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The Ruins of Fordlândia

Article #207 • Written by Alan Bellows

The Fordlandia Power-house, ca. 1935
The Fordlandia Power-house, ca. 1935

In the early 20th century, a cartel of Dutch and English rubber barons had a stranglehold on the vast majority of the world's supply of rubber. At that time the sole source of rubber was the South American tree Hevea brasiliensis, whose sap is natural latex. In the 1870s a gaggle of entrepreneurial smugglers had secreted a stash of wild rubber tree seeds out of the Amazon rain forest, which they used to establish sprawling plantations in East Asia. These smothered the output of Brazil, causing their owners to eventually enjoy the majority of the world's rubber business.

But by the late 1920s, the infamous automobile tycoon Henry Ford set out to break the back of this rubbery monopoly. His hundreds of thousands of new cars needed millions of tires, which were very expensive to produce when buying raw materials from the established rubber lords. To that end, he established Fordlândia, a tiny piece of America which was transplanted into the Amazon rain forest for a single purpose: to create the largest rubber plantation on the planet. Though enormously ambitious, the project was ultimately a fantastic failure.

In the year 1929, Ford hired a native Brazilian named Villares to survey the Amazon for a suitable location to host the massive undertaking. Brazil seemed the ideal choice considering that the trees in question were native to the region, and the rubber harvest could be shipped to the tire factories in the US by land rather than by sea. On Villares' advice, Ford purchased a 25,000 square kilometer tract of land along the Amazon river, and immediately began to develop the area. A barge-toting steamer arrived with earth-moving equipment, a pile driver, tractors, stump pullers, a locomotive, ice-making machines, and prefabricated buildings. Workers began erecting a rubber processing plant as the surrounding area was razed of vegetation.

Riverside Avenue in Fordlandia
Riverside Avenue in Fordlandia

Scores of Ford employees were relocated to the site, and over the first few months an American-as-apple-pie community sprung up from what was once a jungle wilderness. It included a power plant, a modern hospital, a library, a golf course, a hotel, and rows of white clapboard houses with wicker patio furniture. As the town's population grew, all manner of businesses followed, including tailors, shops, bakeries, butcher shops, restaurants, and shoemakers. It grew into a thriving community with Model T Fords frequenting the neatly paved streets.

Outside of the residential area, long rows of freshly-planted saplings soon dotted the landscape. Ford chose not to employ any botanists in the development of Fordlândia's rubber tree fields, instead relying on the cleverness of company engineers. Having no prior knowledge of rubber-raising, the engineers made their best guess, and planted about two hundred trees per acre despite the fact that there were only about seven wild rubber trees per acre in the Amazon jungle. The plantations of East Asia were packed with flourishing trees, so it seemed reasonable to assume that the trees' native land would be just as accommodating.

Henry Ford's miniature America in the jungle attracted a slew of workers. Local laborers were offered a wage of thirty-seven cents a day to work on the fields of Fordlândia, which was about double the normal rate for that line of work. But Ford's effort to transplant America-- what he called "the healthy lifestyle"-- was not limited to American buildings, but also included mandatory "American" lifestyle and values. The plantation's cafeterias were self-serve, which was not the local custom, and they provided only American fare such as hamburgers. Workers had to live in American-style houses, and they were each assigned a number which they had to wear on a badge-- the cost of which was deducted from their first paycheck. Brazilian laborers were also required to attend squeaky-clean American festivities on weekends, such as poetry readings, square-dancing, and English-language sing-alongs.

Rubber tree saplings
Rubber tree saplings

One of the more jarring cultural differences was Henry Ford's mini-prohibition. Alcohol was strictly forbidden inside Fordlândia, even within the workers' homes, on pain of immediate termination. This led some industrious locals to establish businesses-of-ill-repute beyond the outskirts of town, allowing workers to exchange their generous pay for the comforts of rum and women.

While the community struggled along month-to-month with its disgruntled workforce, it was also faced with a rubber dilemma. The tiny saplings weren't growing at all. The hilly terrain hemorrhaged all of its topsoil, leaving infertile, rocky soil behind. Those trees which were able to survive into arbor adolescence were soon stricken with a leaf blight that ate away the leaves and left the trees stunted and useless. Ford's managers battled the fungus heroically, but they were not armed with the necessary knowledge of horticulture, and their efforts proved futile.

