To fête the rather clouded fame of American industrialist Henry Ford, the founder of the Ford Motor Company/inventor of the assembly line who would have turned 150 yesterday, Gizmodo recently revisited one of his grandest (and unambiguously failed) schemes: a utopian suburbia swaddled in the Brazilian rainforest. In 1928, Ford commissioned the construction of Fordlândia: a faux Michigan suburb defined by rows of little white houses with pitched roofs and porches, swimming pools, dance halls for square dancing, and cafeterias for serving up hamburgers and other American fare unpopular with the Brazilian locals Ford employed.
His grand ambition? Rubber. At the time, Ford and his American carmaker ilk were leeching something like 70 percent of the world's supply. Because rubber plants were only grown in relatively small quantities in Asia (and synthetic rubber had yet to be invented) Ford saw a crisis on the horizon, so he snatched up 6,000 square miles of Amazon (which is totally the same thing as Southeast Asia, right?) near the city of Santarém and went about hiring people to grow and harvest the rubber. A genius scheme if not for all of its hideous, insurmountable flaws! His employees revolted, the crop didn't take (who knew there were one gazillion types of floral predators in the Amazon?), and, starting in the 1940s, synthetic rubber plants were popping up around the United States. Ford, who never actually visited Fordlândia sold back his land and left it all to fall apart. The experiment may have failed, but looking back at the forced Americana is fascinating (in a fairly uncomfortable, head-shaking way), nonetheless. Do have a look: