18931220 See an image of this letter, http://dx.doi.org/10.17613/1yvp-k387


Bahia,     20th Dec.    1893


My dear Mother,

I wrote you some 7 or 8 days ago, when I also sent a scrawl to Emma, – by German steamer. Y’day I recvd. some letters from B. Aires – among them yours of Oct 30th & Nov 6th – a little old, but welcome all the same. Your chat about people & things is very interesting. So Miss Dunlop was at Fernbrae & they gave a dance![1] I wonder has Miss Boxwell been in Holywood since visiting the Dunlops.[2] Bob Fuhr has passed at last, has he?[3] Do you ever hear anything of Harry Fuhr.[4]

I hope Annie is better. Many thanks to her for her letter, which Julie enclosed.[5]

Answering your questions, – I left MacCallums very well indeed.[6] A few days before sailing from B. Aires I dined with them in their new home at Quilmes, about 40 minutes by train from B. Aires.[7] It is a comfortable, roomy, one-storied house with a small garden which Mrs MacC. hopes to have in nice order shortly. The little girl Doris is a fine fat child, about two years old now. She is beginning to talk – in French, for they brought a French nurse with them. Mr MacCallum consulted me privately about some new business he thought of entering, & I gave him, I think, some good advice, if he will only follow it. I expect Josephy left B. Aires y’day by the “Clyde”.[8] He intended doing so.

Glad that all your news, except abt. Annie, is good. You will now be busy with Xmas’ preparations. Jim will have at least three days with you. I suppose the girls were at Mrs Carr’s dance. I trust their cash held out for the dresses. They would not let me have the satisfaction of putting something to their bank acct. They might very well do it now & let Julie get it for them. I shall be exceedingly pleased if they will. I shan’t want any money till I get married & that won’t be for a few months yet.

Y’day I went on board the Roy Mail Steamer “Tamar”. Mr Guimarães was passing through to Pernambuco.[9] He came from England by the Clyde which was not given pratique at Pernambuco but was sent to be disinfected at the Quarantine Station, Ilha Grande, near Rio, because she touched at Vigo on the way out.[10] It is a great shame – they make passengers go a thousand miles beyond their destination & back, entailing great expense & loss of time, to go through the farce of having a few drops of carbolic acid sprinkled in their cabins, a matter of half an hour, instead of having a quarantine station at Pernambuco. The cargo too for these northern ports is taken right down to Buenos Aires & back, & delivered about a month late, with 25% extra freight to pay.

The revolution in Rio is in a worse stage than ever. Passengers who came up by the “Tamar” report that the town is completely blockaded now & the bullets of the machine guns are flying about in-discriminately. The ordinary landing-place at the Custom-house is continuously peppered with shot, & it was only with the greatest difficulty & danger that the passengers were able to embark at another quay. The British minister has issued a proclamation informing British subjects that he can no longer protect them if they wish to come ashore or embark, & that if they do so it is at their own risk.

The gold deposits guaranteeing the note issue are said to have been all used up, & unauthorized emissions of paper money have been made, & the country is virtually bankrupt in the opinion of most foreigners. It is a sorry state of affairs.

Front and back of a "cheque to bearer" used in the absence of a functioning currency during political upheaval in Brazil in 1893. This example shows the word "Gin" stamped on the reverse of a green card printed with the text "Au Gastronome, Geraldo Miguel Filho, ship-chanders, Rue des Aigibebes, Bahia.
Front and back of a cardboard “cheque to bearer” used by individual businesses in the absence of a functioning currency during the political upheaval in Brazil in 1893.

Here, as I wrote before, people so far don’t trouble themselves much about it. They have unauthorized currency, but of another kind. There is such a dearth of small change that every shopkeeper, restaurateur, & hotel-proprietor issues money of his own in the shape of “vales”, or “cheques to bearer”, on slips of cardboard like tram-tickets. In order to keep within the law these vales are not for 100, 200, or 500 reis (1d, 2d, 5d) but for “1 soup 200 rs” “1 gin, 100 rs” “1 cocktail (spelt “coqdeal”) 500 rs. & so on; & they are accepted as current coin. I enclose a couple to show you what they are like. Eggers[11] has a collection of some 17 different kinds. One must see such a thing to believe it.

I purpose going by the “Clyde” this day week to Pernambuco. I might have gone by the “Tamar” but in the week between Xmas & New Year it is next to impossible to do any business & so I have remained here to pick up one or two small orders.

Please tell the Pater I am not writing to the firm by this steamer. The “Clyde”’s mail will be in a day or two later.

Best love to all,




  1. Fernbrae was the Weinbergs' residence near Dundee. Miss Dunlop was last mentioned in a letter dated 21 February 1893, "In my last I told you about my going to the ball in borrowed plumes & meeting Mrs Williams & her sister Miss Boxwell. I forgot to mention that Miss Boxwell was at school with Miss Violet Dunlop & was over on a visit to the Dunlops last year. – It must have been the week before Sissy Weinberg’s visit for Miss Boxwell left the week before Dixons’ dance." This is Violet Madoline Dunlop (b 22nd June 1872 Castlereagh, Belfast). She was the daughter of Dr Archibald Dunlop and Elizabeth and was resident in Holywood, Co Down in the 1901 Census. Violet married Elliot Hill in 1898.
  2. The Dunlop family lived at 64 High street, Holywood, Co Down. Ada Boxwell was the daughter of William J and Mary Boxwell (b 18th August 1870 Childwall, Lancashire). Her father was a Cotton Broker from County Wexford, Ireland. JMcC had met her in Pernambuco in early 1893. See Index to People.
  3. Dr Robert Strickland Hannay Fuhr, LRCP, LRCS, Edin (b 27th August 1871). The reference is probably to Robert, Harry Fuhr's brother, passing his medical exams. Robert Married 1st January 1896 (having first been baptised on 9th December 1895). He was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Royal Army Medical Corps during WW I
  4. Henry Agustus Fuhr (b 1868 Belfast) was a Civil engineer and the son of Ernest Agustus Fuhr and Dorothea Hanney Fuhr. See Index to People.
  5. Annie and Julie were JMcC's siblings.
  6. James MacCallum, Merchant, (b ~1849 Scotland), his wife Emily (b ~1865 England) and baby Doris (b 1892 Buenos Aires). See Index to People.)
  7. Quilmes is a city in the province of Buenos Aires, Argentina, on the coast of the Rio de la Plata, south-east of Greater Buenos Aires.
  8. Albert Josephy (b 18th January 1859 Schwerin) was connected to the management of Moore and Weinberg. He was a "commercial traveller" frequently moving between England and Argentina. Albert was the son of Simon and Franziska (née Jaffé) Josephy who were registered in Mecklenburg-Schwerin during the census of 1867. By 1899 they were resident in Broughty Ferry, having naturalized in January 1899, and Simon Josephy was listed as a linen and yarn merchant. See Index to People.
  9. Alfred L Guimarães. See Index to People.
  10. Ilha Grande ("Big Island") is an island located off the coast of Rio de Janeiro state:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ilha_Grande
  11. John C Eggers, commission agent. See Index to People.


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John McCaldin Loewenthal: Letters Home from a Victorian Commercial Traveller, 1889 - 1895 Copyright © 2022 by Michelle Fink, Robert Boyd, Sarah Watkinson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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