In 1928, in the middle of the Amazon rainforest, Henry Ford established a prefab colony called Fordlândia. The city was an attempt to expand his auto empire with the production of its own rubber, the missing link in his supply chain.
Beyond commerce, Ford saw it as a place to enact and teach his idealized form of American culture. He commissioned a library, church, school, and indoor plumbing. The town was complete with ice-cream shops, square dances and hamburgers.
While the rubber tree is native to the jungle, blight and predatory insects were rampant. Harsh working schedules, prohibition of alcohol, and bans on both women and tobacco within city limits sparked a major revolt of indigenous workers in 1930. These tensions created an industry for merchant riverboats that would supply these forbidden resources. By 1945, synthetic rubber delivered a final blow to the dream and Henry Ford’s grandson pulled the plug.