Bennett thugs fight the UAW

Harry Bennett (1892 – 1979), a former boxer and ex-Navy sailor, was an executive at Ford Motor Company during the 1930’s and 1940’s. His reputation of doing Henry Ford's "dirty work" is what most people remember, and his hunting lodge was built with some strange additions.

He is best known as the head of Ford’s "Service" Department, or Internal Security. While working for Ford, his union busting tactics, of which the The Battle of the Overpass was a prime example, made him a foe of the United Auto Workers. He was fired in 1945 by Henry Ford II, and died in 1979 of natural causes. He had various residences in Michigan, including Bennett's Lodge near Farwell, Michigan, a Log Cabin style house in East Tawas, Michigan, and Bennett's Castle located on the Huron river in Ypsilanti, Michigan.

Byline: Amy Wilson

Hired by Henry Ford after a New York street fight, Harry Bennett rose to prominence as perhaps America's most famous corporate thug.

Bennett, a former boxer and ex-Navy sailor, quickly established himself as the auto tycoon's right-hand man after joining Ford Motor Co. in 1916. Until his ouster in 1945 by Ford's grandson, Henry II, Bennett carried out Henry Ford's orders, often using violence.

Other than Henry Ford's wife, Clara, Bennett was perhaps the person closest to the auto pioneer during the final decades of Ford's life. Bennett lorded over Ford's notorious Service Department, a force of up to 8,000. They monitored Ford employees, intimidated union organizers, delivered punishments and guarded Ford and his...

 Harry Bennett

Eventually Bennett had the largest private army of thugs, hoodlums and ex-convicts in the world. Ford deferred to him in EVEYTHING. He ran the Ford Motor Company with an iron fist. Hitler's Gestapo was modeled after the Ford Service Department, with its army of ruffians and thugs.

Eventually Bennett had the largest private army of thugs, hoodlums and ex-convicts in the world. Ford deferred to him in EVERYTHING. He ran the Ford Motor Company with an iron fist. Hitler's Gestapo was modeled after the Ford Service Department, with its army of ruffians and thugs.

Harry Bennett (left) with Henry Ford (center) and John Corlisle (right) at Camp Legion in Dearborn, MI, June 19, 1939.

Eventually Bennett had the largest private army of thugs, hoodlums and ex-convicts in the world. Ford deferred to him in everything. He ran the Ford Motor Company with an iron fist. Hitler's Gestapo was modeled after the Ford Service Department, with its army of ruffians and thugs.

Did Bennett Kill Edsel Ford?

Edsel Ford

Harry Bennett-"Closer to Ford than his only son"

Ford and Bennett saw red. Two of the Big Three auto companies, General Motors and Chrysler, had fallen. Henry's only child, Edsel, had sympathies with the workers, and encouraged co-operation and negotiation with the union, but Ford would have none of it. He told Edsel he needed to toughen up - and try to be more like Harry Bennett - Ford was fond of saying,

"Bennett knows how to hold himself in an argument." Edsel had been expected to take over the running of the company from Henry Ford, but his father undercut him, and favored Bennett, again and again. Even the most sympathetic biographers of Ford agree that he treated his son cruelly. One of the Ford grandchildren was quoted as saying Ford "killed my father," Edsel. (p. 413, Ford: The Men and the Machine, by Robert Lacey, 1986).

From Bob Fox:

"Bennett had a sculptured cement cabin in Superior Twp. I lived there. There is a big red concrete barn on Geddes between Prospect and Leforge. On the wall inside is inscribed 'Bennett 1941'. The men in the Service Dept wore 'X' badges— a collector's item if you can find one. There are 2 more sculptured cement homes nearby on Stommel Rd., off Vreeland."

Read more about Harry Bennett
NEW* Video Tour of the Castle!
1984 Photos of the Castle
Harry Bennett's Lodge HERE
Harry Bennett's Castle HERE
The Rise and Fall of Harry Bennett HERE



Fast Film said...

To paraphrase Amy Winehouse, what kind of thuggery is this?

I'll bet the top photo originally came from "News of the World" newspaper syndicate. They were famous for that style of retouching, with actual outlines drawn around people. I learned a little about the history of retouching while interviewing famed airbrusher Charles Wild.

David Earl Stark said...

"There was an abandoned cabin/servant quarters? In the woods near some huge estate. It had a concrete swimming pool. Bennett or Fords? Would go there with friends hang out and party. Overgrown area with briar and nasty prickly bushes. Hell to get to!!! Believe it was off Geddes Rd. We looked for secret tunnels ...never found them. "

David Earl Stark said...

