18900124  See an image of the original letter, http://dx.doi.org/10.17613/nm7g-5274


Curaçao 24th Jany.  1890


My dear Mother,

I left Trinidad on Wed. week, 9 days ago. I was only a week in that island & I left it rather hurriedly, for had I missed my steamer, there was no other for a week or 10 days, so I was obliged to finish up my business with some speed. Travelling out in this part of the world one must look ahead & see what means there are of getting on to the next stage. The steamers come only once a week or once a  fortnight, – in Spain I could always get at least one train a day from one place to another, so I could finish my business & go, but here I must go sometimes with my business only three quarters finished.

The steamer was the “Australian” of the “West Indian & Pacific Line”, a small boat but comfortable, & I spent a very pleasant week on board.[1] There was a young engineer named Copperthwaite, going to Colombia, & I found him a very pleasant companion.[2] He comes from Yorkshire & has lived for some time in Mexico where he was in charge of some railway works. He is now going out to make arrangements for the construction of a railway near the Magdalena River. I wrote to Harry Fuhr to apply to him for a post in case he – Harry – has not decided on anything else meanwhile.[3]

Old Captain Peters, the skipper, did his best to make us comfortable. We used to play whist & dominoes with the aid of a little fat Scotchman, agent for Clark’s Cotton.

The first night Copperthwaite & the Scotchman played together. Having lead from a single card, returned his opponent’s lead, & generally shown his utter ignorance, at the conclusion of the hand the latter said in broad Scotch, to his partner who plays really well “I think we did pretty well there. I see we play exactly the same game.”

Copperthwaite exchanged a look with me & then proceeded to point out several cases in which they did not “play the same game”, but the only satisfaction he could get from the Scotchman was “Well, that’s the way we play in Glasgow”!

We touched at the ports of La Guayara, & Pto Cabello, but I am leaving those places for the way back.[4] I wanted to come on quickly to this place & Colombia.

The people in Curaçao who were so attentive to me last time seem pleased to see me back. I like the island very well, if it were not such a hungry place, but I mean to forage on board the steamers, & get tinned biscuits & German sausages.


Sat. 28th Jan.

The mail v N.York is just in & brings letters from London of the 28th Dec. but none from you. I hope to have a big lot by next mail.

I must end this very short, as the outgoing mail closes in about 2 hours & my correspondence is not yet finished. My next letters will be longer.[5]

Best love to all



List of passengers on SS Philadelphia arriving New York 13th February 1890 with John Lowenthal listed
List of passengers on SS Philadelphia arriving New York 13th February 1890






  1. The Australian was built in 1867 and scrapped at Amsterdam in 1893. It operated the following routes: 1881 - 1899 Liverpool - West Indies - Colon - Mexico - New Orleans. Previously, 1864 - Inter-island service St. Thomas - La Guaira - Puerto Cabello - Curacao.
  2. William Charles Copperthwaite. b ~ 1856, from York. See Index to People.
  3. Henry Augustus Robert Fuhr b 17 May 1868 Belfast. Civil engineer. See Index to People.
  4. La Guaira is the capital city of the Venezuelan state of Vargas and the country's main port. It was founded in 1577 as an outlet for Caracas, 30 kilometres to the southeast. Puerto Cabello is a city on the north coast of Venezuela. It is located in Carabobo State, about 210 km west of Caracas.
  5. This is the last letter we have from this trip. The next evidence in the trail of this particular voyage is that he is on the transit passenger list of the “Philadelphia” which arrives in New York on 13th February 1890 from Curaçao and La Guairá and Puerto Cabello, Venezuela. He is presumably on his way home – especially as we know that his next journey to S America starts only 2 months later on 16th March 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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