Fordlandia’s biggest challenges were the bugs and epidemics of the Amazon. The
South American Leaf Blight was one that would started to ruin the entire
operation. When the rubber trees top leaves began to touch it eased the spread
of the leave blight throughout the plantation, many plants would die but some
would continue to live. Belterra was approved by Henry Ford so that operation
commenced. It continued on a track that was similar to Alberta, a city that
Henry was building in the United States. Belterra was more desirable to the Americans
that lived in Brazil than the amazon because it was much less isolated. Insects
were also a problem on the plantations, caterpillars got so bad that they
entire population of the plantations did a walk to pick all of them up and they
collected over two hundred thousand.
Back in the United States labor unions began to grow in power and even though
Ford was a strict opponent, eventually agreed to the labor unions terms.
Similarly in the Amazon, Vargas’s government pushed for labor reform also. This
made the workers less willing to do some of the tasks that the plantation
required. This is at the point that the leaf blight really does start to ruin
the plantations. By late 1940, nearly 70% of the plantations trees had been
infected and started to die out. And then when WWII started, Johnson was called
back to Dearborn to assist in setting up the plants to produce planes for the
US military. While Johnson was away, the
blight continued to spread and spread.
At this point the operation was a complete failure. Ford was trying to sell of
the plantations and during WWII the plantations became subsidiaries of the US
government. The US government allied with South American countries, and said
that they would invest millions into rubber cultivation, and pay a higher price
that typical for the rubber. But the insects and the leaf blight never allowed
the plantations to actually be profitable. The hospitals were turned into
research centers, and the US built a runway Belterra because of German boats
off the Brazilian coast. When Edsel died in 1943, Henry finally went off the
wall and Henry’s grandson, Henry II, then took over the company. In 1945, he
decided to sell off the Brazilian operations to the Brazilian government for
much less than the company had put into the operation. Henry II also began to
shut down other various Henry created cities in the United States, all of this
caused by WWII and the prior Great Depression. In 1947, Henry Ford died, and
the Fordlandia dream died with him.
This book is a great representation of environment ultimately limiting humans.
The leaf blight completely destroys the planation no matter how hard everyone
tries to avoid it. Not only do the insects and the blight diminish the plantations,
but the weather and the hilly area make it impossible for easily sustained planation
agriculture that they originally wanted.
WWII is what eventually allows the Ford company to release the plantations. The
US government implemented various policies that made neighboring countries
wanted to get along and cooperate with the American war effort. The American
interaction with the world is what caused Fordlandia to ever be developed in
the first place. Because of the ease of interaction and trading the idea of
Fordlandia was born and able to be created.
In the years following World War I, the United States pursued a unilateral
foreign policy that used international investment (Key Concept 7.2 II, C.)
The United States investing is the sole reason that Henry II was able to sell
the planation back to Brazil, they felt that if they could cultivate the land
themselves then they would be able to sell the rubber to the United States.
Upon returning to Fordlandia, following the December 1930 riot, Americans were
very hesitant because they were scared of another uprising, Ford sent Perini
back to Fordlandia along with W. E. Carnegie and Archibald Johnson, these three
were in charge in restoring the plantation up to grade. They focused on turning Fordlandia
into a real town, one with complete housing for all who lived there and upgrade
all of the other facilities. They build houses that were modern and even
resembled the ones that Ford was constructing in his other settlements in the
One thing that Ford tried to do in both Fordlandia and in the US, was promote
gardening. He told Johnson, the new leader of Fordlandia, to make house plots
large enough so that the inhabitants could create their own garden. In Fordlandia
both the workers and the Americans there would get bored quite easily because
the plantation was located in such an isolated area. The solution to this was
not only to create movie theaters and dance halls, but they build a 9-hole golf
course for patrons to enjoy. The city started to look like a nice American town,
exactly as Ford always wanted.