"Going further into woods by estate heard guard dogs barking....turned back from fear...Also there was an apple orchard close to it (cabin) used to ride bikes near there and kype apples. Got bit on calf by apple guard dog. "

Robert Fox said...

"The one I lived in had gun in placements."

Retro Kimmer said...

Bob tell them about that cabin Pleeeeasse!!! It was so cool and I can't remember....

Dan DuChene said...

"Yeah, he dug a moat around his "hunting cabin.""

Retro Kimmer said...

Which cabin Dan? I have heard about 4 now, I thought there was only one.
Hoping Bob Fox will give his side of this story.

Robert Fox said...

"The cabin off Geddes also had secret room, tunnels, and other amazing features. It's cool that the BSA ended up with the one in Lake."

@ David Stark

"David— sounds like Bennett's Castle. Are you related to the Stark on Washington St. in Ypsi?"

Dan DuChene said...

"He had a cement fortress that looked like a log cabin in Lake (near Farwell). I worked at the BSA camp it's located in and ran a bunch of tours of the place. Really cool with secret rooms and tunnels."

Retro Kimmer said...

My brother lives in Farwell maybe I can get him to find it. That makes 5 cabins now... Man that dude was everywhere!


"Very interesting...thx for posting."

Brian Kruger said...

"Went through Bennett's Castle about 10 years ago or so when it was for sale. Amazing. Look for a copy of "We Never Called Him Henry". Bennett's side of the story. Also, David L. Lewis interviewed Bennett in California in the mid 70's before his death. The Benson Ford Library has pictures taken by Lewis at this interview. Bennett as a very old man."

Brian Kruger said...

"Also, one of Bennett's guys in the photograph above (Battle of the Overpass) was Eddie Cicotte; the same Eddie Cicotte that was banned from baseball in the Black Sox scandal. Great stuff."

Brian Kruger said...

"Bennett's Pagoda castle on Grosse Isle is still there, and is quite cool."

Retro Kimmer said...

Brian! thanks so much for the information! now another Bennett place on Grosse Isle! I am going to drive around al summer filming these places!

Unknown said...

hi there, I live next door the the boyscout camp in Lake, MI....where the hunting cabin used to be. I'm having a hard time finding out info. about that place...heck, I never knew anything about it before we moved in. This is just something I need to learn about on a personal level...any help would be appreciated :o) Thanks, Nichole

Ray said...

I give tours of the Lodge now owned by the BSA. If you have any questions I'd be happy to answer them to the best of my ability. I have a large collection of photographs from when I was up there this past weekend that I'd be happy to upload and share. The lodge is in an unfortunate state, now, but it's still amazing.

Unfortunately, everything that we know about the lodge is here say, so there's lots of room for rumors and stories.

Retro Kimmer said...

OH RAY! that would be fantastic!!! Harry is one of my most popular stories and new info would help tremendously. My email is retrokimmer@gmail.com I can do a new update for HB. I wish I could find a photo of the Pagoda house in Grosse Isle... Thank you soooo much!

David Moss said...

I know a lot more than written here. I was on the Island across from the Castle and know where the tunnel (flooded for many years) under the river was. I also lived in the Stommel Road House.

Kelsey J said...

my friend and i just searched the hideout today (the one of geddes rd and prospect) it was really cool. We found a cement log cabin, two small cylinder brick/ cememnt towers. and some under ground rooms. if anyone has ANY info about these and there possibley being tunnels, please comment back!!!! thanks!

Riley said...

So the place we explored had a bunch of cool things about...I read that there were supposedly 2 other cement type houses off of Stomel so if anyone has like info on those Please tell me...thanks

Retro Kimmer said...

Girls so exciting in time for Halloween! Did you get any photos?
Would one of you email me and maybe we could do a story about your trip today.

Thanks so much

Cinnagirl76 said...

Wow, so according to Kelsey the cabin I used to go to is still standing! I never realized it was made of cement.
All these years I have wondered about the purpose of that cabin and now I finally know some of it. And it's even cooler than I expected.
And I always thought those tiny hidden rooms were gun lookouts and according to Bob Fox, I was right!
We always called it the John Norman Collins house because even though it had nothing to do with him, the first girl was found in the surrounding field somewhere.
Crazy interesting stuff! Thanks, RetroKimmer for having this site and helping me to solve a personal mystery of mine...LOL

Retro Kimmer said...

So glad to hear from you Felisa.. Bob Fox knows more than most as he lived there for quite awhile.. I hug out there a few times with our buddies.... I am a Harry B fanatic and I may soon have new info that has never been seen before so stay tuned! xxooRK

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