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Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford's Forgotten Jungle City

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3.56 of 5 stars 3.56  ·  rating details  ·  1,883 ratings  ·  306 reviews
The stunning, never before told story of the quixotic attempt to recreate small-town America in the heart of the Amazon

In 1927, Henry Ford, the richest man in the world, bought a tract of land twice the size of Delaware in the Brazilian Amazon. His intention was to grow rubber, but the project rapidly evolved into a more ambitious bid to export America itself, along with i
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ebook, 432 pages
Published April 27th 2010 by Metropolitan Books (first published June 9th 2009)
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Susan
UPDATE: Rereading (relistening to the excellent audiobook) and finding it fascinating the second time around. As with a lot of information-rich books, this one has a great deal to absorb.

This reads like dystopian fiction, but it's the true story of Henry Ford's maniacal ego, as evidenced by his ill-fated attempt to create a sort of Main Street USA on the banks of the Amazon - complete with MANDATORY square dancing. Yikes, people. Ford hated his own son, admired Hitler, hired armed thugs to put d
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Patrick Gibson
“What happened here?”

I say that a lot.

For a person who likes decay and ruin, New Mexico is an entropy-enthusiasts wet dream. My hobby is exploring ghost towns. Love ‘em, and can’t explain why. You want to find a town taken off the maps a century ago? Chances are I can take you there.

The other morning, I was getting my hit of DarkRoastedBlend.com and came across a picture of an abandoned street of perfectly preserved clapboard houses complete with porches and picket fences. The caption read ‘For
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Julie
The subject matter of this book is interesting, but unfortunately it was a real slog for me. I think it was just that Grandin put in SO MUCH detail and information that it was overwhelming. I mean, it's really good to be thorough in your research, and to back up what you're saying, but no one should EVER have to write another book about this subject EVER AGAIN, because they can't possibly find any more information that Grandin didn't include.

That said, my overall impressions were that Ford was a
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John Gurney
This look at the quirky, little-known venture of Henry Ford's business into the Amazon is interesting and fairly well-written. Readers very familiar with Ford may find it frustrating that a lot of pages are invested in information about Henry Ford and his company in Michigan. Readers less attuned to Ford will benefit from the large amount of background that helps frame the story.

Henry Ford was an enigma, a man of unexpected views. Ford was a pacifist, though one whose company converted to wartim
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Mike Prochot
I never really understood why, when growing up as a Boomer, all my elders were "Ford Men". After reading this book, I now know how influential, popular and ahead of his time Henry Ford was to so many people growing up during the heyday of the Ford empire. He was a superstar before the word was invented - a charismatic celebrity who backed up his talk with action. His company the model of a success at so many levels. Eventually of course, succumbing to gross overreaching and finally degrading int ...more
David

This book is about a little-known facet of Henry Ford’s career — his attempt to establish a Ford-owned rubber plantation in the Amazon. The plantation wasn’t just intended to ensure a reliable source of rubber, however; it was also an extension of his “industrial village” paradigm into the rest of the world. It was nothing short of an attempt to establish a self-sufficient, Midwestern-style American town in the middle of the jungle. Ford believed so strongly in this aim that he continued to pour

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Bill Laine
Henry Ford was the Bill Gates of his day - a man who took a good idea, and himself, to the heights of public consciousness. He was also a man with some quirky ideas about social engineering and the power and wealth to realize just about any project that came to his mind.

This book is a chronicle of one of those projects. A high-minded concept poorly realized. But the author puts Fordlandia, the project, in the context of the times and of the Ford empire. We learn about the incredible River Rogue
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Clark Hays
Dense, like the rainforest, and just as rich

Note: this review first appeared on Amazon

I don't normally believe in reincarnation, but it's hard not to think I've spent some previous life in the Amazon given my favorite books - of which I now rank Fordlandia - focus on Brazil. It was great to see the other three - Thief at the End of the World, the River of Doubt, The Jungle and the Sea - all mentioned in this fascinating look at Henry Ford's failed experiment in the jungle.

This was a well-researc
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Derek Emerson
This sounds like an urban legend gone bad (do any go good?), so I had to read about Henry Ford's attempt to build "the American Dream" in the jungles of Brazil. The financial impetus was to grow rubber for tires and other auto parts, but by the time he started rubber prices were low and the need was no longer there. But Ford still decided to create a town to help civilize the jungle and bring American happiness worldwide. It failed of course. The most interesting part of this book is the issue o ...more
Louise
When I started this, I thought there was far too much bio of Henry Ford. I was impatient for the Fordlandia adventure to begin. Later I realized how the introductory biography was necessary. Grandin shows how this project defined and reflected the can-do spirit and utter naiveté of Henry Ford.

