In the 1920s, Henry Ford created a utopia in the middle of the Amazon jungle. The plan was to produce enough rubber to feed his auto empire, but the dream soon turned into a nightmare. Disease, riots, mud – and caterpillars – were too much for Ford’s millions.
Buried deep into the Brazilian jungle sit the remains of what was once Henry Ford’s utopian city. A place where one of the richest and most influential men on the planet wanted not to make money, but to – quote – help develop that wonderful and fertile land. And I can tell you right now that Henry Ford definitely didn’t make any money out of his dream city. In fact, it turned out to be one of his biggest failures – but we’ll get to that later. So stick around until the end of this video to find out the story of Fordlandia, an American attempt at making an American rubber factory and an American-style community in the heart of the Brazilian Amazon.
The Blue Oval brand has been present in Brazil since 1904, Ford Motor Company’s second year in business. The Brazilian market became increasingly important to Ford over the years and in 1919 Dearborn founded a separate branch for the Portuguese-speaking country in South America: Ford do Brasil. An Albert Khan-designed assembly plant in São Paulo started producing Model Ts from knock-down kits in 1921.
Perhaps Ford’s most notorious venture in Brazil was the Fordlandia project, begun in 1926. Henry Ford created Fordlandia as a part of his ongoing attempt to vertically integrate his operations. In the mind of the company’s founder, he could best control his costs by owning all of his suppliers (a philosophy shared by GM founder Billy Durant) and perhaps their suppliers, too. At its height, Ford Motor Company owned not only the mighty Rouge plant, but to feed it, hardwood forests, iron mines, a fleet of Great Lakes freighters, and a rubber plantation in Brazil.