Lumber harvesting was an original goal for the plantation but it never went very
smoothly, but Johnson outlined a new plan that would allow a good portion of
the lumber to be exported to the United States, but because of the Great
Depression, there was a very small market for the lumber. Johnson soon began to
suggest that they move the plantation 50 miles north where it would be better
suited for rubber growth, but he also believed that this would decrease the
amount of money the company would have to pay in supporting the workers.
Originally there were no rubber experts present for the building of Fordlandia
or the cultivation of rubber this was something that Johnson adamantly wanted
to change. Edsel Ford recruited James R. Weir who did research for Goodyear on
their rubber plantations. Weir taught plantation workers how to properly bud
graft (a technique in creating better trees), and then he decided to go to get
better buds from Asia where there were now enormous rubber plantations. He
brought back a ton of trees, but many were either dead or just not good for the
amazon, considering the conditions were different in Asia. Johnson and Weir
constantly disagreed and Johnson wanted to get rid of Weir but Dearborn wouldn't
let him. Weir decided that it would make more sense to stop planting at
Fordlandia and move the planting to Belterra, which is farther south. Weir kept
insisting on experimental practices, instead of ones that actually were known
Throughout the section various ways of cultivating are talked about, and many
of these techniques are either products of new ideas or new technology. This is
a synthesis of both of these themes, as technology and the environment are so
heavily collected within the planation life.
The Great Depression within the United States directly affected the entire
world. Not only would it not allow Fordlandia lumber to be sold, but eventually
the Brazilian economy would fall along with the US economy. This had direct
effects on Fordlandia as people streamed in wanting jobs and better pay.
This chapter goes into rather detail about John Rogge, who became the first
person in command at Fordlandia after Perini went back to the states. Rogge was
a real “mountain man” and was very happy to go to the amazon so that he could experience
the real nature. Rogge takes off into the jungle, leaving Fordlandia, for two
men who were sent to find good seeds, but have been using Ford money to buy
alcohol and sex. Rogge thinks he can take on the jungle no problem, but all of
the bugs eventually become a problem for him and he seeks the help of a church
and its nuns that he finds along the way. After they nurse him back to health
he catches up to the men and find that they have been paying a local tribe,
with goods, not currency as Ford always wanted, to cut and collect seeds. Rogge
fired these two men when he found them, and attempted to pay the natives with
currency, but they all wanted to be paid in goods, so he continued to do this.
Fordlandia had a rough start, but it started to look up for the plantation
until a new cook came onto the planation. This new cook wanted to have
cafeteria style instead of all of the workers getting waited on, and this was
something that the workers didn’t like. One worker was so detested that he went
off on the cook, and trouble ensued, until a full out riot occurred. The
Americans on the planation were forced to retreat either into the woods or onto
boats that they floated down stream. Rogge sent for reinforcements from the
Brazilian government so that they wouldn’t burn the entire planation down, and
they actually sent them. When the rioting was all over, plantation leaders
decided to fire nearly all of the workers and bring in new ones.
The person who always seemed on top of the world eventually would come to his
own demise, and that would be Henry Ford himself. He was well known for his
anti-Semitism, and many during WWII thought that he was supporting Hitler. He
was suing for someone over a defamation claim, but the trial revealed he was
nearly illiterate. Ford was now portraying himself as someone the world would
have never considered him as. Ford soon became the largest collector in the
world, he tried to collect anything and everything that related to the
modernizing of America. Whether it was toasters or huge machinery, he had it
shipped to the Rouge. He then assembled everything into a museum, but the
museum was a whole idealistic city called Greenfield. Historians and critics
didn’t like the museum because it had no order to it at all. Once Henry’s good
friend Thomas Edison died, many said that henry officially went crazy.
Specifically for Henry Ford did this become a problem. No one wanted to be
associated with Hitler during WWII and this was something that really hurt
Henry’s reputation. Everyone knew Henry didn’t like Jews, and some even began
to believe he was helping support Hitler’s goals of extermination them.
