaped the World, was published in 2002. The Archives provided research, images and fact checking for Centennial Web pages, media kits, documentaries and other messages for internal and external use. And, of course, the Archives provided assistance to the organizers and participants of this conference. The work for the Centennial alone was enough to keep the staff busy, but it was also important for the Archives to provide robust support for functions and initiatives that would extend beyond the Centennial year. For example, the Archives provided the historical research for the company's revitalization project for the Ford Rouge manufacturing complex. In 1999, Bill Ford (then Chairman, now Chairman and Chief Executive Officer) announced his plan to begin transforming the Rouge complex into a new manufacturing model that would be more harmonious with the Earth. His vision involved developing sustainable processes that would support manufacturing needs without compromising environmental standards. One example is the use of bioremediation of the grounds (using special plants to break down pollutants in the soil). Another example is roofs topped with live plants to sustain the ecosystem while also reducing heating and cooling costs. The extensive renovations to the grounds required a deep understanding of the history of the changes to the various buildings and infrastructure that had taken place since work began on the Rouge site in 1917. The Archives provided critical assistance in this regard. Working with company executives as well as the - 24 -
  25. 25. project's architects and construction managers, the Archives has become a key partner in the continuing revitalization of what is now called the Ford Rouge Center. The Archives' commitment to supporting business needs began in 1997 and has grown over the years. Assistance is regularly given to Public Affairs to support the development and launch of many new company vehicles (especially when the vehicles are new models of long-time marques), and to respond to media inquiries from around the world. The Office of the General Counsel frequently turns to the Archives for assistance in developing Ford's responses to litigation and regulatory issues. The Archives performs research to help Product Development understand and incorporate classic design elements into new vehicles with long historical legacies (such as the Thunderbird and Mustang in the United States.). By documenting and reporting on these and other services provided to a wide variety of Ford departments and regions, the Archives has been able to show that the business value of its services continues well beyond the current celebratory year and is, in fact, timeless. In early 1998, the Archives was handed an opportunity to demonstrate its indispensability. It came in the form of an important company project entrusted to the newly re-engineered Archives by senior management. As Archives manager, I was asked to lead a global research effort to uncover any information that might shed additional light on Ford's German subsidiary during the Nazi era. The project was launched in response to an inquiry from the British Broadcasting Corporation and other news media. (Subsequently, there was a class-action lawsuit, which was later dismissed, about the use of forced and slave labor under the Nazi regime.) Ford's top executives directed the Archives to leave no stone unturned in trying to find information that might add to the historical record. The company realized that the subject matter required both candor and sensitivity. Therefore, it was decided at the outset that when the research was completed, Ford would present the results as straightforwardly as possible – no conclusions, no interpretations, no speculation and definitely no "spinning" of the facts for public relations purposes. To the company's credit, senior management never pulled back from these guidelines, despite the fact that the project required nearly four years, during which time there were major changes in the company's executive leadership. The project was completed in December 2001, when Ford summarized the findings in a report to the public. The sheer volume of the research materials is remarkable, as is the fact that Ford released them to the public, along with the report. Altogether, more than 98,000 pages of materials were collected from more than thirty public and private archival repositories in Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States. More than forty-five archivists, - 25 -
  26. 26. historians, researchers and others assisted. Ford enlisted the help of two independent scholars who evaluated the research methodology and the findings every step of the way. One of the scholars, Lawrence Dowler, is an expert in research methodology. The other, Simon Reich, is known for his expertise in the subject matter. Dr. Dowler and Prof. Reich contributed their own separate assessments of the project, which are appended to the report and are available to researchers, along with the documents and other materials.60 Prof. Reich described the report as "exhaustive and comprehensive," and indicated that he was confident that Ford had made every effort to locate and compile materials, and to accurately reflect their content. "It is a credible example of a company accepting and implementing the code of 'corporate social responsibility' regarding a most delicate issue," Prof. Reich wrote.61 The story of how the project was created, implemented and brought to completion is an interesting tale of commitment, determination and victory over numerous hurdles of time and circumstances. In developing and managing this project, Ford was blazing a trail. Other companies have released documentation of their World War II operations, but have not offered such a detailed report of findings. Others have hired historians to prepare books or reports, but have not provided such comprehensive access to the source documents. As Dr. Dowler observed, Ford's approach was quite possibly unique, especially for an international corporation: "Ford publicly committed to an aggressive effort to gather documentary evidence about this period – regardless of potential adverse consequences to the company. Ford management made several additional decisions to ensure the integrity and thoroughness of the 'fact-finding' effort; … What is important and really notable, however, was the company's