Answered By: Archives & Library Staff @The Henry Ford
Last Updated: Jun 05, 2019 Views: 18

Benson Ford was born July 20, 1919 the second child of Edsel and Eleanor Ford and second grandchild of Henry and Clara Ford. He grew up in Indian Village, and Grosse Pointe Shores at the Ford’s Gaukler Point estate with his siblings Henry II, Josephine, and William.

Benson’s early education was taken at Liggett School and Detroit University School, before attending the Hotchkiss Academy in Connecticut, graduating in 1938. He was accepted into Princeton and attended for two years but left early to begin his career at Ford Motor Company. In his early years at Ford, he worked first in the experimental garage at the Engineering Laboratory and later moved around to different departments, learning as many aspects of the company as possible. During this time he helped build one of the company’s first experimental jeeps along with his brother, Henry Ford II.

Benson married Edith McNaughton, daughter of Lynn McNaughton a former vice president and general manager at Cadillac, on July 9, 1941 in Christ Church. The couple had two children, Benson Jr. in 1949 and Lynn in 1951. The Fords enjoyed boating and owned several boats, including a succession of yachts named Onika, and Benson also enjoyed golfing and photography.

 

 

 

 

 

 

During WWII Benson was twice rejected from service as 4-F due to blindness in his left eye, but later was able to enlist in the Army in 1942, eventually rising through the ranks to achieve the rank of Captain by the time he separated from the Army in 1946.

Once he left the Army, Benson returned to Ford Motor Company and was named a Vice-President of the company and headed the Lincoln-Mercury Division, he later became Chairman of the Dealer Policy Board.

Benson was involved in many charities including the YMCA, Boy Scouts, and, with his wife Edith, the United Torch Fund Drives. Benson served as a trustee for the Edison Institute, serving as Chairman of the Board from 1947-1951, Henry Ford Hospital, as Chairman of the Board, Henry Ford Trade School, and the Ford Foundation among others.  He also worked for religious tolerance and in 1951 was named Protestant national co-chair of the National Conference of Christians and Jews.

Benson suffered a heart attack in 1957 and was forced to cut back his involvement in the company due to ill health, but continued to be involved in many charities. He passed away from a heart attack in 1978 onboard his yacht at age 59. Benson was known as a down to earth, friendly person, and was described as unassuming and easy to talk to. Retired Ford Motor Company vice-president, John Bugas said, “He was one of the most gentle and thoughtful persons I have ever met in my life.”

The Benson Ford Research Center at The Henry Ford is named after Benson Ford. To honor his dedication to the Edison Institute, his children Lynn Ford Alandt and Benson Ford, Jr. provided major support for the Benson Ford Research Center.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Images: Benson Ford, c. 1955 (P.833.107140), Edsel Ford with sons Henry II and Benson, 1921 (00.1334.187), Benson Ford and Edith McNaughton on their wedding day, 1941 (P.833.75835.34), Benson Ford with Clark Gable at 1950 Indy 500 (P.833.92727.79).

Bibliography:

Archival
   Acc. 475 Benson Ford Records
      box 1 General; Scroll from Henry Ford School, Redwood City, CA
      box 2 Speeches, Photographs, Ford Motor Company Stock Presentation, Ford 50th
                             Anniversary show script
      box 4 Tribute to Jack Adams
      box 5 Recordings and Tapes
      box 6 Photographs
      box 7 Photographs; Mercury assembly
      box 8 Bas relief portrait Benson Ford, Certificate Model T Ford Club
      box 9 Clippings

   Acc. 198 Benson Ford records subseries
      box 1 Awards

   Acc. 720 Editorial Services Department records subseries
      box 2 December 1949; Ford, Benson, December 7, 1949, Michigan State College
      box 3 April 1950; Ford, Benson, April 28, 1950, Carl M. Sjaholm, Scottish Rite Masons
      box 5 November 1950; Ford, Benson, Nov: 2, 1950, National Hotel Association
      box 6 November 1950; Ford, Benson, November 13, 1950, Detroit Round Table of the
                     National Conference of Christians and Jews
                December 1950; Ford, Benson, December 18, 1950, 35-Year Dinner
      box 7 February 1951; Ford, Benson, February 8, 1951, San Francisco Chamber of Commerce
                February 1951; Ford, Benson, February 9, 1951, Press Club
      box 8 April 1951; Ford, Benson, April 20, 1951, Purchasing Supervisors
      box 10 July 1951; Ford, Benson, July 17, 1951, Scholarship Award Dinner
                  August 1951; Ford, Benson, August 20, 1951, Industrial Arts Awards Fair
      box 11 October 1951; Ford, Benson, October 1, 1951, Detroit Section Society of Automotive
                      Engineers
      box 12 November 1951; Ford, Benson, November 29, 1951, Dealer Announce Meeting
                  January 1952; Ford, Benson, January 17, 1952, Detroit Junior Board of Commerce
      box 13 April 1952; Ford, Benson, April 16, 1952, Boy Scouts

