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Fordlandia: Henry Ford's Jewel in the Jungle

I learn so much about history and so many things I never even heard about.

Fordladia

Fordladia

Mao of Fordlandia

Mao of Fordlandia

Henry Ford Pioneer of Auto Indistry

Henry Ford Pioneer of Auto Indistry

Henry Ford's Dream of an Amazon Village

With Henry Ford's automobile factories booming, he needed to find a solution for the endless supply of rubber for his tires. Britain, at this time, had a monopoly in the rubber industry. Britain owed this monopoly to the explorer Henry Wickham (1846-1928), who had managed to smuggle 70,000 rubber seeds back to Britain, and they arrived at London's Kew Gardens.

The seeds were then sown in the plantations in Asia and India proving to be more productive and efficient than rubber produced in Brazil or Peru. Wickham was later knighted and made it possible for the world to ride on rubber tires.


Seeds of the Rubber Tree

Seeds of the Rubber Tree

Fordlandia Cottages

Fordlandia Cottages

Fordlandia Workers

Fordlandia Workers

Problems In Fordlandia

Ford and his overconfidence were his downfalls. He failed to understand the ecological and social issues of the native workers. He was fair to his workers and paid a fair wage to them along with free housing, meals, and medical care. However, the natives rejected his vegan food and preferred meat. Ford believed in a typical work day but in the Amazon, working during the hottest part of the day was foreign to them. They were also required to sit for lectures and attend the weekly square dances. These issues led to workers leaving or refusing to live to Ford's rules.

After years of turmoil among the workers and leaf disease, Ford hired a pathologist, James Weir, who suggested another area eight miles downstream. Weir also procured seeds from the East and planted them in the new plantation called Belterra. Finally, he hired Curtis Pringle, an ex-sheriff from Kalamazoo, Michigan, to construct the housing and other buildings.

Ford had now relaxed some of his requirements of the workers, such as housing designed to fit the native's wishes being built on stilts to help prevent insects.

Although Belterra was able to produce a little rubber and Ford's relaxing of requirements helped the native workers, it was the invention of synthetic rubber by Goodyear in 1929 that led to the abandonment of Fordlandia and Belterra.

Fordlandia Sold Back To Brazil

After years of problems with the rubber trees not producing measurable results and issues with the native workers, both Fordlandia and Belterra were abandoned. Then with the invention of synthetic rubber, Henry Ford's dream was lost.

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With his health failing, his grandson Henry Ford finally sold the Ford properties back to Brazil for $250,000. The loss of Fordlandia was reported to be twenty million dollars.

The Henry Ford Museum, Greenville Village, Dearborn, Michigan, 313-982-6001, has many exhibits about Henry Ford, his life, his Ford Company, and his inventions.

Abandoned now, but the Ford Tower still stands along with the cemetery.

Henry Ford's Plan For Rubber

After securing a deal with the government of Brazil for 2.5 million acres on the bank of the Tapajos River in the Amazon rainforest, he would clear the land using native workers, plant rubber trees, and build a miniature Dearborn village for his plantation.

Ford was very frugal but also arrogant and set in his ways. Often he avoided suggestions or experience, preferring to use his ideas. In August of 1928, a steamer, Lake Ormoc, pulled the ship Lake Farge to the Rio Tapajos with tons of equipment, food, and supplies.

At first, the settlement was called Boa Vista, later renamed Fordlandia. At first, the local natives were excited to bring the return of a rubber plantation returning to Brazil. Ford would spend millions on building his dream to produce rubber. But unfortunately, he had refused the expertise of botanists on how to plant the rubber trees. In so doing, his workers placed them too close together and allowed the insects to invade the trees thwarting growth.

The village consisted of housing for the workers along with a swimming pool, dance hall, and dining hall. All during the build, Ford never once set foot in Fordlandia. Instead, directing everything from his office in Dearborn, Mi.


Ford Tower Fordlandia, Brazil

Ford Tower Fordlandia, Brazil

Sources Used

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki

https://libraryblogs.is.ed.ac.uk

https://wickhamhistory.org

https://businessinsider.com/fordlandia

https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/326327


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