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McGuffey, Ford, Baldwin, and the Jews by Ronald R. Stockton Henry Ford exhibited anti-Semitic attitudes throughout his life. Scholars have no definitive explanation of where these beliefs originated, although many point to political influences during Ford's youth as possible causes: an overarching xenophobia in the country as a whole as well as the tendency for fringe elements to associate Jews with the machinations of powerful banking interests which purportedly engaged in currency manipulation and fomented economic turmoil.1Neil Baldwin's recent book Henry Ford and theJews presents a new theory, that Ford learned anti-Semitism from the various editions ofMcGuffey's Eclectic Readers. Baldwin's book jacket makes the point that Ford's "early intellectual growth was dominated by The McGuffey Reader, a popular schoolbook featuring Shakespeare's Shylock, and traditional scriptural interpretations condemning Jews for not accepting Jesus Christ as the son of God."2 The first chapter in Baldwin's book ("McGuffeyland") notes that Ford grew up with the Readers. Baldwin says that McGuffey emphasized that "Protestant Christianity was the only true religion in America." The Readers taught "a Calvinist structure of reward and punishment" inwhich "hard work, thrift,and rugged conformity were the ideals. Success was desired. Failure was shunned." According to Baldwin, the Readers embraced "an ordered, rigid, and straightforward view of aworld where white was white and black was black."3 None of Baldwin's observations would surprise anyone familiar with the Readers. McGuffey's views were "a mirror of early nineteenth century America." The first two Readers were published in 1835 and 1836. Others came later.They targeted the small towns and rural areas Michigan Historical Review 35:2 (Fall 2009): 85-96 ?2009 by Central Michigan University. ISSN 0890-1686 All Rights Reserved. 1Allan Nevins and Frank Ernest Hill, Ford, Expansion and Challenge, 1915-1933 (New York: Scribner, 1957); Douglas Brinkley, Wheels for theWorld: Henry Ford, His Company, and a Century ofProgress, 1903-2003 (New York: Viking, 2003). 2Neil Baldwin, Henry Ford and theJews: The Mass Production ofHate (New York: Public Affairs, 2001). 3 Ibid., 4-5. 86 MichiganHistoricalReview of what was then the West, where education was fragmentary.4Because teachers at that timewere generally not well educated, graded textbooks that introduced students (and teachers) to the great writers were amajor contribution to the curriculum. The Readers also affirmed the value of ethnic groups through a "cosmopolitan" approach that emphasized "the rich cultural traditions of other nations."5 The books included stories about Germany, England, Scodand, France, Italy, Holland, Russia, Spain, Poland, Arabia, Al Hambra, India, and Catholic Ireland. Many entries praised the ancient Hebrews, their scriptures, and theirmoral teachings. Itwas themulticulturalism of its age. Previous works on Ford's anti-Semitism mentioned theMcGuffey Readers peripherally, if at all, but a number of reviewers of Baldwin's book embraced the theory.Alison Cowan wrote that Ford's "aversion" to Jews dated to his schooldays, "when he was reared on themoralistic teachings of William Holmes McGuffey, whose books harped on sources like Shakespeare's 'Merchant of Venice.'" Robert Rockaway said, "Baldwin infers that Ford's phobia about Jews originated in his youth when, as a schoolboy, he fellunder the influence of theMcGuffey Readers." Carlin Romano reported that Ford "grew up reading McGuffey's Readers, fullof anti-Semitic stereotypes and the example of Shylock, Shakespeare's poster boy forJewish greed."6 At this point, it is hard to see how any work published after 2001 that addresses Ford's anti-Semitism or McGuffey could fail to note Baldwin's book. Unfortunately, however, Baldwin's arguments in his opening chapter are flawed and heavily dependent upon a selective, sometimes erroneous or forced reading of secondary sources. To support his thesis, Baldwin cites five readings fromMcGuffey. "Shylock, 4 John H. Westerhoff III, McGuffey and His Readers: Piety,Morality, and Education in Nineteenth-Century America (Nashville, Tenn.: Abingdon, 1978), 18. 5 Henry Steele Commager, "Foreword," inWilliam H. McGuffey, McGuffey s Fifth Eclectic Reader (1879; repr., New York: New American Library, 1962), xv-xvi. 6 Alison Leigh Cowan, "Off the Shelf: The Industrial Genius Who Hated Difference," New York Times, December 9, 2001, sec. 3, 6; Robert Rockaway (review), Henry Ford and the Jews: The Mass Production...

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