The power in Fordlandia was something that had to constantly be maintained. For
most of the time the planation was in existence, a militia had been present to
remain control. Not long before the riots these troops were removed, and this
is part in why the riot did eventually occur. Without strict control, these
workers tried to overthrow or destroy any power.
Radical, union, and populist movements pushed Roosevelt toward more extensive
reforms, even as conservatives in Congress and the Supreme Court sought to
limit the New Deal’s scope. (Key Concept 7.1 III. B.)
Ford would have been one of the conservatives in Congress. He personally wasn’t
that affected by the depression because he had little money in the stock market
because he didn’t trust the banks. Ford was a stark opponent of Theodore
Roosevelt and this continued onto Franklin Roosevelt. Ford thought that the
high control and excessive government plans would hurt the economy more. He
thought that the country was actually thriving and was in a good place during the
At this point, Brazil’s taxation of Fordlandia became a really large problem,
one that Dearborn saw necessary to fix immediately, and to do this they sent
William Cowling to deal with the problem. Cowling would only act on the offense
trying to pursue the taxes being dropped to the local government, but with the
federal government he attempted to befriend the officials in hope that they
would skew legislation for Fordlandia benefit. At Fordlandia itself, Oxholm,
who was no in charge, didn’t help the plantation that much. Fordlandia was
supposed to make its money back on lumber alone, but the very diverse lumber
they harvested was too hard/soft for the mill on the plantation, so they
resorted to buying wood from locals for the use in building facilities. Almost
every of Oxholm’s children died while they were in Brazil, so a few months
after he arrived, he went back to Detroit. Fordlandia actually got lucky, with
a new governor being elected that supported Ford’s mission.
This chapter goes into various men that Ford recruits from his own Detroit
factories to go to Brazil. One of his first recruits was Victor Perini, a man
who grew from the bottom of the industrial totem pole, to nearly the top, even
running the biggest of Fords factories. Perini, and his whole family, which
ford insisted on, picked up and moved to Fordlandia. Before Cowling had left
Fordlandia he gave a speech to the workers about working hard, and they definitely
listened, this was seen as Perini arrived, with Achilaus Weeks now mostly in
charge. Pipes are various other common public works systems were being built
into the town. Perini was put in charge, but Oxholm didn’t actually leave the plantation
and still ruled over some of the employees. Other Americans were sent to the
Amazon, many of them weren’t fond of their new stationing, and went home.
Again, this chapter highlights on a man vs. environment issue. Oxholm, who was
trying to meet the one year one thousand acres of planted rubber clause, planted
rubber during the dry season. This caused all of the rubber to grow in very
thin, unhealthy ways, and when Perini arrived he decided to plow over the first
plant and replant the rubber. This means that the planation would have to wait
another 5 years before any rubber could be harvested.
Continually Ford executives try to enforce prohibition throughout the plantation,
but this is in complete dissatisfaction for the locals. It is a part of typical
culture for Brazilians to drink as they please, so it is very difficult for
them to quit because someone else tells them that they need to.
New technologies led to social transformations that improved the standard of
living for many (Key Concept 7.1 I.)
Electricity and plumbing was revolution for these rural Brazilian towns, they
had never seen anything like this. With new facilities being built after Oxholm’s
reign, the standard of living in this area is greatly increased. No longer do
they just live under the trees, but they might live in a wood build house with
a proper roof and electricity.
This chapter talks of the final transaction for Ford to actually purchase the
estate within the Amazon. Blakely and Oz Ide are the actual two who negotiate
the deal. They get about 2.5 million acres along the Tapajos River. A local governor
named Bentes helped broker the deal, which gave much to Ford. The two men
representing Ford tried to get everything they asked for, including all rights
to minerals and oil, but the only thing they must do on the property is plant
at least 1000, of the 2.5 million, acres with rubber trees within the first
year of the contract. They purchased the entire property for $125,000 which was
chump change for Ford at the time. It then goes on to talk about how the men
must then purchase subsequent deeds from inhabitants of the land, the most
significant is the Francos, who have lived on the property for over a hundred
years, but after this is done the property is almost entirely Fords, with
Blakely in charge. The Amazonian people are excited about the coming of Ford
and various newspapers describe how he will bring riches to the area, but they
all really want Ford himself to come, but he keeps delaying.
