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The Secret Telegraphic Codes of Henry Ford

An archivist at the Henry Ford Musuem was looking through the vast collection of office papers when she came across what she thought was a secret code. It turned out to be a commercial telegraphic code.

“My” code was created by or for Ernest Liebold, who, as Henry Ford’s longtime personal and general secretary, managed Henry’s business, legal, and financial affairs. Liebold was responsible for keeping in close contact with representatives across the country, directing them on Ford business. We can’t tell whether he developed a customized code for Ford communications or modified an existing code. However, most of the telegrams I’ve run across so far are in plain English, so the code appears to have been seldom used. (Some of the telegrams are written tersely, in what we have come to think of as ‘telegraphic English,’ and others—particularly those signed by Ford himself—are quite lengthy and concern matters of strong personal importance to him, such as pacifism. But that is a story for another day.) Moreover, the code we have is incomplete—and not just because of missing pages. You can see here that Liebold or his office clerks never got around to finishing their telegraph code Rosetta Stone!

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