Vitagraph Company Sues Henry Ford For $1,000,000

The Battle Cry of Peace
Planning the defense of America. The war college in session

September 9, 1916. Producing Concern Alleges Manufacturer’s Strictures Against “Battle Cry of Peace” Have Damaged It Materially

The Vitagraph Company of America, through J. Stuart Blackton, vice-president, has brought suit in the Supreme Court of New York against Henry Ford, asking judgment in the sum of $1,000,000. The complaint is dated June 26 and alleges that on or about May 5, 1916, Mr. Ford caused to be published in not less than 250 newspapers published in the United States an article entitled “Humanity and Sanity,” in which the Detroit manufacturer charged in substance that the general agitation then prevailing in the country for preparedness and defense of this country against foreign invasion was due to the efforts of munitions manufacturers to promote their selfish interests and that “The Battle Cry of Peace,” a film manufactured and produced by the plaintiffs at great expense, was inspired by Hudson Maxim, “a manufacturer of munitions of war, in the interest of munitions manufacturers for the personal and selfish gain and interest of said Maxim and others interested with him in the manufacture and sale of munitions.”

Among the items complained of in the Ford article are such sentences as:

“Have you seen that awful moving picture, ‘The Battle Cry of Peace’?

“Did you shake with fear and tremble for your country’s safety?

“Did you know that others were shaking at the same time, but with laughter at your fear, and with joy over the fat contracts your fear might bring them?

“On the screen you were told that the play was founded on the story of Hudson Maxim, ‘Defenseless America.’ You saw Mr. Maxim in the picture. He was holding something aloft. It was an instrument of warfare.

“Now, Mr. Maxim was merely advertising his wares and playing on your fears to make a market for his goods.

“Mr. Maxim has something to sell — war munitions.”

At another point in the article occurred the sentences:

“The book was a fine advance notice. The picture was a fine follow-up.”

The complaint further sets forth that “the charge made in said article by the defendant was made and intended to convey to the public the impression that the said moving picture ‘The Battle Cry of Peace’ was produced by this plaintiff at the instance of and in the interest of the said Hudson Maxim or in the interest of manufacturers of steel, powder, arms, ordnance and munitions of war and for the purpose of furthering the personal and selfish interests of said manufacturers; and that the charge made in said articles was meant to and tended to convey the impression to the public that the plaintiff was willfully, wickedly and maliciously attempting to inspire in the public mind the belief that this country stood in great danger in the event of invasion” and that “this plaintiff did this from ignoble, dishonest, dishonorable and treasonable motives.”

The complaint declares the Vitagraph company produced “The Battle Cry of Peace” not only for commercial purposes and to furnish the public with a clean and interesting film drama,but for the purpose of furthering a national propaganda to enlighten the public upon the condition of the country as it was then known and for the purpose of communicating a great and important message to the American people: that the publication of the articles has to a great extent injured the reputation and business of the Vitagraph Company; that it has been and still is obliged to spend large amounts of money in publishing denials of said accusations in order to restore its reputation; and that as the result of the publication by the defendant the receipts and gains from “The Battle Cry of Peace” have materially decreased.

In commenting on the suit Mr. Blackton said:

“Mr. Ford has a right to his own opinions. If he thinks the great industry he has built up and the millions he has made should be left unprotected for a lot of barbarians to come and acquire almost without a struggle, he is welcome to such opinions. He may even spend time and money in spreading his propaganda, but he has no right to attack others who differ with his views.

“I wrote and produced ‘The Battle Cry of Peace’ to further the interests of practical preparedness, to arouse in the hearts of American citizens the sense of their strict accountability to their government, and through the tremendously powerful medium of the motion picture to counterbalance the pernicious influence of the apostles of peace at any price.’

“The accusation that munition interests are responsible for the picture is absolutely without foundation. In the latter part of April, 1915, Hudson Maxim sent me a copy of his book ‘Defenseless America.’ It contained many valuable and remarkable Statistics about the deplorable condition of this country’s defenses and 1 realized that a motion picture illustrating the facts set forth in the book would reach millions of people in a short period of time.

“Mr. Maxim was paid a stated sum for the use of the material in his book and around these facts I wrote the drama of ‘The Battle Cry of Peace.’ That was the only connection Mr. Maxim had with the affair. This was in April, 1915, and the Maxim Munition Company, of which I had never heard until Mr. Ford’s advertisements appeared, was not in existence until about December, 1915.

“Mr. Ford’s printed statement that munition manufacturers were back of the picture prejudiced many people against ‘The Battle Cry of Peace’ and damaged the business of theaters in many cities.”

Although the complaint is dated June 26, the papers were not served until recently, on the occasion of a visit to New York by Mr. Ford. The automobile manufacturer has applied to the New York courts for an order to remove the case to the District Court of the United States for the Southern District of New York. As a reason for the change Mr. Ford sets forth that he is a resident of Michigan. The order for the transfer was entered August 31.

September 23, 1916. VITAGRAPH VS. FORD TO U. S. COURT. Henry Ford, millionaire automobile manufacturer and prominent exponent of peace, who is named as defendant in a suit filed in the Supreme Court by the Vitagraph Company of America to recover $1,000,000 damages, has succeeded in having the action removed from the State Court to the United States District Court which tribunal wilt have future disposition of the case.

In his application for the removal of the suit to the Federal Court Mr. Ford set forth through his attorneys, Crisp, Handall & Crisp, that the plaintiff corporation has its principal place of business in New York, while his domicile as well as his business enterprises is at Detroit. Consequently he averred that owing to the diversity of citizenship of the parties to the litigation the Federal Court was the proper tribunal to adjudicate the issues.

More informations about ‘The Battle Cry of Peace’ in this post Civil War Blog: The Battle Cry of Peace