18900425 See an image of the original letter, http://dx.doi.org/10.17613/19zf-b458


No 4  Buenos Ayres April 1890


Royal Mail “Atrato”



My dear Mother,

Since posting my last, 22nd, I received your welcome letter of 31st. No doubt my lines from Madeira reached you a few days later; – very likely they had to wait some time there for a homeward mail.

I hope you went to Portrush for a day or two at Easter & enjoyed the change.

Bertie Weinberg will be glad to go to you for a week, & I am sure he will be popular at Lennoxvale. I like Bertie, he is a good-natured fellow.[1]

To show you how international my private correspondence has become, the last post brought me a letter from Spain, one from Italy, one from the Canaries, one from Central America, a card from Paris & another from Curaçao, not to mention a letter from Mrs Weinberg[2] & the home budget, – a fairly cosmopolitan list.

My Italian acquaintance is Monsieur Saverio (otherwise the Duke of) Veltri – It is not everyone who receives autograph letters from a “gilded Duke”, even though it be an Italian one, & very slightly gilded! He hopes I’ll go to Naples!

My old friend Don Nicolas Polo hopes I’ll go to Spain & pay him a visit in his country house. As an inducement he offers to regale me with brook trout rolled up in paper & roasted with butter in the oven; – very good they are!

My young friend Juanito Carlo hopes I’ll go to the Canaries! He is a youngster about 14 & his letter is very entertaining, it begins (in Spanish of course): “My esteemed & distinguished friend” (Impertinently familiar correspondents please copy!) “My joy at receiving your welcome letter was extremely great, not only because it brought me ever-welcome news from you but also because it proved to me that your have not forgotten your young friend, who is so proud of the friendship you extend to him.” To be told that one’s friendship inspires feelings of pride is to have the assurance that one has not lived in vain!

Mr Iklé hopes I’ll go to Paris, & finally a very decent fellow called Nixon hopes I’ll go to San Salvador![3]

So you see I have a nice little circular tour already planned for me after leaving Buenos Ayres.

The Salvador letter is dated 22nd Nov. It was sent to Belfast, thence to Curaçao, back to Belfast, & out here, so it has travelled a distance equivalent to once round the World, & has taken five months to find me.

Yesterday I met a man on the street who first looked hard at me & then spoke to me by name, reminding me that we had been together in Lisbon some three years ago.

Mr Hirschberg has been here for about two months; he goes home by the same steamer that takes this.[4] You know he is giving up his Manchester business; he has had an advantageous offer to open an import-house here, & will possibly accept it, he says all depends on the health of his wife who is at present in Italy.[5]

26th My linen has just returned from the wash, accompanied by a little bill for $7.50. With gold at par this would be 30/- but at the exchange of to-day it is only 12/6.

The currency in the Argentine Republic is all paper & there are bank-notes of all values down to 5 cents – worth just now about 1d.

For about a year & a half these notes have gradually depreciated in value. Their par value is 4/2, but they fell steadily till at the end of last year they were worth about 2/6 & as the crisis became more acute they dropped heavily, until about a fortnight ago when they were equivalent to only 1/3. That is, that a merchant who wanted to send money to Europe to pay for goods imported had to give 15 dollars paper for every 5 dollars (or £1) gold. As he had probably already sold these goods calculating that he would not have to pay more than 7 or 8 paper dollars for the £1 you can easily imagine what heavy losses a large majority of the merchants have suffered; – many of them could not meet their engagements.

The Stock exchange is open from 12 till 1, & from 3 till 4, & as gold or shares are bought & sold the rate & amount of each transaction are chalked by clerks on a large black-board. I happened to be in the Exchange the day the banknotes reached their lowest point, – when it took 315 paper dollars to buy 100 dollars gold.

Speculation had been indulged in recklessly all round. Taking advantage of the large credits given so easily in Europe, men of all trades & professions, who ought to have confined themselves to their legitimate occupations, speculated feverishly in worthless stocks & in land that had not been & probably never could be cultivated, until both stocks & land had attained altogether fictitious values. At the same time, when apparently money was being made so easily & quickly, it was squandered lavishly. But the reaction came, credit was stopped, land & stocks dropped till they could not be realized at any price, the paper money depreciated to one-third of its nominal value & something approaching a general crash supervened.

An outcry began against the abuses & mismanagement of the Government & public feeling ran very high. A mass meeting was held 10 days ago in Buenos Ayres, & most energetic speeches were delivered, some of the orators making scarcely veiled hints at revolution, in case a thorough reform could not be achieved by pacific methods.

Seeing that public opinion was going to strongly against them the Minister resigned on the evening before the meeting. Unfortunately the President, Juarez Celman, who is a strong partisan, sticks to power, but in the selection of his new cabinet he has been obliged to yield somewhat to popular demand & the appointment of Mr Uriburu as finance minister has given satisfaction.[6]

The immediate effect of the change of ministry, before even it was known what Mr Uriburu’s plans were, or whether he had any at all, – merely because of his known honesty & capacity – was that in two days the paper currency regained in value 20%; – an occurrence unparalleled, it is said, in any country.

The situation has continued to improve during the last few days, & there is a general hope, almost amounting to a belief, that the worst is over & that the improvement will be lasting.

I am afraid I have tired you with Change gossip, but my excuse is that the Gold premium is uppermost in people’s thoughts & forms the sole topic of conversation today in Buenos Ayres.


28th   Mr Hirschberg left today for Montevideo where he will join the homeward steamer in 3 / 4  days. He has promised to send a line to the Pater to say he left me well.

¼ to 12, – about 3 o’clock with you, – you will all be snoring – beg pardon, – breathing softly, wrapped in gentle slumber – as I should be, instead of burning the midnight tallow, which will be charged to me in the bill as bougie 25 cents, & in the present unfavorable state of my bougie-t, – I should say budget, – I can’t tallow it, – I mean I candle low it – no, – I can’t allow it.

Good night

Best love





  1. Herbert Weinberg. See Index to People
  2. Agnes Weinberg, wife of Isaac Julius Weinberg. See Index to People.
  3. Mr Iklé in Paris may have been Julius Iklé (b 1842, d 1896), the husband of JMcC's first cousin once removed Clara, and the father of his future wife Elsa (he was the 4th of the 15 children of Sara and Moses Iklé). It may also have been Ernst Iklé, Julius Iklé's brother (the 9th child). Ernst was born in 1848 and settled in Paris in 1871, where he married Emma Stern on 21st March 1875. On the marriage bans his address was given as Rue Montmartre 161. Their daughter Marthe Karolina was born in Paris 1st June 1876 and was Anne Queyras' grandmother (she married Max Jacoby, brother of John Jacoby; both sons of Bertha Iklé, the 3rd child, born in 1840, m Siegfried Jacoby).
  4. For Eduard Hirschberg, see Index of People. His wife, Selma, was pregnant with their 3rd child who was born 2 ½ months later in Badenweiler (a spa resort in southern Germany). The son was Frederick Rudolf (b 4th June 1890, d 15 December 1963 Argentina).
  5. Edward Hirschberg, initially represented I. J. Weinberg in Dundee during his absence, then established himself in Manchester, and finally established a successful business in Buenos Aires for Philip Goldschmidt (ref Isaac Julius Weinberg memoir, http://dx.doi.org/10.17613/ch97-0r17)
  6. Miguel Ángel Juárez Celman (b 29th September 1844, d 14th April 1909) was an Argentine lawyer and politician. President of the Nation from October 12, 1886 until his resignation on August 6, 1890.


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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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