“Oh yes, he did,” is my response when people ask if Henry Ford really tried to re-create small-town America deep in the Brazilian rain forest. It’s almost too odd to be true. But Fordlandia (Picador, $16), by Greg Grandin, chronicles this strange chapter in the often strange life of Henry Ford. By the end of the 1920s, just as the U.S. was entering the Great Depression, Ford, one of the richest men in America, decided to bring his version of America to the Amazon. Ford thought he could single-handedly resurrect the failed Brazilian rubber industry while also helpfully bringing “civilization” to the natives. Without Ford’s usual brand of organization and planning, Fordlandia seemed to be fueled by hubris alone; Grandin makes it all a fun and fascinating story.
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