While not the first of Ford's company towns, Fordlandia was surely his biggest project. The text and photos show the tremendous scale. It was planned to span a region the size of the State of Connecticut. T
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Your Excellency
This was an interesting and well-written examination of Henry Ford's experimental Fordlandia community, carved out of the Amazonian jungle at the start of the twentieth century. Ford was looking to create his own rubber supply, and at the same time put some of his ideas of a better society into action.

The author provides a well-balanced view of the creation, development and decline of Fordlandia, and also of Ford's life, work and ideals. Henry Ford saw more in his factories' success than just ec
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Anne
Arrogant, deluded Henry Ford decided not to consult experts in horticulture or the Amazon when he sunk millions of dollars over several years in a rubber farm in Brazil. Predictably, it never delivered. As usual, Ford had half-baked ideas of how pre-industrial America could be revived through irrelevant and ridiculous mandates of how the folks on the "farm" would live. The project was abandoned after several years.

"There is in fact an uncanny reemblance between Fordlandia's rusing water, tower,
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Dave Gaston
Grandin tells an incredibly well researched, comprehensive and at times fascinating story that encircles the entire history of Fordlandia. He also dives deep into the corporate culture of Ford that first hatched, then mismanaged and ultimately abandoned Ford’s Utopia. The size and scope of Ford’s vision was staggering; a 2.5 million acre parcel of deep Brazilian jungle, envisioned by the 60 year old to become his rubber dynasty. Hints of a real life “Atlas Shrugged” come to mind. The root of the ...more
Curtis Edmonds
I read a smallish chunk of FORDLANDIA sitting on a bench in Animal Kingdom at Disney World, and I recommend that you do the first part. Animal Kingdom is, in many ways, the reverse of what Henry Ford tried to do in Brazil by importing a little bit of small-town Michigan to the Amazon. At Animal Kingdom, Disney "imagineers" have injected a little bit of Africa into the Florida swamps, importing savanna grasses and wild beasts and badly-designed giraffe masks. Animal Kingdom has done rather better ...more
Michelle
Hmm. At times, I really liked this story of the Ford Motor Company's Brazil rubber plantation--it is an interesting story, well told. The management and other problems that plagued the plantation make for good reading. What I have a hard time swallowing is author Grandin's assertion that the story proves somehow that capitalism is bad. This really isn't a story about capitalism, even. I'm puzzled at many of the author's assertions. For example, the author seems to believe that because parts of c ...more
Eric
I was very excited to find this book at the local library. From the description on the jacket I expected a combination of a good adventure story, history lesson, and insight into a grand experiment. The book delivered but was heavy on the mundane. I expected more content relating to the planning and development of the settlement, but was disappointed by the lack of even a street plan. The book was honest with its foreshadowing of the impending failure of Fordlandia. I certainly felt the disappoi ...more
C
On winter break from graduate school, I finally had the chance to catch up on some "pleasure" reading. This book was the perfect first choice. In short, it reminded me why I want to be scholar. This fascinating, well-researched, accessible page-turner discusses the fate of Henry Ford's failed colony/rubber plantation in the Brazilian Amazon. The thesis: Henry Ford "turned the El Dorado myth inside out"; the "Jesus Christ of Industry" came to the promised land not to rape it, but to save it with ...more
Nick
Really a treatise on the 20th century's efforts to come to terms with industrialization and its discontents, this book interweaves the colorful and perversely accident-prone history of Henry Ford's quixotic attempt to tame the jungle and grow rubber trees on plantations in Brazil with the larger story. The tale is full of scurrilous characters, foolish stubbornness in the face of an endless list of jungle ailments and troubles, and repeated acts of sheer stupidity. In the end, the effect is disp ...more
Courtney
Henry Ford was an odd guy. He was in love with a way of life he helped destroy, obsessed with soy and blindly antisemetic, "Fordlandia" tells us early on. He also had a quixotic streak that led him to pour millions of dollars into the Amazon Rain Forest to create a model American town. He hoped to corner the South American rubber market so he wouldn't be dependent on Asian suppliers. Unfortunately, that outpost wasn't well treated by history, nature, the government of Brazil, the people of the A ...more
Anna Saraceno
Incredibly fascinating account of Ford's failed attempt at growing his own rubber and establishing his vision of an ideal community in the Amazon. For such a game-changing and influential man, he certainly lived in his own (crazy, absurd) reality!