      box 16 October 1952; Ford, Benson, October 13, 1952, United Foundation
                  December 1952; Ford, Benson, December 2, 1952, National Conference of Christians
                         and Jews, Chicago, Illinois
      box 17 January 1953; Ford, Benson, January 25, 1953, B'nai B'rith Award Presentation
                  February 1953; Ford, Benson, March 10, 1953, National Conference of Christians
                         and Jews, Miami, Florida
      box 18 June 1953; Ford, Benson, June 22, 1953, Wisconsin Blue Cross
      box 23 June 1954; Ford, Benson, June 23, 1954, Advertising Federation of America
      box 24 September 1954; Ford, Benson, September 14, 1954, American Hospital Association
      box 25 October 1954; Ford, Benson, October 20, 1954, School Dedication
      box 26 January 1955; Ford, Benson, January 28, 1955, Henry Ford Hospital O-P Clinic
                  January 1955; Ford, Benson, January 30, 1955, Grosse Pointe University School
      box 27 June 1955; Ford, Benson, June 26, 1955, Ford Scholars Convocation
                  September 1955; Ford, Benson, September 8, 1955, Ford Safety Forum
                  September 1955; Ford, Benson, September 16, 1955, Community Chest
      box 28 November 1955; Ford, Benson, November 7, 1955, Detroit Economic Club
      box 29 January 1956; Ford, Benson, January 23, 1956, Council on Industrial Safety
                  January 1956; Ford, Benson, January 23, 1956, Council on Industrial Health
                  February 1956; Ford, Benson, February 9, 1956, Community Chests & Councils
                      of America

   Acc. 234 Speech Services records subseries
      box 9 Ford, Benson
                   1947, December 10, Atlanta Plant Management Dinner
                   1948, June 14, Metuchen New Jersey Assembly Plant Dedication
                   1948, September 22, “The Rewards of Curiosity”
                   1949, February 28, “Five Jobs for Young Men”
                   1949, December 8, “Some Unfinished Business for Young Americans”
                   1950, February 21, “Brotherhood for Progress”
                   1950, April 28, “A Practical Approach to Brotherhood”
                   1950, November 2, American Hotel Association
                   1950, November 13, “A Moral Basis for Our Leadership”
                   1951, February 8, “Production is the Payoff”
                   1951, April 20, Purchasing Management Dinner
                   1951, July 17, Ford Motor Company Fund Scholarship Award Dinner
                   1951, October 1, “Engineering for Tomorrow”
                   1951, October 4, National Conference of Christians and Jews
                   1951, November 29, Regional Dealer Meeting
                   1952, January 17, Detroit Junior Board of Commerce
                   1952, February 26, Houston, Texas Chapter of the National Conference of
                          Christians and Jews
                   1952, October 13, United Foundation Kickoff Dinner
                   1952, December 2, Chicago Chapter, National Conference of Christians and Jews
                   1953, January 25, B’nai B’rith Award
                   1953, March 10, Florida Chapter of the National Conference of Christians and Jews
                   1953, June 22, “The American Road to Health”
                   1954, June 23, “Can We Beat the Business Cycle?”
                   1954, September 14, “A Businessman Looks at Health”
                   1954, October 20, Redwood City School Dedication
                   1955, January 28, Henry Ford Hospital Out-Patient Clinic Dedication
                   1955, January 30, Grosse Point University School
                   1955, September 8, Ford Safety Forum
                   1955, November 7, Introduction of H. Rowan Gaither, Jr.
                   1956, January 23, “Design for Living”
                   1956, February 9, Community Chests and Councils of America
                   1956, June 22, Engineering Forum
                   1956, September 26, Central Office Building Plaque
                   1956, September 27, United Foundation Luncheon
                   1956, October 2, “Building for the Future”
                   1957, January 28, Dealer Policy Board Breakfast
                   1957, February 15, Chicago Executives Club
                   1957, November 4, Mississippi Automobile Dealers Association
                   1958, May 6, “Customers, Cars and Contradictions”
                   1958, September 22, “Customer Satisfaction – Key to Growth”
                   1962, August 20, “Program for Growth”
                   1962, September 5, Ford International Fellowship Dinner\

