NYU's Grandin Chronicles Henry Ford's Attempt to Bring the American Midwest to the Brazilian Amazon in New Book


At a time when Detroit’s status as a hub of the automobile industry is in grave doubt comes a book by New York University History Professor Greg Grandin that chronicles a little-known Henry Ford endeavor aimed at creating a more perfect American company town in the Brazilian Amazon-and, with it, a Midwestern America of the automaker’s imagination.

At a time when Detroit’s status as a hub of the automobile industry is in grave doubt comes a book by New York University History Professor Greg Grandin that chronicles a little-known Henry Ford endeavor aimed at creating a more perfect American company town in the Brazilian Amazon-and, with it, a Midwestern America of the automaker’s imagination.

In Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford’s Forgotten Jungle City (Metropolitan Books, June), Grandin recounts Ford’s attempt to turn a tract of land twice the size of Delaware into a rubber plantation. But the venture was more than that. Drawing parallels with English Puritans seeking to complete the Protestant reformation by coming to the New World, Grandin writes that “what made Fordlandia more quintessentially American was the way frustrated idealism was built into its conception.”

While the first years of the settlement “were plagued by waste, violence, and vice, making Fordlandia more Deadwood than ‘Our Town,’ ” Grandin observes, it wasn’t for a lack of effort. Ford built Cape Cod-style shingled houses for his Brazilian workers and installed electric lights, telephones, washing machines, victrolas, and refrigerators on the plantation, which held weekend 500

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