From Dearborn to Fordlandia: The History of Radio at Ford Motor Company’s Brazilian Company Town
The Henry Ford museum have a fascinating blog on the role radio played in Henry Ford’s early startup phase, notably his expansion to and communication with a company town in Brazil (via Western Union hardwires and multiple relays). This is the story of radio at Fordlandia, a small town founded on the eastern banks of the Tapajós River (a tributary of the Amazon), which can be seen located here in Google Maps satellite image – the town was established for the sole purpose of supplying Ford Motor Company with rubber for tires!
Ford Motor Company Radio Station WWI, Dearborn, Michigan, August 1924.
In 1922, Intra-Ford transmissions began making public broadcasts over the Dearborn’s KDEN station (call letters WWI) at 250-watts of power, which carried a range of approximately 360 meters. The radio station building and transmission towers were located behind the Ford Engineering Laboratory, completed in 1924 at the intersection of Beech Street and Oakwood Boulevard in Dearborn.
The station did not grow because Ford did not want to join new radio networks. He discontinued broadcasting on WWI in early February 1926 (The Public Image of Henry Ford, 179).
Ford did not discontinue his intracompany radio communications. FMC used radio-telegraph means to communicate between the head office in Dearborn and remote locations, including, Fordlandia, a 2.5-million-acre plantation that Ford purchased in 1927 and that he planned to turn into a source of raw rubber to ease dependency on British colonies regulated by British trade policy.
Brazil and other countries in the Amazon of South American provided natural rubber to the world until the early twentieth century. The demand for tires for automobiles increased so quickly that South American harvests could not satisfy demand. Industrialists sought new sources. During the 1870s, a British man smuggled seeds out of Brazil, and by the late 1880s, British colonies, especially Ceylon (today Sri Lanka) and Malaysia, began producing natural rubber. Inexpensive labor, plus a climate suitable for production, and a growing number of trees created a viable replacement source for Brazilian rubber.
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