On a recent trip to the Nottoway plantation in Louisiana, we were told the following anecdote about the very first automotive recall:

To begin with, as we walked on the tour, we came across a chair that was in poor condition–the fabric was hanging loose and the stuffing was falling out. Since it was unlike the rest of the decor I just had to ask why this chair was so different. We were told that this chair was left in this poor condition to show what was used in their construction at that time. This also then led to the following:

During the early part of the 20th century, much of the stuffing for upholstery consisted of the moss hanging on many of the trees. This “Spanish moss” was used in pillows, mattresses, chair seats, and even comforters. So, when Henry Ford needed padding for his car seats, he started to “import” this moss from the South— mainly from South Carolina. The Southerners had learned over time (and the hard way) that if you DID NOT boil the moss and dried it before using it, you would experience the biting and itching that accompanies the chiggers, nats, no-see-ems, and other such small, nasty creatures that reside in the moss. Henry either didn’t know the proper methods for “cleansing” the moss, or else he just cut corners and did it ineffectively, or not at all. The end result was that he started getting numerous complaints from customers who were being bitten when they sat in their Model T’s. It became so problematic that he brought back (ie. recalled) the offending vehicles and fixed the problem. The tour guide did not elaborate on how he fixed the problem so I have no answer to the solution. All I can do is quote the guide and say that “This was the very first automotive recall known”. Truth or fiction?— only the Southerners truly know!