Workers' discontent grew as the unproductive months passed. Brazilian workers-- accustomed to working before sunrise and after sunset to avoid the heat of the day-- were forced to work proper "American" nine-to-five shifts under the hot Amazon sun, using Ford's assembly-line philosophies. And malaria became a serious problem due to the hilly terrain's tendency to pool water, providing the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Fordlandia time clock, destroyed in the riot of December 1930
Fordlandia time clock, destroyed in the riot of December 1930

In December of 1930, after about a year of working in a harsh environment with a strict and disagreeable "healthy lifestyle", the laborers' agitation reached a critical mass in the workers' cafeteria. Having suffered one too many episodes of indigestion and degradation, a Brazilian man stood and shouted that he would no longer tolerate the conditions. A chorus of voices joined his, and the cacophony was soon joined by an orchestra of banging cups and shattering dishes. Members of Fordlândia's American management fled swiftly to their homes or into the woods, some of them chased by machete-wielding workers. A group of managers scrambled to the docks and boarded the boats there, which they moved to the center of the river and out of reach of the escalating riots.

By the time the Brazilian military arrived three days later, the rioters had spent most of their anger. Windows were broken and trucks were overturned, but Fordlândia survived. Work resumed shortly, though the rubber situation had not improved. A British journalist writing for the Indian Rubber Journal visited in 1931, and wrote, "In a long history of tropical agriculture, never has such a vast scheme been entered in such a lavish manner, and with so little to show for the money. Mr. Ford's scheme is doomed to failure."

The intervening months offered little evidence to counter the journalist's grim depiction. In 1933, after three years with no appreciable quantity of rubber to show for the investment, Henry Ford finally hired a botanist to assess the situation. The botanist tried to coax some fertile rubber trees from the pitiful soil, but he was ultimately forced to conclude that the land was simply unequal to the task. The damp, hilly terrain was terrible for the trees, but excellent for the blight. Unfortunately no one had paid attention to the fact that the land's previous owner was a man named Villares-- the same man Henry Ford had hired to choose the plantation's site. Henry Ford had been sold a lame portion of land, and Fordlândia was an unadulterated failure.

Blight-stricken rubber tree
Blight-stricken rubber tree

Never one to surrender to circumstance, Ford purchased a new tract of land fifty miles downstream, establishing the town of Belterra. It was more flat and less damp, making it much more suitable for the finicky rubber trees. He also imported some grafts from the East Asian plantations, where the trees had been bred for resistance to the leaf blight. Starting from scratch, the new enterprise showed more promise than its predecessor, but progress was slow. For ten years Ford's workers labored to transform soil into rubber, yielding a peak output of 750 tons of latex in 1942-- far short of that year's goal of 38,000 tons.

Be that as it may, Ford's perseverance might have eventually paid off if it were not for the fact that scientists developed economical synthetic rubber just as Belterra was establishing itself. In 1945, Ford retired from the rubbering trade, having lost over $20 million in Brazil without ever having set foot there. A company press release announced the abandonment of Belterra with a bland epitaph: "Our war experience has taught us that synthetic rubber is superior to natural rubber for certain of our products." The Ford Motor Company sold the land back to the Brazilian government for $250,000-- a token sum.

The solid structures of Fordlândia and Belterra were left largely empty for the decades following the towns' demise. Teams of Brazilian workers were tasked with maintaining the areas to preserve the buildings, but their remote locations left the Brazilian government wondering how it could possibly take advantage of the modern facilities. Until recently the resources have gone largely untapped; today the plantation towns are being marketed as stops on Amazon tours. At Belterra, a building once used to coagulate rubber was briefly reanimated for the purposes of producing surgical gloves and condoms, but it was a short-lived enterprise. Much of the plantation land is now used for local agriculture, producing crops such as beans, rice, and corn. Many of the towns' residents today are squatters.

Fordlandia ca. 2005
Fordlandia ca. 2005

Henry Ford's losses in Fordlândia and Belterra are equivalent to $200 million in modern dollars. Certainly he was unable to buy his way into rubber royalty, and his efforts to spread his American "healthy lifestyle" were met with resentment and hostility... but history has repeatedly shown that obscene wealth gives one the privilege-- perhaps even the obligation-- to make bizarre and astonishing mistakes on a grand scale. From that perspective, Fordlândia could not have been more successful.

