Sunday, 28 February 2010

'Fordlandia' - Henry Ford’s failed utopia in the Amazon.


In 1927 Henry Ford, founder and owner of Ford motor company, bought a huge tract of land in Brazil the size of Northern Ireland. He did so in part to emulate his friend, the tyre-magnate Harvey Firestone, who was building a plantation in Liberia, Ford planned to grow rubber for his cars. ‘Fordlandia’ though soon expanded into a huge project to export small-town America to the Amazon. Ford spent some $20 million on bungalows, ice-cream parlours, bandstands, gardening clubs, and a golf course, all in an endeavour to create an American vision of utopia. However, his plans soon came unstuck. Though well-meaning, Ford’s social engineering was marked by incompetence. A succession of managers proved utterly useless at creating his utopia. The first arrivals, for instance, cleared the forests with huge gasoline fires, thus poisoning the ground for cultivation. In the end, the Ford Motor Company sold the derelict site for $244,200, in return for their investment of more than $20 million.
This new book charts the rise and fall of Henry Ford’s ‘jungle city’. It is an interesting example of early twentieth-century U.S. utopianism transported to South America.

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