The next big issue is getting supplies to Fordlandia from Dearborn. Ford
recently bought a multitude of ex-marine ships, and had most of them destroyed
and used for parts, but kept two, the Ormoc
and Farge. These were large cargo ships
that would be in charge of sailing right up to the Fordlandia pier. But there
was a problem that no one had considered to tell the people loading these two ships,
only in the wet months would they actually be able to reach Fordlandia itself.
When the ships were ready to go, in the dry months, Dearborn sent them anyways.
When the ships arrived in Brazil they made it to Santarem, a port around 100
miles away from Fordlandia. Captain Oxholm was in charge of these ships and he didn’t
to wait till the wet season to finish the journey so he unloaded the cargo onto
smaller ships and sent them up river, which cost a huge amount of money, more
than that of the initial purchase.
Fordlandia didn’t start out all that great, Villares and Blakely took charge of
the plantation, but failed to clear the land with burning because they tried to
do it at the wrong time which wouldn’t allow the trees to fully burn. Blakely
kept reporting to Dearborn that the plantation was running well but another
Ford dealer in the area reported that this wasn’t the case at all, as nearly
half of the workers were sick with some type of disease or malnourishment. Much
of the money being sent ended up in someone’s pocket, especially Blakely’s. Eventually
story broke in Brazil of how Ford negotiators had gotten everything they
wanted, even no export taxes, and no duties. Bentes was no longer governor of
the area and Valle, the new governor, wanted to impose high taxes on the planation.
They had to pay taxes on everything that the two ships brought in if it didn’t have
to directly contribute to the cultivation of the rubber trees.
Labor was a big issue for the plantation. When Blakely was dismissed as overseer
of the plantation, Oxholm took over and tried to recruit people from Brazil and
other Latin American countries to come work on the plant, but the turnover rate
was 300%. Various reasons caused the workers to come and go, the low wages,
that workers actually go paid and weren’t indebted like previous system, and Fords
enforcing of prohibition. Prohibition, which was now in effect in the United
States, Ford had enforced on all of his institutions throughout the world. But
people at Fordlandia didn’t like this very much. At Fordlandia a hospital had
been established for the workers and their families, but it was way
understaffed for the huge influx of workers and their large families that
brought with them. Things were look very hard for the plantation.
It was impossible for the captain of the two ships ford had brought to get down
to Fordlandia itself. This is example of how at times nature really does inhibit
people. The only way that materials could get up the river during the dry
season was the use of the smaller boats. To plant the new rubber trees, it was necessary
for parts of the forest to be burned down and that’s exactly what they workers
did, but this was a very dangerous process with the wild bugs and animals possibly
killing every worker that came by.
A large issue in this section was the tariffs, something enacted by the
government. Blakely hoped to achieve tariff free, but the failing Brazilian
banks needed this tariff to help spark the economy. The ever changing power and
the power struggle within both Brazil and Fordlandia itself, led to mass
confusion and disorder with the town.
From all over Latin America, but mostly within Brazil, people moved to Fordlandia
for a higher pay, although it was frequent that they stayed for long periods of
time. It was constantly that workers would come to earn some wages, and then
they would go back to wherever they came from so that they could work on their
own small farms.
Corruption in government - especial as it related to big business.
(Concept 6.3 I. A.)
This is again very pressing in this section, as the corruption actually comes
into the public’s eyes. Similarly, in the United States, after corruption is made
public, people within the government want to fix the problem and that was
something Valle tried to fix and mostly did when he became the new local governor.