The Story Behind Henry Ford’s Bizarre Fordlandia

By | April 17, 2013

Guest post by Kevin Olsen

Fordlandia production facility. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Fordlandia production facility. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

In the history of auto manufactures many companies have failed when releasing new concepts or business ideas. But Ford may be the only company to have failed at creating a rubber-producing plant in the amazon of Brazil.

As Henry Ford started creating automobiles that were affordable to the public from his Michigan plant , he wanted to start producing his own rubber. By this time Ford was producing enough cars which increased his tire demands into the millions. In 1927 Ford attempted the plant operation and opened the plant in Brazil naming it “Fordlandia”. No, we are not making this up.

Most have never heard of it and, and after its complete failure Henry Ford probably never talked about it. After all, even when the project was “running” (for lack of a better word) Ford never visited the plant. Perhaps that’s because he felt a sense of discouragement after expressing ignorance to any professional opinions about the environment of the Amazon and its poor affect on rubber production.

Author Greg Grandin wrote a book on “Fordlandia” named Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford’s Forgotten Jungle City. Grandin talked with NPR (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=105068620) about his book back in 2009.

“He would have learned that plantation rubber can’t be grown in the Amazon,” Grandin said. “The pests and the fungi and the blight that feed off of rubber are native to the Amazon. Basically, when you put trees close together in the Amazon, what you in effect do is create an incubator — but Ford insisted.”

Despite the obvious, Ford continued to dump money into the project only to end up where it is today, an old abandon town of what might have been in the jungles of Brazil and the birthplace of a plant that never made anything that went into a single Ford vehicle. 

Fordlandia Administration Building. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Fordlandia Administration Building. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.


2 Comments

AJ Wilcox on April 18, 2013 at 9:49 pm.

Fascinating! Some of the most successful entrepreneurs of our time got to where they are because they learned to never take “no” for an answer. Some got there despite that tendency :)

Kevin Olsen on April 19, 2013 at 11:30 am.

Very true, its so interesting. I guess hard work/not giving up will always conquer.

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