18930124 See an image of this letter, http://dx.doi.org/10.17613/0h0k-wc04


S.S. “Magdalena”                                                       24 Jan. 1893


My dear Mother,

Here I am sailing North once more, having said good-bye to Rio y’day.

On my return from São Paulo I found a number of letters had come for me, including yours of 26th & 27th Dec., with an account of your Xmas doings. What a list of presents from everybody to everybody. I congratulate you on the acquisition of your spinning-wheel, your hand-glass, your toilet set, & all the little devils. Glad to hear Llyod was with you.[1] Thanks for her message & my love in return. I envy the skaters. During the last fortnight ice with us has been at a premium, – to put in the drinks -, for the heat has been very great.

On Saturday-week I left Rio for Santos by the Brazilian steamer. Young Kalkmann came with me.[2] The boat was so crowded we could not get berths & we had to sleep on the bench in the saloon, – very narrow & hard it was & we cd not even raise a pillow or a cushion.

The passengers were almost all natives – some funny specimens among them. Opposite me at table was a fat good-natured woman who was going down to Montevideo to take the river steamer past Uruguay & Paraguay to Matto Grosso – a two months journey into the centre of S. America.[3] By way of making conversation I asked her how many inhabitants there were in Matto Grosso.[4] She could not tell me & the matter evidently weighed on her mind & she must have asked some of her compatriots, for next day as soon as we took our places she caught my eye, beamed upon me & before I cd say good morning she began “Ya sei, Senhor, cuantos habitants tem Matto Grosso”. – I know now, Senhor, how many inhabitants there are in Matto Grosso; – from seventy to ninety thousand!

I tried to look as if ignorance of this fact (more likely this fiction!) had deprived me of my night’s rest & the knowledge she imparted wd enable me to sleep calmly in future, & she seemed duly gratified.

At the corner of the next table sat a fidgety little man who thought himself ill-used because he had to wait till the stewards came round to him, instead of serving him first. His patience exhausted itself during dinner in shoulder-shruggings, piano-business on the table, & ejaculations of disgust. Towards the end of dinner he jumped up like a flash, made a stride towards us, & seized in his fingers a piece of cheese which lay on a plate on our table, flashed back to his place, & ate the cheese. The thing was done with the jerky rapidity of a Jack-in-the-box. We tried to look contemptuously disgusted, but the little man was too absurd, & we burst out laughing, which offended him, I think, much more.

Landing at Santos was not a pleasant matter. Our little steamer took a long time to get alongside the wharf, & the heat was very great. Then we had a long squabble with the porters who asked £3 ! to carry our luggage to the hotel; – they ultimately took abt 15/-.

If you want anyone to work for you today in Santos you must pay a very big price. There is a great demand for laborers & employees of all kinds, for the traffic of the port has increased enormously, & there are fewer people to do the work owing to the bad yellow fever season last year when so many died & so many others left the place.  I was told by lots of people that the business firms cannot get ordinary clerks to go to their Santos branches even for £500 or £600 a year.

We spent one night there in a miserable hole of a hotel, & were glad to clear out next day to S. Paulo up in the hills. I once before described the cable railroad, the beautiful scenery, & the relief of passing from the damp stifling heat of Santos into the fresh air & cool breeze on the higher level.

Once more we had some curious fellow-passengers. We were much struck by the performance of one man who, leaning out of the window, called for a tin of water. He got about an ordinary tumbler full which he seemed to swallow, but he must have had the peculiar capacity of the camel for stowing away water in a kind of reserve cistern until required, for he proceeded to wash his hands with that water, spouting it out of his mouth again with lively satisfaction.

I remained six days in S. Paulo. The evening before I left there was a dance at the German Club, to which I went. I met there a Miss McCulla, aunt of your friend Dickie, a very jolly girl & a capital dancer. We danced the pas-de-quatre to the envy & admiration of the Germans & I expect it will be a feature of their dances in future.[5] Miss McCulla is governess with one of the leading German families there, the Nothmanns.[6] She said she knew my name because Dickie had mentioned the family in his letters. She had been in Newry & Dundalk – knew the Pattersons & McHinches – Nettie particularly.[7]

There was a Miss Park at the dance, also governess, & very lively. I enjoyed myself immensely.

I had only one hour’s sleep that night for the waiter called me at half past three to catch the train for Rio – a tiresome, hot, dusty journey of nearly fifteen hours.[8]

Next day I said good-bye to my friends in Rio, got my letters, collected my baggage & came on board the “Magdalena”. A friendly steward recognized me & took me off to a good cabin, & here I am.

I have now a lot of writing to do – a difficult business on board owing partly to the motion of the ship & partly to the many temptations to be lazy. But it’s got to be done all the same.

I had letters from Father & Olga, for which best thanks. My last to you was a post-card on the 12th, & by the previous mail I wrote to Father, Addie, Emma & Olga.

Best love to all.



  1. Who was Llyod who spent Xmas with Jane & family (female, but no title ? servant). Perhaps Sarah Williams Llyod (b 1840 Liverpool, d 1912 Belfast), Housekeeper?
  2. A. Kalkmann, German merchant (b ~1865), on passenger list from Rio de Janeiro to NY in Feb 1892
  3. Probably along the Paraná river which today marks the border between Argentina and Paraguay and then Paraguay and Brazil.
  4. Actually Mato Grosso, one of the states of Brazil and the third-largest by area, located in the western part of the country.
  5. The "Pas de Quatre" was a version of the schottische couples dance popular in Europe in the late 19th century: https://www.libraryofdance.org/dances/military-schottische/
  6. Victor Nothmann was a German entrepreneur in São Paulo who was responsible for several urban development initiatives in São Paulo, catering to wealth from the coffee trade. With Frederico Glette, Nothman launched Campos Eliseos (a literal translation of Champs Elysees) in 1872, transforming a former cottage farm into a modern, urban district: https://research-information.bris.ac.uk/ws/portalfiles/portal/56359897/Football_and_Urban_Expansion_Sport_in_History_revised_4_12_15_PURE.pdf
  7. Nettie McHinch could be Matilda Antoinette McHinch (b 1859 Dundalk) who married Matthew Marshall Patteson (b 1850 also in Dundalk) in Belfast 1886.
  8. No train apparently nowadays – but by coach it now takes about 6.5 hours


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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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