Past Forward

Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

A “Greatest Hits” Tour for a Major Historical Figure

June 23, 2014 Archive Insight

Lord Mountbatten at The Henry Ford

Arriving, apparently via helicopter (Object ID: P.B.61779.6).

The Henry Ford has always attracted famous visitors—some of my favorites that are documented in our digital collections include H.G. Wells, Neil Armstrong, and Rosa Parks. But while searching our collections database for something else, I found a name I wasn’t expecting: Lord Mountbatten.

Lord Mountbatten (1900–79) is a fascinating and controversial figure in British and Asian history. The great-grandson of Queen Victoria, he was commissioned as a naval lieutenant in 1920, and held several naval posts during World War II. As supreme allied commander of the Southeast Asia Command, he took Burma from Japanese control, which resulted in an honorary title, Earl Mountbatten of Burma.

In 1947, Lord Mountbatten became viceroy of India. Indian calls for independence from the British Empire had been increasing over preceding decades. Negotiations with British representatives toward this end had started after the end of World War II, but were complicated by conflicts between the Indian National Congress (INC) party, led by Mohandas Gandhi (1869–1948), and the Muslim League. Both groups strongly desired independence, but the Muslim League worried about the treatment of Muslims in an independent India dominated by an overwhelming Hindu majority, and instead suggested the creation of a separate Muslim state.

Lord Mountbatten was tasked with implementing the plan for partition that included, along with an independent India, creation of two Muslim areas: one now Pakistan, and one now Bangladesh. The way the states were drawn, some Hindu communities ended up in one of the Muslim areas, and some Muslim communities ended up in India. Violence and chaos ensued as 12 million inhabitants scrambled to relocate. Estimates vary, but it is likely that at least 200,000 people died. Opinions on the role Lord Mountbatten played in these affairs vary wildly: some proponents argue that because he moved so quickly to implement partition, he prevented an even larger civil war between Hindus and Muslims in the region; others claim it was his haste that created the chaos and bloodshed.

After India, Lord Mountbatten returned to Britain and continued his career in the Royal Navy, as well as acting as commander in chief of NATO forces in the Mediterranean. In 1979, while on vacation in Ireland, Lord Mountbatten was killed by a bomb planted in his fishing boat by the Irish Republican Army.

In 1972, seven years before his death, Lord Mountbatten visited The Henry Ford. Our photographer both then and now, Rudy Ruzicska, tagged along with the group and carefully documented their visit; he later created albums of the prints, including one for Lord Mountbatten.

As I browsed through scans of Rudy’s photos in our collections management system, I was struck by the “greatest hits” tour that Lord Mountbatten’s group received. Below are some of the highlights. These images of the visit, plus a few more, are available in our digital collections.

Lord Mountbatten at The Henry Ford

At the Wright Cycle Shop accompanied by institution executives Donald Shelley and Frank Caddy, as well as Henry Ford II. (Object ID: P.B.61780.12)

Lord Mountbatten at The Henry Ford

At Sir John Bennett (Object ID: P.B.61781.1)

Lord Mountbatten at The Henry Ford

Edison phonograph demo by curator Robert Koolakian at Menlo Park Lab. (Object ID: P.B.61782.3)

Lord Mountbatten at The Henry Ford

At Cotswold Cottage. (Object ID: P.B.61782.8)

mountbatten-6

Dining at Eagle Tavern (then known as the Clinton Inn). (Object ID: P.B.61783.5)

Lord Mountbatten at The Henry Ford

Viewing the cornerstone in the museum. (Object ID: P.B.61783.9)

Lord Mountbatten at The Henry Ford

Touring the Museum in a rented cart (not a common treatment). Our photographer Rudy Ruzicska told me that he was invited to ride in the cart at several points, rather than following behind with the rest of the entourage, though obviously this does not show up in the images. (Object ID: P.B.61783.11)

Lord Mountbatten at The Henry Ford

Viewing the 999 racer. (Object ID: P.B.61784.5)

Lord Mountbatten at The Henry Ford

Viewing the Quadricycle. (Object ID: P.B.61784.10)

Ellice Engdahl is Digital Collections & Content Manager at The Henry Ford.

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