William
In 1927 Henry Ford was the richest man in the world. Fordlandia was his spectacular failure, though lesser known than the Edsel or the Pinto. Fordlandia is Henry Ford's attempt to start a rubber plantation and a rural town in the heart of the Amazon. This town was well equipped making it one of the most modern towns in Brazil. This was righteous small town, no drink or other forms of immorality, square dance every week.
Sounds nice, except this town came with devastating fungus' and bug infestati
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Jennifer
I loved this book. The subject is fascinating in itself but Greg Grandin doesn't narrate this non-fiction account of Henry Ford's failed small midwest town plunked in the Amazon as much as he orchestrates its American operatic elements. He writes briskly but with enough detail to humanize each person and to bring alive a sense of the jungle. The story is suspenseful, illuminating and I am in awe of a writer who can make so much material lucid and riveting. Now I want to read more about Henry and ...more
Peg Lotvin
I guess there's a myth of Henry Ford; the guy who started the assembly line, who brought out the first mass produced auto able to be afforded by the masses, the inventor of Detroit..actually Dearborn. There's another Henry Ford; one who sought to control every element of his business, who pushed his workers harder and harder for faster production, and one who designed a complete American town of the early 20's within a huge tract of Amazonian jungle. This is the story of that second Henry Ford a ...more
Marks54
This book provides a history of Henry Ford's efforts to establish a rubber producing venture in the Amazon from the late 1920s until the mid 1940s. The rhetorical "hook" of the story is to parallel the account of the Fordlandia venture with the larger history of the Ford Motor Company during this same period, as the company moved off of its great success with the Model T and moved into the period of the Great Depression and World War 2. This generally works and the reader trades off between even ...more
Alex
Ford was the god of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, which I just finished, so this seemed like a good way to learn more about the context of Huxley's book. And it was, but it's about 100 pages too long. Much of the information is repeated; the story of the genesis of the town of Alberta, for instance, pops up twice, a couple hundred pages apart. And Bennett is described at least three times. So...an editor and some tightening would have done wonders here.

Danielle
A fascinating look at Henry Ford, his rise to American prominence, and his attempts to build an American society in the Amazon rainforest. Greg Grandin does a great job of discussing the contradictions in Ford's beliefs and his social and business initiatives. In the sobering last chapter of the book, he also discusses how Fordlandia was one of the first steps in the perhaps inevitable exploitation of the rainforest. Really great book.
Andy Marton
Honestly, I'd mark this as a 3 1/2 star rating. "Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford's Forgotten Jungle City" is a breathtaking, comprehensive work. It not only tells the story of Fordlandia (coupled throughout with photographs of the town), which Ford had built in 1927, and abandoned in 1945, but dives deep into the intricate back-stories, lives, and personalities of Ford and the men surrounding him. Grandin does an excellent job showing us what an intensely complicated figure Henry For ...more
Ed Ingman
I really wanted to like this book but I had a hard time with it. I thought that the narration was too long and the details too cumbersome. I wanted to like it but was relieved to finish it.
Kristina
Not just a tale of hubris (though a bulk of the story was about Ford Company's insistence that man triumphs over nature), this book explores the failure of this Amazon plantation and its future implications. The book was a little redundant and not the fastest read, but I really did enjoy it- not just the manufacturing engineer's perspective, but also from the psychological portrait.
Jason
Although its focus is mostly on a misguided rubber plantation in Brazil, in some ways this book can function as a fairly effective biography of Henry Ford: undoubtedly one of the most significant figures of the 20th century. In the book, Ford weathers the storms of unionization, of (founded) accusations of antisemitism, of the Great Depression and even of responding to the growing dominance of General Motors and creating the Model A before spending his later years obsessed with pacifism and soci ...more
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Topeka & Shaw...: Fordlandia 2 10 Sep 15, 2014 11:08AM  
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Greg Grandin is the author of Fordlandia, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award. A Professor of History at New York University, Grandin has published a number of other award-winning books, including Empire's Workshop, The Last Colonial Massacre, and The Blood of Guatemala.

Toni Morrison called Grandin's new work, The Empire of Necessi
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More about Greg Grandin...
Empire's Workshop: Latin America, the United States, and the Rise of the New Imperialism The Empire of Necessity: Slavery, Freedom, and Deception in the New World The Last Colonial Massacre: Latin America in the Cold War The Blood of Guatemala: A History of Race and Nation A Century of Revolution: Insurgent and Counterinsurgent Violence during Latin America's Long Cold War

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“IT WOULD BE tempting to read the story of Fordlandia and Belterra as a parable of arrogance,” 1 likes
“They were “galvanized iron bake ovens,” said Carl LaRue, commenting on Fordlandia’s foibles years later. “It is incredible that anyone should build a house like that in the tropics.” Another visitor described them as “midget hells, where one lies awake and sweats the first half of the night, and frequently between midnight and dawn undergoes a fierce siege of heat-provoking nightmares.” They seemed to be “designed by Detroit architects who probably couldn’t envision a land without snow.”19 Ford managers, said the priest, “never really” 0 likes
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