18950116 See an image of this letter, https://doi.org/10.17613/qgy6-c802


Pará 16th Janry. 1895


My dear Mother,

Since my last, posted 10th inst. I cannot complain that I have been neglected by the Post Office. In the course of three days I received some twenty letters and now I have a task before me to answer them all. Three of yours came together, 3rd, 10th, & 17th Dec., and two very pretty cards, for all of which many thanks. I am very glad to hear the Pater is better. In the last few lines received from him, dated Christmas-eve, he tells me Julie returned looking very fit.[1] I can imagine his feelings at coming home for Christmas after his first journey.

I am sorry to hear of Mills death, he was a very decent fellow. I saw a paragraph in the Whig about the Rev. Andrew.[2] There are not many McCaldins left now.

Pleased to know the pines were good. Those I sent to Mrs Barret seem to have arrived in even better conditions. She wrote me a very nice letter piling on the thanks and saying that not even one pine was bruised. I am very glad I sent them a barrel, they were so pleased to be remembered. Did you enjoy the entertainment at Fergusons’? I am sure they gave you a good supper – they always do the thing well and I was quite sorry to have to slip away last time from their garden party without a share in the banquet or a skip at the dance.

Among my letters were one each from the girls, Addie, and Jim; two from Pater, one each from Mr & Mrs Weinberg, one from Victor Kamcke.[3] From Mrs Latham I had also a letter and a pretty card, as well as two introductions for Ceará. Both Shaw and Youle, – the two fellows I was most chummy with in Pernambuco – wrote giving an account of the Bachelors’ Ball, the great social event of the year, and of other doings since I left.

I am getting along here quietly. Business is not very lively and several small orders were sent direct before my arrival. We have the painters out at Powers’s house and the place reeks of paint and varnish. My room is finished but the floors are still dirty and in consequence I found one of those little insects called “jiggers” in my toe the other day – a new and interesting experience.[4] I extracted him and examined him under the microscope with great curiosity. He is built rather like a tiny flea.

There is a ball given here at the “Assamblea” once a month. Having received an invitation I went to the last “meet”. There were about 80 or 100 people there, including about a dozen young Englishmen but only two English and one German ladies. The ball-room was a fine large hall with a good floor and the band discoursed excellent music. I danced about half a dozen times in all, with the three “European” ladies. The native Senhoras were not remarkable for beauty, – in fact I did not see a really pretty girl among them all, and so I was not tempted to neglect the refreshments. After two cups of chicken-broth I had some chocolate and a few meat puffs with sugar on the top. It seemed sort of mixed but I required something to sustain me till three o’clock in the morning. With regard to dancing in Pará, the game is scarcely worth the candle; – one is in a bath of perspiration all the time, even when sitting still or moving slowly, and after waltzing three times round a ball-room ones appearance is positively disreputable.

Out of the house our costume is free and unconventional. We never wear collars or ties, and it is only at dinner that a coat is “de rigueur”. As soon as coffee is served off go the coats.

The real boss of the house is Power and Duff’s old servant and factotum, Manoel. If we play any mild practical jokes on each other or indulge in any pranks he smiles indulgently. At dinner if he grasps what we are talking about, – and he understands the drift of most things, – he joins in with a remark in Portuguese or even ventures on a word in English. Then there is the fat smiling old mulatto cookie Joanna, who has a son called Procopio. These people do choose the most extraordinary names for their children. I don’t know how they invent them but nothing under three or four syllables is entirely satisfactory.

I dined with the employees of the London and Brazilian Bank – with the staff I should rather say – very nice fellows they are, and the other day I lunched with Jordan, – manager of the Submarine Cable Coy. Here. There are three or four houses where I might turn up when I liked and simply say I have come for lunch or dinner. It is quite usual here. Sometimes four or five men turn up unexpectedly at Power’s and if there is not enough to go round, the cook can always make something quickly with eggs, ham, caviare, or sardines.

Young Brocklehurst, my old chess opponent, has asked me several times to lunch and dinner, but I have always declined. He is the local boss of Singlehurst, Brocklehurst & Co of Pará and Liverpool, one of the leading firms here.[5] I like him very much, but he lives in town over his office, and in the afternoons I like to go out to Power’s place as soon as I have finished work, and change my clothes. Then after dinner it is rather an undertaking to dress again and go out. But Brocklehurst is not to be done out of a game of chess, and some nights ago he came along and brought his board with him and we had a two hours’ tussle.

Though Pará is not a bad sort of place for a short visit I am glad I do not have to live here. The mosquitoes are too voracious and the damp heat saps all the energy out of one. When you get this I shall likely be in Maranham and I shall likely move along the coast with very short delays to Rio.[6] Letters c/o Theo Just Pernambuco.

Just now I am reading a rather interesting book, by an American called Hill, on Brazil, and particularly the river and valley of the Amazons. This river carries down to the sea more water than any two others in the world. Now there is a steamer once a month from Pará right up into Perù, so that there is nothing wonderful in such a journey. But it was different when the old Spanish conquerors and explorers crossed the cordillera from the Pacific by way of Quito, and came down the Amazons, across the continent in canoes; – a much more remarkable performance, I think, taking their limited knowledge and resources into account, than any of Stanley’s achievements in Central Africa.

You upbraid me with my last “note” from Pernambuco, so this time, though I have not said much, I have spread the ink of over three sheets of paper and I guess you have about enough.

Bye-bye. Love to all.



  1. His brother Julius Jr, just home from his first business trip in Spain. Tragically he died of yellow fever in Brazil on his business trip there barely one year later (28th March 1896). See Family Tree.
  2. Jane’s mother Ann Isabella McCully was née McCaldin. Jane had both an Uncle and a cousin called Andrew McCaldin. However, neither were Andrew McCaldin, a retired Presbyterian minister who died on 29th November 1894 aged 75 (b ~1819) at his residence, The Manse, Richhill. He was likely a more distant relative. https://apps.proni.gov.uk/WillsCalendar_IE/willsSearchResultsDetails.aspx
  3. "The girls" = his sisters Emma, Annie and Olga. "Addie" = his brother Ferdinand Adolphus. "Jim" = his brother James Moore. "Pater" = his father Julius Sr. "Mr & Mrs Weinberg" = Isaac Julius Weinberg and his wife Agnes. "Victor Kamke" = the son of William Roderick Kamcke, "Flax, Linen Yarn, and Linen merchants" who became a missionary in Bengal. See Index to People.
  4. Tunga penetrans (commonly known as a jigger or jigger flea, but also known as chigoe flea, nigua, or sand flea) is a parasitic insect found in most tropical and sub-tropical climates. It is the smallest known flea, at only 1 mm, but when embedded under the stratum corneum layer of the skin, it may reach up to 1 cm across. In Brazilian Portuguese known as Bicho de pé ("foot bug"): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tunga_penetrans
  5. The company at that time consisted of “R. Singlehurst & Co”. - Merchants and Shipowners in Liverpool – “Singlehurst, Brocklehurst & Co.” - Merchants in Pará – “Brocklehurst & Co” - Merchants in Manaos. As of 1st January 1892, the company was run by Henry and Septimus Brocklehurst (I have been unable to find which one is the chess player). Septimus was born in Liverpool in 1840 (in census “retired shipbuilder”) and died 1914 -extremely wealthy!
  6. Maranham = Maranhão , a state in Brazil located in the country's Northeast Region.


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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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