Article written by Alan Bellows, published on 03 August 2006. Alan is the founder/designer/head writer/managing editor of Damn Interesting.

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MJ Smith
Posted 03 August 2006 at 10:37 pm

Wow. Amazing the stuff that South America lets happen sometimes.

'Sure, come here! Have this land, use it, try and change our people!'

Wouldn't fly well in this day and age.

Posted 03 August 2006 at 10:37 pm

Fascinating. I had never heard this about Ford, and it's gratifying to see that this greedy (his embrace of Taylorism to speed up production lines), egotistical (he actually coined his own money), and anti-Semitic (his newspaper was a big promoter of the Protocols of Zion fraud) individual got his comeuppance for once.

MJ Smith
Posted 03 August 2006 at 10:38 pm

mensadave said: "Fascinating. I had never heard this about Ford, and it's gratifying to see that this greedy (his embrace of Taylorism to speed up production lines), egotistical (he actually coined his own money), and anti-Semitic (his newspaper was a big promoter of the Protocols of Zion fraud) individual got his comeuppance for once."

You've never heard of Henry Ford? Err... where have you been?

You heard of Ford cars?

Secret Ninja
Posted 03 August 2006 at 10:50 pm

mensadave said: I had never heard this about Ford

Anyway, Villares was one tricky bastard.

Posted 03 August 2006 at 10:59 pm

MJ Smith, I think mensadave meant that he hadn't heard this particular story about Ford.

Posted 03 August 2006 at 11:20 pm

Right! Let's see! You create an American-lifestyle-based mini-world deep in the jungle, you ID everybody and feed them hamburgers, you expect tones of rubber and you don't employ one single botanist. Isn't that bad human resource management, wouldn't you say? Plus, you never go there. I, myself, would've "burnt some rubber" (hi hi), showing up in a convertible T model Ford, with a cupla nice Amazonian chicks and go, like: "What's your ID, worker? Bow down to me and make me some rubber!" BTW, DI, IMHO ! (always wanted to say that!).

Posted 03 August 2006 at 11:33 pm

"Rubber barons". That made me chuckle. :-)

Posted 04 August 2006 at 01:25 am

Amazingly enough, I honestly think that's the first picture I've EVER seen of Henry Ford, and I'm eighteen years old! It's truly unbelievable that I've gone this far without ever knowing what the face behind such a household name looked like.

Truly fascinating article, Señor Bellows!

Although it's funny to think that this isn't the only case of trying to plant stuff where they don't belong that I've heard of. I remember a story about a man (sorry, for all my efforts I cannot find his name, I'm relying off of memory) who went to Japan for many years and studied as much about their wasabi fields as there was to study (because before this wasabi had to be shipped to the Americas and wouldn't be as fresh by the time it got here, and he knew there was going to be a market for fresh, and especially AUTHENTICALLY grown wasabi in America). He studied it all for his years living there, came back to the U.S, purchased big hangers and reproduced everything about the fields from humidity, to soil content, down to the weather patterns and seasons. He kept everything inside the facility a secret, and made billions.

I guess the moral of the story is, if you want something done right, do it yourself!

Posted 04 August 2006 at 02:22 am

Uh... this sounds scarily like the way some American politicians have viewed other countries... also, "Brazil seemed the ideal choice considering that ... the rubber harvest could be shipped to the tire factories in the US by land rather than by sea". What? Sea is always cheaper. Foolish Mr Ford. Should have learned from the Romans.

Posted 04 August 2006 at 03:55 am

He could have saved $200 million by simply paying a botanist a small fee to go and assess the land before he planted anything...


Posted 04 August 2006 at 05:23 am

For anyone wondering, according to google, 25,000 (square kilometers) = 9,652.55396 square miles. And according to this link, that's about the size of Vermont. Wow.

Posted 04 August 2006 at 05:55 am

MJ Smith said: "Wow. Amazing the stuff that South America lets happen sometimes.

