Quick Class 12: Fordlandia – B1/B2

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Discuss the following:

  • What is megalomania? Can you cite some examples of megalomaniac
  • In your opinion, what do people need in order to achieve well-being and
    happiness living in societies?


Match the words and definitions*

a)     Assembly line1)     An attempt to achieve a goal.
b)     Endeavor2)     Completely from the beginning.
c)     State-of-the-art3)     The action of arriving at a result or a place, usually by accident.
d)     From scratch4)     A disorder of structure or function in living beings.
e)     End up5)     The most recent stage of development of a product or the newest ideas up-to-date.
f)     Disease6)     Manufacturing process where parts are added to make a single product.
g)     Render7)     Cause to become; make.


Listen to the audio and summarize the main points shared by the speaker.

Listen to the audio and discuss the following:

  • What led Ford to create an entirely new town in the middle of the Amazon
  • Was Fordlandia a story of success or of failure? Why?
  • What lessons can we learn from this story?


Read the transcript below and check your answers.


Fordlandia, Brazil


How far would you go to make your dreams come true? For people like the American industrialist Henry Ford, there didn’t seem to be any limits. In the early 20th century, Ford Motors was in charge of the largest car assembly lines in the world and required vast quantities of rubber for tires and car parts. At that time, latex was collected exclusively from rubber trees, which grow in tropical climates. But the British empire held a monopoly on the production and distribution of the raw material.

So, in the 1920’s, Ford decided to start their own plantation to provide their factories with the much-needed rubber at lower costs. The chosen area for the endeavor was right in the middle of the Brazilian Amazon forest and was over 14 thousand square kilometers. The company proceeded to clear the trees to make room for the installations of would become by the late 20’s and early 30’s a full complex dedicated to the mass-production of rubber, along with a state-of-the-art hospital, a school, a golf course and housing for the thousands of workers and their families who moved there. And that was the start of Fordlandia, a whole new town built from scratch deep in the rainforest.

And the town was off to a great start, too! Henry Ford’s grandiose plan involved much more than just construction. It was almost like he was starting his own civilization, with his own rules. For example, everyone in town had to work from 9 to 5, just like Americans. But that wasn’t ideal in the local weather, where it gets too hot in the afternoon for hard manual labor. Alcohol was prohibited in the town, even though it was legal in Brazil. And food was unlike anything Brazilians were accustomed to as well. The cultural adaptations enforced by the company on the employees ended up leading to revolts.

And that was just the beginning of Ford’s headaches. When all rubber trees started growing side-by-side in the plantation, the company discovered they had another big problem to deal with. The trees started being plagued by diseases and the soil proved not have the ideal conditions for cultivation. Then in 1936, Ford finally decided to abandon the town entirely without ever producing rubber there and accumulating great financial losses. In today’s money, it is safe to assume that the company lost about one billion dollars. And to make matters even worse, the production of rubber was then made possible from using oil instead of latex from trees, rendering the entire effort pointless.

So, all in all, Fordlandia was a huge failure. And Henry Ford, who had been advised not to go on with the project by his closest friend and family members, never once set foot in Brazilian territory. But as with all matters in entrepreneurship, the town left a legacy that we can all learn from. And its ruins, which still stand today, are a dark reminder of all that can go wrong when we let go of caution and reason to pursue our wildest dreams.


*Answers to exercise 2: a-6, b-1, c-5, d-2, e-3, f-4


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