Friday, June 05, 2009

Fordlandia: Dearborn by the Amazon

Fascinating book review in the WSJ this morning called "A Mogul's Jungle Dream". Early in the last century Henry Ford wanted his own supply of rubber and started a rubber plantation in the Amazon. The book tells the story of his efforts. You can find it here.

It was a miserable failure as a business venture. But as a story of head-on cultural crash, it makes a great read.

And Ford’s dictates to his employees in the Amazon came to be resented. The Brazilian workers didn’t like being made to eat in company mess halls, where they were fed a diet of oatmeal, canned Michigan peaches and whole wheat bread. They were humiliated to have their living quarters constantly inspected for cleanliness and their bodies inspected for venereal disease. They were angry that U.S. Prohibition was enforced in wet Brazil, where liquor was legal.

Ford clashed with the Roman Catholic Church, declining its offer to run Fordlandia’s schools. So when the American managers asked an itinerant Catholic priest to preach against alcohol he replied: “For heaven’s sake, I’m not a Baptist.” And forget the Lambada, or whatever its 1930s predecessors were: In Fordlandia entertainments featured American square dances.

There's more on the web, the best site probably this one. But take a look here for a shorter version and here for a few pictures.