That's a pretty ignorant remark. The people didn't "let stuff happen", hell, Ford *bought* the land. Wtf would you do? :-/

Posted 04 August 2006 at 01:04 pm

1c3d0g said: "That's a pretty ignorant remark. The people didn't "let stuff happen", hell, Ford *bought* the land. Wtf would you do? :-/"

And on top of that, the locals were being very well paid. Aside from the prudish lifestyle that was being forced on them - it was a pretty good deal from their side.

Posted 04 August 2006 at 01:04 pm

I wonder what Ford's reasoning was for not hiring any botanists. We always learn about him being such a brilliant businessman.

MJ Smith said: "You've never heard of Henry Ford? Err… where have you been?

You heard of Ford cars?"

Apparently you didn't read it thoroughly. As Mez pointed out, mensadave said, "I had never heard THIS about Ford." Pay attention.

Posted 04 August 2006 at 02:06 pm

Love that summary.

(i love french toast) :-)

Posted 04 August 2006 at 02:07 pm

MJ Smith said: "Wow. Amazing the stuff that South America lets happen sometimes.

'Sure, come here! Have this land, use it, try and change our people!'

Wouldn't fly well in this day and age."

Got news for you, buddy. It's flying like never before. And if the people don't willingly accept it, they'll be "liberated" from whatever government knew better than to let Americans in.

Posted 04 August 2006 at 02:23 pm

The moral of the story is...... STOP TRYING TO AMERICANIZE THE WORLD!

Posted 04 August 2006 at 05:46 pm

MJ Smith said: "Wouldn't fly well in this day and age.""

Ford wasn't trying to push his values off on the country, just his small section of it. The Brazillian workers chose to live there. They could leave whenever they liked.

Culture exchanges like this happen all the time. Usually not on Fordlândia's scale, but most world cultures are seeing blending with no major problems.

For example: McDonalds and many other fast food restaurants have locations all over the world. Wal-Mart is also all over the globe now. I passed a huge Sam's Club in Mexico last year. I have a friend living near Kyoto, Japan. He stops by the theater to see the latest American flicks which are all subtitled in Japanese since they don't get much dubbing there. There's English on everything...t-shirts, billboards, product instructions, song lyrics, etc. If he travels the few hours to Tokyo he can get just about any kind of "American" food or product he likes, and there are sections of the city that cater to Americans and are very English friendly.

It's not just Americans "Americanizing" the world either. The cultural invasion goes both ways.

I live in an area of Atlanta that is rapidly becoming a little Mexico. The shop signs and billboards are all in Spanish, and most of the advertisements I get in the mail are in English and Spanish. Just a few miles away is another area that is turning into Asia. The shop signs and billboards are all in Korean or Chinese. It's getting difficult to shop or patronize business in the area unless one speaks Chinese, Korean, or Spanish. There are kareoke bars springing up everywhere, and the laundrymats are also billiards halls that serve Dos Equis and kung pao chicken. These cultural areas are more like small towns, and are getting larger all the time.

I'd say it flies pretty well these days.

Posted 05 August 2006 at 03:03 am

First off, I don't think there's anything obscene about his wealth. He created one of the most transformative companies in American history, and made transportation vastly more affordable for everyone.

Second, what's the problem with how he tried to run his factory? He was paying DOUBLE the local rate, and in a relatively (compared to America) unproductive country, he tried to use the methods he knew worked for him here. It's not an attempt to Americanize or an invasion, it's an attempt to succeed, it's a job, and you're welcome to keep 50% wages and work elsewhere.

Last, taking a chance and failing doesn't make him a retard. People that succeed take risks. Overall those risks, I'd say, came out pretty positive. If it were easy to never fail I'm sure a lot of the folks posting would be regular Thomas Edisons. Hey, first try, it's a light bulb!

Posted 05 August 2006 at 04:15 am

I also agree he couldn've possibly be a retard, since he did create an industry empire, and I suppose you DO need SOME business-aimed intuition and visions to get up there. Some choices he made about this Fordlândia thing seem peculiar, though. And its' not necessarily about invation and/or Americanization, but neither can it be compared to the arguments made by Chanticrow. Don't misunderstand me, Chanticrow, you ARE right, provided we consider the rather universally-occuring inter-cultural relations between neighbouring countries (USA and Mexico, for instance) or the need of finding cultural understanding by resorting to generally-accepted values (McDonalds, Hollywood) or language (which happens in, say, Japan). This here thing is another one altogether. He practically CREATED a world (with accomodation, jobs, infra-structure, etc.), including a society which involved a (not-so-perfect) leader; otherwise, what should people riot against? (except failure, of course). Doesn't seem to be like something typically American, does it? And I am Romanian, I should know. But, hey, it's business, right?