   Acc. 1856 Executive Speech collection subseries
      box 1 1948, June 14, Benson Ford, Dedication of the Metuchen, New Jersey Assembly Plant
                1949, February 28, Benson Ford, “Five Jobs for Young Men”
                1949, December 8, Benson Ford, “Some Unfinished Business for Young Americans”
      box 2 1950, February 21, Benson Ford, “Cooperation for Progress”
                1950, November 2, Benson Ford, American Hotel Association
                1950, November 13, Benson Ford, “A Moral Basis for Our Leadership”
                1951, February 8, Benson Ford, San Francisco Chamber of Commerce and
                            Commercial Club
                1951, October 1, Benson Ford, “Engineering for Tomorrow”
      box 3 1952, February 26, Benson Ford, National Conference of Christians and Jews
                1952, October 13, Benson Ford, United Foundation Kickoff Dinner
                1953, March, 10, Benson Ford, Florida Chapter of the National Conference of
                             Christians and Jews
      box 4 1954, June 23, Benson Ford, “Can We Beat the Business Cycle?”
                1954, September 14, Benson Ford, “A Businessman Looks at Health”
      box 5 1956, January 23, Benson Ford, “Design for Living”
                1956, October 2, Benson Ford, “Building for the Future”
                1957, November 4, Benson Ford, “To the Dealers”
                1958, May 6, Benson Ford, “Customers, Cars and Contradictions”
                1958, September 22, Benson Ford, “Customer Satisfaction – Key to Growth”
                1959, April 28, Benson Ford, “Your Stake in Practical Politics”
      box 6 1962, November 6, Benson Ford, Address to United Foundation Ford Report
                       Luncheon
                1962, November 13, Benson Ford, “Every Problem is a Mutual Problem”
                1962, November 15, Benson Ford, Address at T. J. O’Neil Retirement Party
      box 7 1962, December 4, Benson Ford, Address to Minnesota Automobile Dealers
                        Association
                1962, December 10, Benson Ford, “Some Responsibilities of Modern Management”
                1963, January 14, Benson Ford, “Six Steps to Highway Safety”
                1963, January 22, Benson Ford, Address at Junior Achievement Kick-off Dinner
                1963, March 29, Benson Ford, Address to Nebraska New Car Dealers Association
                1963, April 24, Benson Ford, “What is Better Business?”
                1963, May 4, Benson Ford, Address to Scottish Rite Bodies
                1963, May 14, Benson Ford, Address to Alabama Automobile Dealers Association
                1963, May 17, Benson Ford, Press Conference
      box 8 1963, September 30, Benson Ford, Address at United Red Feather – Red Cross Appeal
                1963, October 2, Benson Ford, Address to Santa Ana-Tustin Community Chest
                1963, October 11, Benson Ford, Address at Re-dedication of Lee Chapel at
                      Washington and Lee University
                1963, November 19, Benson Ford, “Can We Afford to Tax Initiative?”
                1963, December 4, Benson Ford, Address to Detroit Rotary Club
                1964, January 15, Benson Ford, Address to Jackson Chamber of Commerce
                1964, January 19, Benson Ford, Introduction of Lynn Townsend
      box 9 1964, April 30, Benson Ford, Address at Community Service Awards Dinner
                1964, May, 15, Benson Ford, Address at Press Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana
                1964, June 8, Benson Ford, Address to Missouri Automobile Dealers Association
      box 10 1967, May 1, Benson Ford, Virginia State Chamber of Commerce

   Acc. 1035 Joel Dean papers
      box 17 "The Challenges and Opportunities of the Future for Dealers", text and background
                        materials of Benson Ford's address before Ford executives at Greenbrier, West
                        Virginia, 11/60, which J.D. prepared
      box 29 "Future of the Dealer", 1960 (various presentations, talks, transcriptions of
                         discussions in which McNamara, Mills, Wright & Benson Ford and J.D.
                         participated in the Fall of 1960)

   Acc. 536 Public Relations Research Library press releases subseries
      box 38 Ford, Benson; Biography 1951, Executive Communication, Speeches, 1948-1954,
                     Tribute, 1950
      box 132-133 Benson Ford; Speeches

   Acc. 378 Public Relations Research Library subject files subseries
      box 1 Ford, Benson; Press Conference and Packet

