Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford's Forgotten Jungle City

Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford's Forgotten Jungle City

3.5 8
by Greg Grandin
     
 

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ISBN-10: 0805082360

ISBN-13: 9780805082364

Pub. Date: 06/09/2009

Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.

The stunning, never before told story of the quixotic attempt to recreate small-town America in the heart of the Amazon

In 1927, Henry Ford, the richest man in the world, bought a tract of land twice the size of Delaware in the Brazilian Amazon. His intention was to grow rubber, but the project rapidly evolved into a more ambitious bid to export America

Overview

The stunning, never before told story of the quixotic attempt to recreate small-town America in the heart of the Amazon

In 1927, Henry Ford, the richest man in the world, bought a tract of land twice the size of Delaware in the Brazilian Amazon. His intention was to grow rubber, but the project rapidly evolved into a more ambitious bid to export America itself, along with its golf courses, ice-cream shops, bandstands, indoor plumbing, and Model Ts rolling down broad streets.

Fordlandia, as the settlement was called, quickly became the site of an epic clash. On one side was the car magnate, lean, austere, the man who reduced industrial production to its simplest motions; on the other, the Amazon, lush, extravagant, the most complex ecological system on the planet. Ford's early success in imposing time clocks and square dances on the jungle soon collapsed, as indigenous workers, rejecting his midwestern Puritanism, turned the place into a ribald tropical boomtown. Fordlandia's eventual demise as a rubber plantation foreshadowed the practices that today are laying waste to the rain forest.

More than a parable of one man's arrogant attempt to force his will on the natural world, Fordlandia depicts a desperate quest to salvage the bygone America that the Ford factory system did much to dispatch. As Greg Grandin shows in this gripping and mordantly observed history, Ford's great delusion was not that the Amazon could be tamed but that the forces of capitalism, once released, might yet be contained.
Fordlandia is a 2009 National Book Award Finalist for Nonfiction.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780805082364
Publisher:
Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
06/09/2009
Pages:
432
Product dimensions:
6.38(w) x 9.70(h) x 1.49(d)

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Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford's Forgotten Jungle City 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
PasadenaLawyer More than 1 year ago
This tells the story of Henry Ford's ultimately unsuccessful attempt to manufacture rubber for the tires of his cars in the Amazon basin in Brazil. Grandin paints a revealing picture of Ford himself, the times he lived in, and the historical figures he interacted with.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
cannonball More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this tale of utopia gone wrong. It's amazing how smart people can be so dumb. The author clearly dissects Ford's idealism with all its contradictions and explains how someone who so wanted to do good ended up creating a monster instead.
iluvvideo More than 1 year ago
Fordlandia:The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford's Forgotten Jungle City provides an in depth look at one of America's great men. It chronicles his successes and in this case failures. It's not in a man's successes that help you really see the true character of a person. It's in the failures; the trials, struggles and how you persevere. Greg Grandin provides us just such a view of Henry Ford, American manufacturing giant. He's at the peak of his successes. His cars are revolutionizing how America travels. His innovative assembly line and social experiments to help his employees get the most out of life are ahead of their time. Ford proposes to construct a model American community at Muscle Shoals, along the Tennessee River in northwestern Alabama. His proposal is rebuffed by the government, leaving Ford to search for other options. Strangely, almost the same proposal becomes the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) during Franklin Delano Roosevelt's presidency. Ford then acquires control of a large portion of land in Brazil's Amazon jungle totaling 5,625 square miles. He plans to 'farm' raw rubber, latex, by using modern techniques, reinvigorating the former booming Brazilian rubber market. But what worked in America does not transfer successfully. Rubber trees that grew in the wilds of the jungle, face problems from insects and disease when farmed. Not to mention that Ford's social experiments that worked in America proved detrimental in Brazil. Rather than adapt to the conditions and people of the region, he tried blindly to impose his will on them. Of course the results were less than hoped for. If ever there was a recipe for disaster, it was here. Worse still, Ford didn't learn from his early troubles. By continually trying to mold Fordlandia in his own vision he lost many lives along with millions of dollars in cash and materials. Greg Grandin's meticulously researched chronicle allows us a window into the events as they happen. This book provides a remarkable historical record of a forgotten period of history and the heights of one man's folly.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Senorken More than 1 year ago
An interesting book about probably one of the least understood parts of the world. Also an enlightening story about Henry Ford's America and his view of what a corporation's role in the life of its employees shoudl be. It was amazing to read of the paternalistic approach to his employees and his teams attempt to bring that paternalism to the jungles of Brazil!
LateBabyBloomer More than 1 year ago
Raised in the Motor City and sensitive to the environmental degradation wrought by Ford's manufacturing labyrinth at River Rouge, I bought the book with the greatest anticipation and hoped to be treated to new insights into the psyche of Henry Ford and his Brazilian fiasco. Instead I felt cheated. A large segment of Grandin's work dealt with Henry's life experiences outside the context of Fordlandia, relying on facts found essentially in secondary sources. My criticism has less to do with his assertion of management's ignorance and insensitivity to social and environmental issues as it did how he sparingly used primary evidence to even remotely draw Henry into the Brazilian narrative. Thus I came away thinking that to Henry the Fordlandia project was just another one of many minor league affairs for which he had to contend, not exactly a pressing utopian passion as Grandin seems to suggest, like, let's say, Mussolini's African imperial escapades which portended his larger world view. Simply put, it's like blaming Tiger's manager, Sparky Anderson, for a call made in a Toledo Mud Hen's game. Clearly with all of the pressing business in the Big Leagues can we really expect Sparky to be up on the 'play by play' in one of his team's many affiliates? After all, have not corporate ambitions to gain global hegemony over third world raw materials significantly predated the Fordlandia experiment? United Fruit Company is a case in point and makes Henry's Brazil escapades look like the doings of an 'eagle scout'; for it can be said the FMC model brought in hospitals, roads, schools, and other infrastructure improvements---not exactly an accepted standard for corporations at that time. Nevertheless, as has been well documented in earlier studies, Henry's brand of paternalistic progressivism vastly overshadowed an unrelenting dark side, best personified in his lackey, Harry Bennet, whose fascistic tactics worked to intimidate workers and destroy the emerging democratic unions. A salient feature of the work was the way Grandin documented Ford Motor Company's initial ignorance of the genetic history of rubber trees and its susceptibility to disease. But much of the Brazilian dialogue took on a somewhat irrelevant flair, where middle management's petty jealousies reduced the narrative to that of a soap opera. In the end, I never really got to know any of the revolving cast of Andy and Hardy-like characters in this would drama; even more despairingly is the lack of anecdotal detail provided on the individual lives of the Brazilian workers themselves. In the end I felt treated to a skeletal series of assembly line facts which fit nicely into a preconceived model---and that is why I gave the book a 'C'.