decision to provide open access to the collection … " The decision to open the collection was made even before the material was assembled, Dr. Dowler noted.62 The roots of the project date back to January 1998, when the Archives performed research to help the Ford Public Affairs staff prepare a response to the BBC inquiry. The filing of the class action lawsuit in early March 1998 marked the beginning of a separate track for the company's legal approach to this issue. Dr. Dowler discusses the significance of keeping the legal process "separate and distinct" from the archival inquiry throughout the project.63 In a public statement on 4 March 1998, after the lawsuit was filed, the company stated its commitment to the historical record: First, it must be said that by anyone's measure this was one of the darkest periods of history mankind has known. Over the years, we have relied on the work of a number of prominent historians who have researched and described events during World War II when the Ford Cologne plant was used to produce trucks for the Nazi - 26 -
  27. 27. government. Those historians and existing records report that the plant was under Nazi control during the war and not returned to Ford control until after the war by Allied military authorities. The management executive committee was disbanded and a custodian was appointed by the Nazi government. However, the BBC story recently raised the issue of forced labor again and created a renewed awareness of the wartime situation more than 50 years ago. Therefore, we have instituted an active and deeper search of Ford archives in the U.S. to see if there are additional facts available than those used by earlier historians. We also are instituting a similar search in Germany. This effort is complicated by the fact that many records in Cologne were destroyed by two fires, one during and one after the war. When we receive the results of this effort, we will proceed from there.64 The open-endedness of the company's public commitment was both exhilarating and challenging. The first step was to organize simultaneous record searches at the Archives and at Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village (now The Henry Ford), the latter because of the museum's role as the public repository for Ford's historic records. This approach helped the researchers to quickly generate lists of potentially relevant records and subject areas, or categories, to expand the search. The categories also formed the basis for a database that was developed to track the research materials and assist in managing the project. From the outset, documents were photocopied whenever possible. Every page was assigned a unique alphanumeric identification number. This made it easy to identify and locate documents as the collection grew and the number of repositories multiplied. Later, this decision also enhanced the accessibility of the document collection for scholarly research. By early April 1998, with the methodology established, the Archives organized a team in Washington, D.C., primarily to comb through the extensive wartime records of the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. Two U.S.- based historical services firms – The Winthrop Group and History Associates, Incorporated – provided guidance and staff assistance throughout the project. Not only did the project teams need help with research at the National Archives, they also needed expertise with Holocaust-era research, economic history, European repositories and the German language. Preliminary research at Ford facilities and public and private repositories in the U.K. and Germany pointed to the need for extensive research in Europe, especially in Germany. And so began the long, slow process of developing and implementing a research plan for German repositories. Consultants from The Winthrop Group and - 27 -
  28. 28. History Associates assisted Ford in organizing this phase of the project, which was conducted by the Lower Saxony Institute for Regional Historical Research (affiliated with the University of Hanover). Meanwhile, the accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers had been brought into the project for the duration. The accountants' expertise was needed to review the financial records that were being discovered virtually every day in Dearborn, Cologne and elsewhere. So, by late 1998, the project had five research teams – one each at the Archives, at Henry Ford Museum, in Washington, in Germany and from PricewaterhouseCoopers. It took three more years to complete the research. The sheer volume of the material was one reason. Another was the logistical complexity. Language, access requirements, laws and use restrictions varied according to location and repository. And while many of the documents were in English, many others were in German. Some team members spoke very little English, and many (myself included) did not speak any German. The five research teams developed specific areas of expertise in working with the documents, and tended to take different approaches in entering information into the database. It took constant effort and numerous conference calls to coordinate and share knowledge across all five teams. From the outset, the lawyers who worked with the research teams faced a unique challenge. They knew that if the lawsuit proceeded to trial (instead of being dismissed by the court without a trial, which is what happened), none of the research would be legally privileged, due to the fact that the Archives was directing the effort, and not the Office of the General Counsel (OGC). So the lawyers also had a tricky time of it. Dr. Dowler wrote that Ford's decision to conduct the historical research project separately from the OGC was both unusual and somewhat perilous because of the possibility of discovery proceedings by plaintiffs' lawyers. And yet, long after the lawsuit was dismissed in 2000, Ford continued the research project through to completion.65 As the work progressed, there continued to be numerous challenges. The range of professionals included archivists, historians, accountants, paralegals, translators and others from a variety of countries and cultures. This created some daunting situations. The assignment was most comfortable for the archivists, since the company's mandate to present facts without interpretation or conclusions is comparable to what they do every day. The accountants vied with the archivists for being the most exacting in their commitment to the detail of the documents. The historians, on the other hand, had to restrain themselves from providing context and even the simplest interpretations. Especially in the early days of the project, there were lively debates over nuances of meaning. At times the Ford Public Affairs staff thought that we were splitting hairs. However, the intensity was a good barometer of the - 28 -