   Acc. 502 Lincoln-Mercury News Bureau records subseries
      box 2 Ford, Benson – Biography
      box 5 National Conference for Christians and Jews; Benson Ford Appointment, 1951
      box 15 Benson Ford Press Releases

   Acc. 765 Edsel Automobile Public Relations Records
       box 8 Benson Ford – Sports Lodge Citizen of the Year Award, 1953

   Acc. 6 Edsel B. Ford Office papers
      box 2 F (includes References to Benson Ford's birth, July 1919)
      box 57 BM-BT (includes W.O. Briggs – season baseball passes sent to Henry II and
                       Benson Ford), 1930
      box 88 BRA-BRY (includes Walter O. Briggs re: baseball season passes for Henry Ford II
                       and Benson), 1933
      box 91 ID-IS (includes International News Company re: London news subscription renewed
                       for Benson Ford), 1933
      box 93 SA-SC (includes Schetter Drug Company re: bill for Henry II and Benson Ford's
                       purchases), 1933
      box 104 BRO-BRY (includes Browning, King & Company, clothier, letter noting Benson
                       Ford as requested to open account), 1935
      box 113 BEA-BER (includes Clifton D. Benson re: EBF writes information on use of
                       "Benson" name in the family), 1936
      box 125 JO-JU (includes Mrs. Henry B. Joy, party invitation for Benson Ford, memorial on
                        Lincoln Highway), 1937
      box 126 LA-LE (includes Hal LeRoy, re: Benson Ford & friends request his autograph),
                        1937
      box 130 BI-BL (includes Biltmore requesting approval to open account for Benson Ford),
                        1938
      box 159 BUC-BUS (includes Burrelle’s Press Clipping Bureau, request clippings of Benson
                        Ford’s engagement), 1941
      box 160 CR-CY (includes Rev. Francis B. Creamer, comment on Benson Ford’s upcoming
                        wedding), 1941
      box 161 FL-FO (includes Betty & Harvey Firestone, telegram of congratulations on Benson
                        Ford and Edith McNaughton’s engagement), 1941
      box 167 AMERICAN (2of3) (American Red Cross War Relief Fund, donation from Benson
                         Ford  and Henry Ford II), January 7, 1942
      box 168 BU-BY (Business Week, Benson Ford considered for magazine cover), 1942
      box 170 LA-LE (includes William M. Leffingwell, asked information on Benson Ford’s
                        enlistment in military service), 1942
      box 184 Telegrams, 1938 (includes various brief messages to Benson Ford)
      box 185 Telegrams, 1939 (includes Benson Ford)
      box 233 Subject files; Ford, Benson, 1937
      box 237 Subject files; Ford, Benson, 1938
      box 243 Subject files; Ford, Benson, 1939
      box 247 Subject files; Ford, Benson, 1940

   Acc. 285 Henry Ford Office papers
      box 26 F60 (63) Edsel B. Ford (includes re: gift of 1000 shares each of Ford Motor Company
                       of Canada stock to Henry Ford II and Benson Ford; re: Power of Attorney granted
                       by Clara J. Ford to Edsel B. Ford.)
      box 2435 BAG BACZ (includes Standish Backers re: toast at dinner preceding wedding of
                        Benson Ford.)
      box 2660 Benson Ford
      box 2959 Lincoln-Mercury Division News Bureau; Addresses by Benson Ford

   Acc. 13 Engineering Library Vertical File for Henry Ford Collection
      box 11 Ford-McNaughton Wedding, 1941

   Acc. 1 Fair Lane papers
      box 1 Henry Ford personal material; to grandchildren from Henry Ford or Henry Ford/Clara
                       B. Ford, 1925-1940, and undated
      box 24 Grandchildren personal materials; Benson Ford
                      Correspondence to Henry Ford/Clara B. Ford, 1927-1945, and undated
                      Wedding, July 10, 1941, scrapbook of news clippings
                      Correspondence and collected materials regarding Benson Ford, 1941-1949
      box 67 Christmas and New Year’s cards; Grandchildren to Henry Ford/Clara B. Ford

   Acc. 241 Department executive records subseries. Ben Donaldson. 50th Anniversary
      box 1 Ford, Benson

   Acc. 1527 Ford R. Bryan papers
      box 11 Ford, Benson

   Acc. 940 Frank Ernest Hill papers
      box 7 Henry Ford File; Ford, Benson
      box 15 Interviews; Ford, Benson