(*offtopic: how do you separate paragraphs? :D)

Posted 05 August 2006 at 09:09 am

Whenever I see "Ford," I think HHGTG Ford Prefect. And I know -he- wouldn't have stuffed things up. And if he did, it would have been on purpose in such a way that it would result in $5 profit.

Posted 05 August 2006 at 09:12 am

Darn. That was interesting!

Posted 05 August 2006 at 03:02 pm

Morgan, I like your thinking!

Posted 05 August 2006 at 06:21 pm

needles said: "The moral of the story is…… STOP TRYING TO AMERICANIZE THE WORLD!"

That's right; anybody from any other nation can do their damnedest to foist their ideology, language, and what-have-you on anyone else in the world. But let an American — or worse yet, a Christian — try it in this day & age, and look out.

Posted 05 August 2006 at 07:41 pm

Am I missing something, or isn't this the same lesson our government is trying to re-teach us all? Going off half-cocked and trying to impose our 'wonderful' lifestyle on a foreign country tends to backfire into insurrections, civil wars, social upheaval and retaliation. Maybe if the people in foreign lands wanted to be like us, they would have opted to without it being imposed, merely on the basis of our excellent example and witnessing. Capitalism sort of speaks for itself, doesn't it? Aside from our own corruption, graft, licentiousness, and idiocy, we must look pretty good!!!

Posted 06 August 2006 at 12:29 am

Rubber doesn't taste tastes like...well...rubber.

anywho, henry ford seems to me as if he is a bit of a dumb ass. i want to kick him for ploughing down all those trees to build a barren wasteland. what a tool >:-(

Posted 06 August 2006 at 10:21 am

Whoops, there goes another rubber tree plant.

Posted 07 August 2006 at 05:39 am

There are several serious factual problems with this story:

- There has never been a land-shipping route from Brazil to the United States.
- Synthetic rubber isn't used to make automobile tires and even today natural rubber accounts for 50% of rubber production.

Declaring Fordlandia a failure makes sense, but attributing that failure to synthetic rubber just isn't accurate.

Posted 08 August 2006 at 08:35 am

Once again, fascinating reading. What is it about Brazil? First the Confederados (presented not too long ago right's in History...), now this. Think they're still taking offers to move down there?

Posted 08 August 2006 at 03:21 pm

I never knew this particular aspect about Ford. This concept reminds me of another failed venture, here in Kansas, of a small community called Silkville. Their existence was to make silk, but like Ford, encountered some problems and eventually abandoned the community and the project.

I wonder if Ford lost more money on other projects pri0r to the demise of the Edsel.

Posted 10 August 2006 at 11:33 pm

Ford, besides all the amazing things he did, was also a supporter of the Nazi effort in Germany. In line with his short-sighted approach to some things, during the 1920's, Ford would not hire a full accounting team. "They weren't necessary." There were only something like 4 accountants, stashed away in a corner office. They came up with the idea that about a foot-high stack of of reciepts was the equivalent of a million dollars worth of business. And, of course, there was the Edsel.
oh -- i see Chris beat me to it.

Gizmo The Cat?
Posted 14 August 2006 at 12:13 pm

Spending so much money on something that failed in the end... Must sucks to be him!

Posted 26 December 2006 at 04:28 pm

I wouldn't mind trying to live on what he had left after all his losses.

Ken E
Posted 07 April 2007 at 03:51 am

This story reminds me of an attempt at mass farming on marginal country in Australia, undertaken by the British at the end of the 1940s. The Queensland British Food Corporation (QBFC) was supposed to grow grain sorghum near Emerald in Central Queensland for stock food. The resulting pork, beef etc was to be consumed in rationed Britain. In the case of the QBFC, things were perhaps better planned and though a failure, did manage to produce something. The problems included mouse plagues, drought and agronomists who insisted that planting take place according to a regular schedule, whether or not worthwhile rain had fallen. The scheme was wound up in the mid 1950s and a lot of local farmers bought good used machinery for a song. A large irrigation dam was built in the late 1960s and much of the old sorghum land is now under cotton.