  29. 29. concern and commitment of this group. Everyone took to heart the charge to avoid conclusions or interpretations. The fact that the findings were to be presented without elaboration eventually helped minimize disagreements. As the results were being compiled, the team came to realize that selecting topics and findings was in fact a form of interpretation. But it was one that could not be avoided. Ultimately, the group developed a collegial relationship in which the members debated the finer points of the research and reached consensus on presenting it. The result was a work that everyone felt comfortable with, and which was so thoroughly and carefully researched that to this day I still feel certain that nothing important escaped our attention, and I still don't know of any factual errors. The Public Affairs personnel who were responsible for communicating the research efforts to the media had a difficult assignment. They had to take an enormously complex subject and reduce it to the simplest terms. Bite-sized pieces of information sometimes lost their meaning outside of the context of the entire research effort. Every now and then, before the project was completed, there would be a public relations "flare-up," usually in response to efforts by the plaintiffs' lawyers to create pressure for a political agreement on the fund that was being established in Germany for former forced laborers. Sometimes these "flare-ups" were based on misinformation. Such episodes took key people away from the project while they performed research to help Public Affairs prepare a response. This was frustrating, especially when the media became impatient with what they perceived as slow progress on the project. At one point, the company considered releasing an interim report to clearly demonstrate to journalists the thorough and impartial nature of the project. The team expressed concern that an incomplete investigation would omit or misstate important facts. Ultimately, it was agreed to wait until the project was complete. Partly because of the scrutiny from journalists, the report was plastered with footnotes. Every statement had to have a cited source. (This also helped fulfill the mandate to avoid interpretation or explanation.) The project historians were frustrated at having to dig up sources to provide footnotes for undisputed facts. But if the report mentioned that war broke out in September 1939, a footnote was required. As a result, the report has 853 footnotes and only 119 pages, and sometimes the footnotes take as much (or more) room as the text on a given page. Footnotes were used, as opposed to endnotes, so that any additional detail would be in close proximity to the report text. The precise sourcing makes it easier to retrace the researchers' steps than is the case with most books. The document-by-document numbering system, with every page traceable, enables researchers to request a document by its identification number. All of the documents uncovered during the research (with the exception of those covered by privacy laws or similar access restrictions over which Ford had no control) were donated, along with the research report, to the - 29 -
  30. 30. Benson Ford Research Center at The Henry Ford, where they are available to any researcher who wants to see them. Besides the many newly released company records in the collection, many of the documents obtained from public and private repositories were previously unavailable to researchers. Perhaps one of the most noteworthy aspects of the project was that after this extensive effort, the general understanding of what happened in Ford's Cologne plant during the Nazi era did not change substantially from the accounts in the Nevins and Hill and Mira Wilkins books. There was more detail, but the overall picture did not change. A side benefit of the project for Ford was an awareness of the types of records of historical significance that are held in the small, generally unexplored pockets of the company around the world. It was known at the outset that most of the Cologne plant's wartime records had been lost as a result of artillery damage during the war and a fire at the plant shortly after the war's end. During my first visit to Cologne for this project, I was presented with a small stack of documents that represented all the known wartime records of the German subsidiary during the Nazi period. After the research team and I carefully surveyed the contents of the storage area where these documents had been kept, we uncovered three times the amount of material originally presented. There had been no attempt to hide the records – it was just that no one had had the time to carefully assess what was in storage. During every visit to the plant, we found more records scattered around the plant complex. Eventually a team was assembled to conduct a full review of the departments where wartime records might be found. The result was enough records to fill about five filing cabinets – still not a tremendous quantity compared with the hundreds of boxes of wartime records retained at Dearborn, but a definite positive step toward documenting the history of Ford's German subsidiary. Part 6: Documenting Ford's European History From scholarly books to the massive World War II-era research effort, the Ford Archives has played a critical role in specific projects that record and communicate aspects of the company's history. Surely, the Archives has a central role to play in documenting the history of the company in Europe and other regions. In fact, this need has been recognized at Ford for several years. In 1996, during my interview for the position of Archives manager at Ford, one of the questions I was asked was, "How do we make the archives function a global one?" "Good question," I responded. "I've always believed that it would be foolish to try to collect information from around the world and hold it in a single archival repository. It makes much more sense to create and coordinate satellite archives programs in key regions around the world, where they can be closer to the markets and employees that most need them." For the first time - 30 -
