18920912 See an image of this letter, http://dx.doi.org/10.17613/cevs-8h96


No 6                                                 Casilla 226

Headed notepaper:               Buenos Aires, 12/14th..Sept…..de 189 2


My dear Mother,

Since writing you last – by my note, on the 4th – I received your welcome letter of 8th Aug., by which date you had returned from your visit to Scotland.

Your news of Sam Sinclair’s engagement surprised me very considerably.[1] Sam is a very nice fellow but Miss Darbishire is a cut above him; a refined, nice girl, of high ideals, – perhaps with a longing to be a little more “blue” than her powers warranted -, whereas Sinclair never had an ideal in his life.[2] But if they are pleased with each other no one else need object.

Mrs McCallum tells me Sam’s old flame in Brussels, a Miss Telford, was engaged about the same time.

You were fortunate in having dry weather at Strone. I hope the few days’ change of air did you good.

Last Thursday I joined the distinguished guests invited to visit the paper-mill at Zarate, as mentioned in my last letter.[3] The special train left town shortly before 10 a.m. & carried us in less than two hours to Campana, where we had an excellent luncheon in the restaurant of the station. Mr Estrada, chairman of the board of directors had, on his right, Dr Gilbert, president of the Chamber of Deputies, &, on his left, Dr Cafferata, Governor of the Province of Santa Fé.[4] There were besides some 50 or 60 senators & deputies, & a few others. The only other Englishman present was Mr Waverly, sub-manager of the B. Aires & Rosario Railway, so he & I kept each other company. The luncheon was very elaborate & the wine-supply generous – sauterne, bordeaux, burgundy, champagne, & liqueurs – & decent Havana cigars. Some of the Fathers of the Country ate & drank as if they expected never again to have a square meal, until I became seriously alarmed for the collective healths of the legislature. After luncheon we proceeded by train to Zarate, the next station, where it was discovered that the President of the Chamber of Deputies had been left behind, & an engine & carriage had to be sent back for him.

After such hospitable entertainment everybody was prepared to be delighted with the factory, & really it did not require the stimulus to praise of a good lunch & a fragrant cigar. It was spotlessly clean, most orderly, & interesting to the last degree. I managed to secure as a guide Mr Dyke, English employé, & he explained & pointed out everything, from the cutting of the esparto,[5] the boiling of the rags, & the reduction of both to pulp, through the colouring, filtering, & drying processes, to the finished paper, in a very thorough manner. It was remarkable to see a broad shallow stream of apparently nothing but muddy water running quickly down a rippled board, which removes, in sediment, the heavier sand & dirt, over an endless sheet of fine wire sieve, which oscillates from side to side, allowing the water to fall through, & carrying on to the drying & pressing calender the thin resulting layer of evenly-spread pulp which is soon hardened into paper.

Another ingenious machine receives at one end a roll of paper & turns it out at the other end in bags, finished & gummed.

The factory employs some 500 people, among them about 70 women & girls. It works day & night, stopping only on Sundays. The operatives look strong & have a good colour, – very different from the pale consumptive-looking employees in factories at home. Most of them are paid by piece-work, & they can make such good wages that, I am told, it is very difficult to procure domestic servants in the neighbourhood; – they all prefer to work in the factory. One little girl of 10 was counting & separating into parcels of five the sheets of paper, & she did it so quickly that my eye could not follow the counting. She was earning about 6/- a week.

After seeing all that was to be seen, & when some of the ever-receptive law-makers had refreshed themselves with beer, we returned to Campana, where more champagne, beer, tea, & cold viands were served, & more cigars passed round.[6] The express train back to Buenos Aires arrived shortly after 7 & the directors stood hat in hand on the station to receive our thanks & good wishes. It was a pleasant & instructive excursion.

On Sunday evening I dined at Hirschbergs, & had rather a slow time, though they were, as always, very kind. Mrs Hirschberg & the children are well.[7]

Last night I was writing letters till 11. This – Tuesday evg. – I dined at Sērēs’ house, left at 11 p.m. to send off a cable to Dundee, & thereafter sat me down to finish this. It now being 1 o’c. I shall go to bed.

On Thursday night I dined at Goulds’. To-morrow, by way of change, I dine at home at my own expense, or rather at Mr W.’s.[8] I should mention that on Saturday I dined at MacCallums’ & had a pleasant little game of cards.

I want to be up early to-morrow: – “Tagus” mails close at noon.

Love to all.


  1. Samuel James Sinclair (b 1861 Belfast), son of yarn merchant Samuel Sinclair who died in 1905 at 22 University Square, Belfast, aged 75 years. He was the younger brother of Professor Thomas Sinclair (b 1857, d 1940) an eminent surgeon, war hero, and British Member of Parliament: https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/professor-thomas-sinclair-18571940-168970
  2. Edith Mary Darbishire (b 6th October 1867, m 6th June 1893 in Belfast). They had six sons and one daughter
  3. This was the first modern paper mill in Argentina, established in 1884 by entrepreneur José Mussini and the firm of Maupas, Escalada, Estrada & Cía. Zárate, a town close to the main consumer market in the city of Buenos Aires, on the Paraná river. This company, which was eventually to be named after Ángel Estrada (Mr Estrada referred to by JMcC below), quickly positioned itself in the market. The first production concentrated on packaging paper, but soon it covered all sizes and qualities providing everything from what was necessary for books to what was used by national newspapers. The mill is described further in Silvia Badoza and Emilio Ravignani (2013) "Origins, development and structural limits of the paper industry in Argentina, 1880-1940", Revista de Historia Industrial 22(53): 109-141: https://doi.org/10.1344/rhi.v22i53.21002
  4. Juan Manuel Cafferata (b 1st January 1852, d 23rd September 1920) was an Argentine politician of the National Autonomist Party. He was the governor of the province of Santa Fé between 1890 and 1893: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juan_Manuel_Cafferata
  5. Esparto grass is known for its use in papermaking: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Esparto
  6. Campana is located about 75 km from Buenos Aires, on the right-hand margin of the Paraná River. Campana and Zárate still make up an important industrial region: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Campana,_Buenos_Aires
  7. Edward and Selma Hirschberg, of Dundee – children Erika b 1887 and Frederick b 1890. See Index to People.
  8. Mr W = Isaac J Weinberg, senior partner of Moore and Weinberg in Dundee. 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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