Fordlândia: A Midwestern Ghost Town in the Amazon Jungle

Your Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders
Aug. 12 2013 12:20 PM

Fordlândia: A Midwestern Ghost Town in the Amazon Jungle


Atlas Obscura on Slate is a new travel blog. Like us on FacebookTumblr, or follow us on Twitter @atlasobscura.

Traveling through thick Brazilian jungle up the Tapajós River, one arrives at a shockingly out-of-place tableau. Amid the monkeys and macaws stand the overgrown ruins of an abandoned American suburb, complete with houses surrounded by white picket fences, fire hydrants and a golf course. It’s Pleasantville dropped in the middle of the rainforest.

Industrialist Henry Ford created his slice of Americana in the Amazon in the late 1920s. Troubled by the high price of rubber, Ford decided to build his own rubber plantation in the middle of the Amazon forest.


Ford bought over 6 million acres of Brazilian land and shipped in employees from Michigan to manage the model town named Fordlândia. Its workers—both American and Brazilian—were forced to live according to Ford's strict, teetotaling rules: no smoking, no drinking, and compulsory wholesome activities on the weekends such as poetry readings and singalongs.

The employees quickly became disgruntled. The Brazilians didn’t appreciate having to wear nametags, eat hamburgers, and learn square dancing, while the Midwestern managers of the plantation had trouble adjusting to the jungle climate and ever-present malaria. Strikes, knife fights, and mayhem became the rule. In 1930 the Brazilian workforce had enough and rioted, chasing the American managers out of Fordlândia with machetes.

Worst of all, the rubber saplings planted by Ford—without the help of a trained botanist—were barely growing. Those that had taken root were soon hit by a catastrophic leaf blight. Fordlândia was officially a failure.

Henry Ford retired from the rubber industry in 1945, having not produced a single piece of rubber worthy of his cars.

Amazonian wonders:

View Fordlândia in a larger map



Crying Rape

False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Why Men Can Never Remember Anything

The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Why Men Can Never Remember Anything

The Music Industry Is Ignoring Some of the Best Black Women Singing R&B

How Will You Carry Around Your Huge New iPhone? Apple Pants!

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.


The Other Huxtable Effect

Thirty years ago, The Cosby Show gave us one of TV’s great feminists.

There’s a Way to Keep Ex-Cons Out of Prison That Pays for Itself. Why Don’t More States Use It?

No, New York Times, Shonda Rhimes Is Not an “Angry Black Woman” 

Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 1:39 PM Shonda Rhimes Is Not an “Angry Black Woman,” New York Times. Neither Are Her Characters.
Sept. 19 2014 11:33 AM An Up-Close Look at the U.S.–Mexico Border
  News & Politics
Sept. 19 2014 1:56 PM Scotland’s Attack on the Status Quo Expect more political earthquakes across Europe.
Sept. 19 2014 12:09 PM How Accelerators Have Changed Startup Funding
Inside Higher Ed
Sept. 19 2014 1:34 PM Empty Seats, Fewer Donors? College football isn’t attracting the audience it used to.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Why Men Never Remember Anything
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 2:44 PM Where Do I Start With Mystery Science Theater 3000?
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 12:38 PM Forward, March! Nine leading climate scientists urge you to attend the People’s Climate March.
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 19 2014 12:13 PM The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola  The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.