  31. 31. in my archival career, this premise was received with interest and encouragement. Two years into my tenure at Ford, I started trying to pursue this vision. Ford Motor Company already had several archival repositories around the world. Ford of Canada, Ford of Australia, Jaguar North America, Jaguar in Great Britain, Volvo Cars and Land Rover all have archives of varying size and quality. As a starting point for implementing a global vision, I set out to learn more about these archives. During 1999 and 2000, I scheduled visits to each repository. The trips revealed that all of them were underfunded, most did not have professional archivists overseeing them (although all were under the care of very dedicated individuals who were doing a remarkable job, considering their extremely limited resources) and in some cases, they were not well organized. The records most commonly identified as "archival" in these repositories were sales and marketing literature, advertising materials, owners manuals, production records, photographs, videos, company newsletters, press releases, press kits and similar materials. Few of these repositories contained extensive correspondence and business files, and none was systematically linked to the records management program in such a way that historically significant records would come to the attention of the archives at the end of their standard required retention periods. These findings were reported back to senior management, along with the recommendation that funds be invested in each of these repositories and that they be linked to one another via common policies and procedures, as well as lines of communication. Another recommendation was that a new archives be started in Cologne, focused on Ford of Europe. The nucleus for the Ford of Europe Archives would be the material uncovered during the World War II research. The plan was to budget some money in 2000 to start achieving these goals. However, about the same time, the stock market bubble burst, and Ford began experiencing financial difficulties. Under the revitalization plan that was launched in early 2002, the Archives has had to adjust to continuing budget cuts and an extended freeze on "discretionary" spending. It has not been the time to launch an ambitious new program. But after the company successfully completes the revitalization program, the Archives will return to the idea of a Global Archives Initiative. It is the best approach to successfully leveraging the company's history for the benefit of the business, in every corner of the world. Until that vision is realized, however, the Archives will continue to nurture the ties that have been developed with the existing Ford archival repositories. Just the act of visiting each archival repository provided a helpful link to them. There is nothing like face-to-face contact for establishing a rapport and a business relationship. When the Centennial team wanted to ensure a global presence on its Web site, and needed content from all of the brands and regions, the Ford archivists were able to call on these archival contacts from - 31 -
  32. 32. around the world to help. Similarly, whenever the archivists need research help on a topic that relates to these other archival repositories, they know whom to call for assistance. It has worked the other way around, as well. Global colleagues call the Archives from time to time if they need help in responding to research questions. And, there are times when both sides are moved to exchange information simply because these new relationships have created an awarenss of mutual needs. So there has been some movement toward a global archives network, even if it has been far more informal than envisioned. However, it is frustrating that so little progress has been made at preserving and making available the historical records of Ford's second largest market, Europe. At one point in the late 1980s, Ford had established a European Corporate History Office in Great Britain. The office was headed by David Burgess-Wise, a well-known automotive journalist and historian who came to the position with considerable knowledge of Ford's European history. Much of Burgess- Wise's time was spent conducting research and oral history interviews. He wrote articles and papers on various Ford of Europe topics. He also did his best to save archival records when he could locate them. His biggest find came during a remodeling project in an office building in the U.K. After a brick wall in the basement was torn down, the workers discovered scores of boxes of records that had been walled over during a previous renovation and then forgotten. Some of these records dated back to the 1920s and 1930s and provided a unique record of Ford of Europe's early growth. But Burgess-Wise did not have the time to organize the records, or to weed out the less useful material. By the early 1990s Ford's European operations were experiencing financial difficulties, and the decision was made to shut down the European Corporate History Office. Burgess-Wise's files were shipped to Dearborn. They barely made it: The company operating the ship on which they were sent went bankrupt as the files were being shipped overseas. The records stayed in the hold of the ship for about a year while Ford negotiated to retrieve its property. When the effort finally succeeded, dozens of pallets of records were shipped to the Archives, where they remained in their shipping cartons until shortly after the re-engineering plan was launched. I made it a priority to inventory the collection, and we launched the project. However, we were not able to commit the resources to finish the inventory until the Ford-Werke research project forced us to do so. And although these records have been inventoried on a preliminary basis, they remain only minimally processed and are currently unavailable for general research. Even if accomplishments to date have fallen somewhat short of the timetable for re-engineering the Ford Motor Company Archives, there is a substantial amount of information available in Dearborn, especially at the Benson Ford Research Center, on Ford of Europe's early history. This cache includes the - 32 -