Friday 25th July 1941
American automaker Henry Ford wrote a letter to the Indian nationalist leader Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. The letter effusively praised Gandhi and his campaign of civil disobedience aimed at forcing the British colonial government out of India. As Douglas Brinkley wrote in “Wheels for the World,” his history of Ford Motor Company, the automaker disliked imperialism and was hopeful that Gandhi’s campaign would succeed in pushing the British out of India and establishing Indian home rule. In addition, Ford Motor Company had long enjoyed healthy sales in the cities of Bombay and Calcutta. Ford’s letter to Gandhi, now included in the Henry Ford Museum and Library, read: “I want to take this opportunity of sending you a message…to tell you how deeply I admire your life and message. You are one of the greatest men the world has ever known.” The letter was sent to Gandhi via T.A. Raman, the London editor of the United Press of India. Gandhi didn’t receive the letter until December 8, 1941, the day after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour. Greatly pleased, Gandi sent in response a portable spinning wheel, one of the old-fashioned devices that Gandhi famously used to produce his own cloth. The wheel, autographed in Hindi and English, was shipped some 12,000 miles and personally delivered to Ford by Raman in Greenfield Village, Michigan. Ford kept it as a good luck charm, as well as a symbol of the principles of simplicity and economic independence that both he and Gandhi championed.