Posted 08 August 2008 at 10:08 pm

They'd been better off making charcoal briquets.

Posted 14 October 2008 at 02:53 pm

MJ Smith said: "Wow. Amazing the stuff that South America lets happen sometimes.

'Sure, come here! Have this land, use it, try and change our people!'

Wouldn't fly well in this day and age."

that is really dumb and rude to say. Henry ford had a reputation as a wealthy and intelligent man. He *BOUGHT* that land to try something and south america trusted him. there is no reason not to trust him he hadn't known that rubber trees could be manipulated the way he thought. I'm sure you didn't either you donkey!

Posted 24 October 2008 at 10:17 am

"his efforts to spread his American "healthy lifestyle" were met with resentment and hostility"

It seems that any time Americans try to export their value systems, they are met with significant resistance. Just an observation.

Posted 06 November 2008 at 06:21 am

Well, as being a Brazilian (even quite far away from Fordlândia (or Fordland, translating the name), what killed the Rubber Cycle in North Brazil was not the invention of synthetic rubber, was the fact that British stole rubber tree saplings from there and used it to make plantations in Asia.
Of course American lifestyle would be met with hostility. In South Brazil (where I live) and in Southeast, people would be much more receptive to the American lifestyle, but even for Southern brazilians, North is a very different place and has a very different culture (I know because I'm married with a Northern brazilian girl, and even in my marriage, cultural differences were clear).
First of all, the working shift... In the rain forest, Sun is too strong and climate is very humid, what makes the place VERY warm. It is quite hard to work in such conditions, and that's why people that do rural work works very early, stop around 10 o'clock, and resume work in the afternoon.
Another problem is the food thing. As it is a very hot place, and the population have a lot of indigenous influence in their culture, they eat a lot light foods, like fruits (acai, bacuri, cupuacu) and stuff made with cassava roots (like flour, a liquid extracted from it called tucupi) and sea food (shrimps and fish mainly)... Hamburgers, bacon, sausages, this kind of stuff, make you very uncomfortable to work in such a hot place, worink in middday sun after eating that kind of stuff could only end in stomach aches, vomiting, and employees not being able to work.
Another thing that I think would be a MAJOR problem is Ford's ban on alcohol. Northern brazilians do not smoke so often (I never saw someone smoking there, opposed to South Brazil, where ppl smoke a lot), but it is a national habit (at least in North and Northeast) to drink pinga, specially at lunch and after sunset, and this would really be a problem.
I do not know about other things, such as regional dances (like Cumbia and Carimbó), but I imagine if American way was enforced, this would piss off the workers as well (being unable to manifest their own culture)

Resuming, there's no way a North brazilian rural worker would like the american way of life, it is radically different, and it is a very bad idea to try to enforce a new culture in a place that love and give a lot of credit for their own culture.

Brazil in 1920 was a quite recently formed republic (it was made in 1889), finally freed from the monarchy, and Brazil was quite suspicious of foreign capital, due to its previous experiences with Portugal and Great Britain, so it was natural that the brazilian government didnt help Henry Ford. North Brazil still is a large demographic desert, so imagine in 1920.... Brazil had little interest in developing there.

Henry Ford's failure here in Brazil was due to his lack of planning, his arrogance in thinking he needed no botanist, that his managers would know how to work in a VERY different climate, with VERY different conditions, with a VERY different culture, for being a fool not asking a geologist to query the land before buying it, his lack of comprehension that Brazilians do not want to be like Americans, they have their own way and it works very well here (not better or worse than the american way, just different) and very bad timing (in 1920 the rubber cycle was ending and Belem and Manaus belle epoque was failing).

Posted 24 April 2009 at 07:54 am

I enjoyed this article. It is indeed an amazing story.

I actually wrote a novel set in Fordlandia. It is still in the pre-release stages - I haven't opened it to internet searches. It took me six years to write and involved trips to the Amazon. It follows the story of a Ford executive and a rubber tapper. I would appreciate it if you checked it out: (under 'Purchase Books'). I am happy to send you a free digital copy as well if you e-mail me.


