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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Harry Bennett - Lover of Cats

Harry Bennett was Henry Ford's "Man Friday" as Charles Sorensen liked to say. Bennett carried that same ass kicking tough guy persona into his pets.

Bennett had many pets from flocks of geese, livestock including a big steer named "Joe", birds and of course cats.

The cats included lions, tigers, panthers, and other large cats. At his various homes he had special pens or in some cases complete buildings for the housing of his big cats. To see a example of the cathouse at Bennett's Castle in Ann Arbor, check out Retro Kimmer's 1984 Castle photos here...

Bennett would let the animals roam the grounds at night and would turn a couple loose in the various tunnels under his house as an added measure of security. I'm sure this was a highly effective method of securing the perimeter.

Stories still float around to this day about how Harry Bennett would take a lion or tiger on a leisurely stroll around the Rouge plant controlling the feline with a small collar & leash. A visitor to Bennett's office in the basement of the old Administration Building might find a big cat dozing on a large mattress Bennett placed there for the comfort of his pets.

As can be seen Bennett enjoyed his big cats, but he was by no means stingy with them. On more than one occasion he made gifts of tigers & lions to close friends and even new acquaintances.

After Harry sold off his Michigan properties and moved to Desert Hot Springs, CA he kept small cats aka pussycats. David Lewis perhaps the most well known Ford Historian, photographed Bennett holding a Persian cat which can be seen in his book "Ford Country Vol. 1" Bennett even had these small housecats trained to when he made a circle with his arms, all of his cats would jump thru his arms.

It's safe to say Harry Bennett was many things, but he was a lover of animals.