18931025 See an image of this letter, http://dx.doi.org/10.17613/yew0-pp39


Buenos Aires            25th Oct.      1893.


My dear Mother,

I have not had any letters from you since I wrote last some twelve days ago.

I hope you liked the photos of your daughters & were as entirely surprised at seeing them as was intended.[1] Yes, I did have a letter from you, – Sept 18th, – which I have not acknowledged yet, – the “Opera” letter. I am treated to an opera here every morning. There is a man in the next room whom I should like to strangle. As soon as he rises he breaks forth in song, or rather in inarticulate hum – ah – eh – oh – hummings with trills & operatic flourishes which he keeps up till he has finished dressing. I don’t think he even stops while he brushes his teeth. I have tried to whistle him down, I have tried jumping the coffee-tray up & down, hammering on the table, banging the chairs about; – it is all of no use. I understand the man on the other side has made a compact with him that he may gurgle & chortle all the week if he will only be quiet on Sundays. And so on Sundays he starts suddenly on the high C, remembers, chokes, & is silent for three minutes. Then comes another burst & another choking. I fear this weekly effort to suppress himself is slowly undermining his constitution.

You have still strawberries & we have strawberries already, but those here have not much flavour yet. They will be better bye & bye. I wish the warm weather would come. Those woollen socks are very comfortable & I usually wear my top-coat. It is a very late season. As a rule October is quite warm.

I have just exhausted myself in a letter to Olga & have told her about a big auction, where I might have picked up some nice trifles for Mrs John D. had she given me a commission to spend a few hundred pounds for her. Auctions are a characteristic feature in Buenos Aires. All the large importing firms have regular auctions of goods, – not of odds & ends that they want to clear out, but of current merchandise. The great bulk of the live stock, both imported & bred in the country, is disposed of by auction, & in half a dozen marts in the centre of town there are almost nightly auctions of furniture, books, wines, & every conceivable thing.

The occupation of auctioneer is considered quite a distinguished career. Ex-president Pellegrini is partner in a firm of auctioneers of live-stock. The former Lord-Mayor of Buenos Aires, Mr Bollini, was & is an auctioneer. The Bullriches, auctioneers, are well-known & wealthy people, & so on.[2] To be a “rematador” is to be “somebody” in Argentina.

I was hungry for breakfast this morning & I had some very good porridge & cream, an omelet, an excellent chop & a glass of beer, all for one & three-pence. That is no exorbitant, is it?

The fighting still goes on at Rio. The Pacific steamer in to-day brings the latest news, as per paper I send to Julie. A piece of a shell lit on her decks as she was steaming out.

Here we are quiet & the gold premium has fallen, but business is still as bad as it can be.

This Pacific mail brings me your letter of 25th Sept., also one from Pater from Berlin.

Mrs MacCallum will be glad to have her mother here.[3] I was at MacCallums’ on Saturday evg. They are most likely going to Quilmes, a few miles out of B.A., to live.[4]

I wish there was some business doing. I am in hopes of an improvement from day to day. If only the summer would begin, the buyers would come in from the country for the new season’s goods & things would begin to move all round.

Mr Hischberg is back here again.[5] There is something the matter with his eyes, but he hopes they will be all right again soon.

I must trot out again now & see if I can find a customer who will cheer me with a prospect of business. Most of them will do nothing but bewail the sad times & talk of failures happened or impending. It will all come right – bye & bye.

Best love






  1. His sisters (Annie aged 26, Emma aged 24, and Olga not quite 23). I wonder when and where he arranged this for Jane.
  2. “On April 8, 1867, a key character in the history of our city, Mr. Adolfo J. Bullrich –Mayor of Buenos Aires under the presidency of Gral. Roca- set up the Firm under the name of Adolfo Bullrich y Cía: https://bullrichcampos.com/en/historia/
  3. James (b 1849 Scotland), Merchant, with his wife Emily (or Florence? - see previous letters -, b ~1865) and daughter Doris (b 1892). See index to people. No indication as to Mrs MacCallum’s mother was.
  4. Quilmes is a city 17km south of Buenos Aires. During the first British invasion, lasting 46 days in 1806, the British arrived from Montevideo through Quilmes and went to Buenos Aires from there. Quilmes was also inhabited by British immigrants: Juan Clark, born in Yorkshire, England, was president of the municipality in 1855. The Clarks were owners of land in Quilmes, and were linked to the Irish and Scottish community, established in the area since 1830s: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quilmes
  5. Edward Hirschberg (b Pomerania 1851, naturalized Dundee 1887), Merchant. 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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