Posted 19 September 2009 at 07:54 pm

What I find most amazing on this story along with some of the comments afterwards is to see that so little has changed for some american mindsets ("Chanticrow" is a prime example), even though almost 100 years have passed.

Ford FAILED. Period. His "american way of life" down-the-throat method and the clear fact that he thought that only because he was american he was doomed to success was the reason.

And guess what would happen if you got these backward people and send them there too? They would ALSO fail. But they would bow their head and accept it was because of their own backwardness? Nope! :)

Ken W
Posted 14 March 2010 at 09:21 pm

Harvey Firestone founded a 220 square mile rubber plantation about the same time in Liberia, west central Africa. He also built an American style town on the plantation named Harbel. It has American style homes, stores, golf club, swimming pool, etc. Even a Coca-Cola plant. He also built a rubber research center run by botanists on the plantation. The plantation has been very successful; shipping millions of pounds of rubber and millions of gallons of latex to the USA over the years. It was run for many years with American management and Liberian workers. In recent years the number of Americans and Europeans have gone down as qualified Liberians have been hired for many of the middle and lower management jobs.

Henry Ford hired "managers" to make decisions. Firestone hired experts (experienced botanists, scientists, rubber plantation managers, etc.).

Posted 09 April 2010 at 06:57 pm

Enter your comment here.Failure is a chance to begin again more intellegently. - Henry Ford
Success is on the far side of failure. - T. J. Watson (founder of IBM)
We all fell down learning to walk. - John B

Posted 14 September 2010 at 01:37 am

Joethecoat said "Uh… this sounds scarily like the way some American politicians have viewed other countries… also, “Brazil seemed the ideal choice considering that … the rubber harvest could be shipped to the tire factories in the US by land rather than by sea”. What? Sea is always cheaper. Foolish Mr Ford. Should have learned from the Romans.".
Astute observation, Joe. This scarily reminds me of what America's military-industrial complex is spending TRILLIONS of dollars doing in Iraq and Afghanistan; and the consequences could be far worse than just wasting trillions of our tax $$$$$.

Posted 04 January 2011 at 11:53 pm

I can’t imagine why the entrepreneur you describe worked so hard to bring wasabi to the states when most Americans wouldn’t know wasabi if it bit them. I was happy that a Chinese restaurant opened near me, till I discovered I could eat their bland wasabi by the spoonful. Real wasabi has yet to gain a foothold here.

Posted 14 July 2011 at 03:46 pm

"Brazil seemed the ideal choice considering that the trees in question were native to the region, and the rubber harvest could be shipped to the tire factories in the US by land rather than by sea."

This makes no sense, for three reasons. 1. There is no route by land between the US and Brazil (or South America; the highway stops in Panama) 2. There were no major highways in the part of Brazil where Fordlandia was built. 3. Even in the US it is less expensive to ship by water than by land. Avoiding the need to ship the rubber by sea could not have been one of the motives for establishing Fordlandia.

American Geographical Society Library
Posted 17 March 2014 at 11:00 am

Bill Wilson
Posted 27 May 2014 at 08:10 pm

frenchsnake said: "I wonder what Ford's reasoning was for not hiring any botanists. We always learn about him being such a brilliant businessman.

Henry Ford grew up on a farm in Michigan so had some knowledge of agriculture. Michigan was denuded of it's forests by then and many property owners replanted using pine sprigs that were set close together in rows. The strongest sprigs grew the fastest and choked out the weaker ones which died or were cut down. Ford probably figured that would be the most economical way to create a rubber plantation with strong healthy trees native to Brazil.

Posted 07 July 2014 at 09:00 pm

Henry Ford did one thing and did that well, maybe not right by today's standards. He ran a very paternalistic company that would not be well accepted today, altho many want their employer to take care of them they don't want to be responsible to any rules set by the employer to limit their choices. That said, he may have done well if he hadn't been swindled into buying the lame portion of the land. It would be computer companies providing their own software. Apple anyone?

Posted 13 May 2015 at 06:40 pm

Who owns fordlandia now and how can I buy it?

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