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Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford's Forgotten Jungle City Paperback – April 27, 2010
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Top Customer Reviews
In 1927, approaching his 65th birthday, Ford sent his first two ships to the area. He had purchased 2.5 million acres of Amazon land - roughly the size of Connecticut. He planned not only to plant rubber trees, but also to mine the land for gold; drill for oil; and harvest timber. In addition, he hoped to bring his American-style sensibilities to the region: the production line; sanitation; buildings such as Churches, cottages; a hospital; a movie theater; and the idea of fair wages for hard work. What he didn't bring was a an expertise in growing rubber trees, or an understanding of the Amazon and it's people.
One other thing Ford never brought to Fordlandia was himself. Between the inception of Fordlandia in 1927 and Ford's death in 1947, he never set foot in the Amazon.
This is the story of the creation of "Fordlandia", amazing in itself. But, it is also the story of Henry Ford (a man of sharp contradictions); the struggles of the American and Brazilian laborers who worked in the City; and of the Amazon. It also speaks of a different era, when seemingly impossible things could be attempted.
Very well written and researched. Lots of old photographs. I can find no flaws. Highly recommended.
On top of this, the Amazon was an unfriendly climate for those used to the cold winds of Michigan and the Puritan work ethic of the United States. Insects, diseases, "indolent" workers, lack of modern conveniences and the very essence of the area combined to doom Ford's dream of establlishing a town/plantation devoted to cornering the market on rubber.
Ford's efforts to transplant his River Rouge auto plant to the jungle of Brazil makes for fascinating and thought provoking reading.
At the time, rubber was mostly coming from European colonies in Asia. Attempts to grow it in Florida were not very successful so Ford looked to Brazil, where rubber-bearing plants originated from. The Ford company convinced the state and federal governments to give him a stretch of territory the size of Connecticut for the purposes of growing rubber trees. Ford spent millions of dollars on Fordlandia, creating a small American town in the wilderness, complete with swimming pools, a modern hospital, a powerplant, sawmill, etc.
However, Ford had a habit of forming opinions and then not listening to experts. His efforts to grow rubber were doomed because rubber plants in Brazil are subject to a host of diseases and pests (rubber plants in Asia do not have this problem) which makes large-scale, industrial collection of rubber impractical.
The book is well-written, discussing Henry Ford's eccentric ideas and the experiences of many of his employees who were involved in Fordlandia. The research is first-rate. However, the book does diverge significantly from the subject at hand, comparing Ford's attempts to conquer the Brazilian jungle to the War in Iraq (!!!) and devoting several unfortunate pages to a rant about capitalism, global warming and globalism. Otherwise it would rate full five stars.
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