   Acc. 1410 Ford Foundation subject file records
      box 1-3 Benson Ford office records relating to Ford Foundation

   Small Accessions  
      Acc. 886 Benson Ford Office Honors and Awards records
           Award certificate, State of Louisiana, Executive Department, appointing Benson Ford
                Brigadier General on Staff of Governor Jimmie H. Davis 12/7/62
           Certificate of Honorary Citizen of New Orleans to Benson Ford 12/10/62
      Acc. 243 Ford Motor Company Fund collection, 1950-1959 (2of3)
            Text of address by Benson Ford at First Scholarship Award Dinner 7-17-51

   Acc. 00.1334.309 Ford Motor Company design and management photograph albums, 1941
             includes headshot of Benson Ford

   Acc. 1660 Photographic Vertical File
      box 73 Ford, Benson – Automobile Racing, Dedications, Family
      box 74 Ford, Benson – Marriage, Portraits (1919-1959)
      box 80-81 Ford, Edsel – Family – Children
      box 108 Ford, Henry – Family – Grandchildren
      box 176 Ford, Benson – Portraits – Color (oversized)

   Acc. 833 General Photographs series
      box 43 Edsel Ford (95a, 95b, 96a)
      box 46 Benson Ford (103a and 103b)
      box 47 Benson Ford (103c)

   Acc. 189 Photographs For The Company series
      box 49 Group of men; Benson Ford, C E Sorensen, Donald Nelson, etc.
                  (P.189 16996, P.189.16997

   Acc. 782 Import Automobile records series
      box 5 Indianapolis 500 Pace Car; Assorted years, 1950, 1957
      box 6-8 Pan American Mexican Road race, 1954      

Ford News
   Furnace "B" is "Fired," 2:6F:1+:1, 2:24L:l+:1
   Midsummer At The Fairs (1940), 20:9:195+:1-3
   America Sees The Big Three of '41: Lincoln, Mercury, Ford (Press luncheon), 20:11:243+:1-3
   Fashion At The Shows (I 940-National Automobile Show), 20:12:271+:1-2
   Ford Looks Forward To 1942 (Press luncheon), 21:10:257+:2
   Defense Progress At Dearborn (Duke of Windsor visit), 21:12:311+:1-3

Rouge News
   Ford, Benson
      Address, speeches, etc.
      Edison Institute Museum
      Engineering and Research Center plans
      Family
      Ford International, Inc.
      Ford Motor Co. Board of Directors
      Fundraising
      Lincoln-Mercury Division
      Lincoln-Mercury Plants
      Policy Committee 

Audio-Visual (access may be restricted due to format, please contact reference staff for access)
   84.1.600.13 - Motion Picture - "Benson Ford Breaks Ground for Two New Buildings at Henry
                            Ford Community College"
   84.1.600.14 - Motion Picture - "Mr. And Mrs. Benson Ford Viewing The Mercury Automobile
                            1955 Model"
   84.1.600.15 - Motion Picture - "Benson Ford and William Clay Ford at the Press Reception
                            for the Mexican Road Race"
   84.1.600.16 - Motion Picture - "Benson Ford Accepting the Robinhood Award"
   84.1.600.17 - Motion Picture - "Benson Ford at Torch Drive Luncheon"
   84.1.600.18 - Motion Picture - "Benson Ford Crowned at the United Foundation Public
                            Relation Committee's Kickoff Lunch"
   84.1.600.26 - Motion Picture - "Ford Family at the United Foundation Luncheon"

Oral Histories
   Acc. 975 Nevins and Hill interviews series
      box 2 Interview transcripts; Benson Ford

   65_ 106  A. J. Lepine

   65_27 J. E. Bossardet

   65_111 Edward B. Litogot

Vertical File
   Ford, Benson (Grandson of Henry Ford I; see also Oversize Box 2)
            General
            Marriage

Books and Secondary
   The Fords: An American Epic. Peter Collier, David Horowitz.
      338.76292 F699 C699

 

Related Topics

    Contact Us

    To set up an appointment to visit the research center call (313) 982-6020 or write to us at research.center@thehenryford.org.

    If you wish to do research from offsite, please contact us in writing. Fees apply to many research requests, and we will clarify this when we receive your request. For more information on cost please see our research services. Requests for information can be emailed, faxed or mailed:

    Benson Ford Research Center
    The Henry Ford
    20900 Oakwood Blvd.
    Dearborn, MI
    48121-1970
    USA

    fax: (313) 982-6244