18930403 See an image of this letter, http://dx.doi.org/10.17613/zy12-d263



3rd April 1893


My dear Mother,

I wrote you on the 16th March by the “Anselm”, & on the 30th by the “Sobralense”, both from Pará.[1]

On Good Friday I left that place by the “Pernambuco”, a dirty old Brazilian boat & arrived here on Sunday morning.  Pará is some 80 miles from the mouth of the river of the same name, one of the mouths of the mighty Amazons that spreads its huge arms north, south, & west, for so many thousands of miles, through the heart of Brazil, up into Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Columbia, Venezuela & the frontier of British Guiana.[2]

The smaller river Guamá flows into the Pará just above the town, & in the spring tides I am told a tidal wave some five feet high rushes up it.[3] But in one of the twisting channels on the north side of the large island of Marajó,[4] in the delta of the Amazons, one of the most remarkable tidal waves in the world is to be seen. It is said to be about fifteen feet high. Its limits are marked on the navigating charts of the place.[5]

The Amazons, & its immense tributaries the Rio Negro, the Purus, the Madeira, & many others, are navegable for immense distances. The “Brazilian Lloyd” have a fleet of steamers that ply up & down the coast, leaving Rio de Janeiro at weekly intervals. Some go south as far as Rio Grande. Others come north & these all go up the Amazons to Manáos which is some 800 or 900 miles from Pará – 3 or 4 days’ voyage. Mr Brocklehurst (of the firm Singlehurst Brocklehurst & Co)[6] told me that one of their largest steamers from Liverpool, drawing 22 ½ feet, went up to Manáos & back without difficulty.

From Manáos smaller steamers ply far into the interior. One goes every month to a place called Yquitos away up in Peru. It is worth while opening the map to form some idea of this. On the Purus & Madeira there are rapids which steamers cannot pass, but steam launches have been taken up in pieces & put together to ply above these rapids; beyond this again canoes penetrate still for hundreds of miles.

Not infrequently people living up in Bolivia or Peru & wishing to go to some place on the other side of the impassable Cordillera, perhaps not more than one or two hundred miles away as the crow flies, perform a journey of 60 days in canoe & steamer to Pará, & thence go round north by Panama, or south by the Straits of Magellan, to some port on the West Coast.

These waterways are of incalculable value in developing the resources of the country, & all along the rives there is a lively trade. But between the rivers there are still immense regions in the interior of Brazil that have never been explored.

It would be very interesting to go up one or two of these rivers as far as possible, with a proper outfit. Lots of sport one might have, from alligators to South American tigers, besides doing valuable original work in the way of botany, natural history, geographical research, & learned “ologies”.


5th April.       It is just as well I felt in a humour to write the other day, else my letter might have been a very short one. The post closes this afternoon for the direct mail steamer.  We all counted on having another two days.

This morning I visited a jute mill recently started here & did some “biz” for Dundee, about which I have still to make out my report. The two Scotch foremen were pleased to have a chat with a countryman.

Letters please to Curaçao via New York c/o Rivas Fensohn & Co[7]

Best love to all




  1. Name of the state, but used instead of the name of the capital Belém.
  2. British Guiana was a British colony, part of the British West Indies, which resided on the northern coast of South America, now known as the independent nation of Guyana since 1966.
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guam%C3%A1_River. The Guamá River is located in northeast Pará state in north-central Brazil. Its mouth forms the southern border of the state capital, Belém.
  4. The largest delta island of the islands in the Marajó Archipelago. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maraj%C3%B3
  5. The “Pororoca”: a tidal bore, with waves up to 4 m high that travel as much as 800 km inland upstream on the Amazon River and adjacent rivers.
  6. See Index to People.
  7. Rivas Fensohn & Co was a trading company in Curaçao that issued private paper money in 1893. 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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