Henry C. (Henry Clemens) Pearson.

The rubber country of the Amazon : a detailed description of the great rubber industry of the Amazon valley, which comprises the Brazilian states of Pará, Amazonas and Matto Grosso, the territory of the Acre, the Montana of Peru and Bolivia, and the southern portions of Colombia and Venezuela online

. (page 2 of 12)
Online LibraryHenry C. (Henry Clemens) PearsonThe rubber country of the Amazon : a detailed description of the great rubber industry of the Amazon valley, which comprises the Brazilian states of Pará, Amazonas and Matto Grosso, the territory of the Acre, the Montana of Peru and Bolivia, and the southern portions of Colombia and Venezuela → online text (page 2 of 12)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


12



THE RUBBER COUNTRY



Living reasonable, labor plentiful, cheap, and profoundly inefficient.

Barbados is unique among the islands that crowd the southern
seas, in that it is dry, comparatively level, has no forests, is of coral
formation, and is said to be almost as healthy as Heaven.

It was 6 in the morning of a Sunday when the welcome information
came that our boat was in. So we got up hurriedly, finished packing
and went down stairs, fearful that we would not have time for breakfast,
for it was said that her stay would be only two or three hours at most.




PUBLIC GARDENS, BRIDGETOWN, BARBADOS.

Somebody had blundered, however. It was not ours, but one from
Manaos and Para, and soon a number of bright young American engineers
from the Madeira-Mamore railroad came in. After a year in the
jungle they were glad of a vacation and were friendly, jolly and ap-
parently as healthy as if they had been at work on the New York Central.
We waited until 2 p. m. and at last our boat did arrive, and at 3 o'clock
we started for the pier. We had to hurry but managed to call at the
postoffice and extract a letter from a languid clerk after answering in-
numerable questions. Then I went to the custom house and secured my
revolver, and, boarding a shore boat, we got to the ship's side at ex-



u

i



OF THE AMAZON 13

actly ten minutes of 4. A pretty close shave for she was to sail at 4 sharp.

We hastened to get our luggage stowed, fortunately exchanging our
cabin on the saloon deck for one on the upper with more room and better
air. Then we went out and took a last long look at the beautiful island
that had been our resting place for thirteen happy days !

Having looked this look, we threw coppers to the diving boys,
chatted with the harbor police, and went in and smoked. At 5 o'clock
we came out and took a last long look at the beautiful island that had been
our resting place for thirteen happy days !

Then we went to the cabin, rearranged our baggage, put on rubber
soled shoes, smoked a pipe, and at 6 o'clock went out on deck and took
a last long look at the island that had been our resting place for thirteen
happy days !

At 6.30 the agent came aboard, then three boats filled with females
and luggage two females and several tons of luggage. The females
were dusky of hue, and the luggage was done up in wicker baskets,
bed quilts, and paper boxes. Finally the side ladder was up, the anchor
weighed, and \ve went on deck to take a last long look at the island that
had been our resting place for thirteen happy days !

We had dinner that night in a cozy little saloon decorated with a
variety of foreign flags, to please no doubt the somewhat varied assort-
ment of humans who fronted the viands. There were Barbadians,
Brazilians, Peruvians, Mexicans, Swiss, Germans, English, and Ameri-
cans,, the last named an interesting lot of engineers returning for a fresh
attack upon the jungle for the Madeira-Mamore railroad.

The smoking room crowd told weird tales of fevers, sicknesses, and
deaths, all of which we discounted, for were they not going back, and
was not the ship's doctor, a quiet, healthy man, going up the river for
is thirtieth visit? Still the stories were entrancing, especially when
hey described that mysterious beriberi that begins in the legs, works up
tc the heart, and ends in the burying ground.

The third day out I awoke with a feeling of numbness in my legs.
When I walked the deck it was quite painful. Remembering the vivid
descriptions of beriberi that I had heard from convalescents in the smoking
room the night before, the absence of fever, the way it affects the legs,
and so on, I began to think. Nor was I at all reassured when the ship's
doctor halted beside me as I leaned over the rail, and looking at me
keenly said :

"How do your legs feel?"



14 THE RUBBER COUNTRY

"Oh, so so," I said truthfully for they did, only the left felt more so
than the right.

"Humph ! Thought perhaps the combination of hot decks and rubber-
soled shoes -might hade lamed you a bit. It does most people." he
answered, and my depression vanished.

Outside of the boat, her officers, and passengers, there was only
the monotony of the bounding billow. No gulls, whales, sharks, or sails.
Even Halley's comet, which should have been visible each night, was
regularly obscured by clouds. And as for sunsets we didn't have a real




CONSTABLE OF THE GOLF COURSE, BARBADOS.

one on the whole voyage. One evening three of the little Peruvian girls
played a trio on the piano ; while the others danced a graceful fandango.
Between whiles there was talk of Neptune coming aboard, and those who
had never crossed the Equator got very nervous and asked innumerable
questions.

I think it was at dinner that the Peevish Passenger who had only just
been able to crawl down to the table, catching a twinkle in the Captain's
eye, groaned :

"Here comes the whiskey joke."

"I'm a sailor twenty-six years an' I say water's a fine thing with
a drop of whiskey in it," announced the Captain. (Much applause).



O.F THE AMAZON 15

Another twinkle of the same eyes.

"It's eggs this time," whispered the P. P.

"If I 'ad my life to live hover again I wouldn't go on as much
water as would boil two heggs," said the Captain. (More applause).

Suddenly the Peevish Passenger arose.

"I'm sick," he said, looking at the humorist.

"Wot of?" inquired the Captain

"Of them eggs. This is the tenth v'y'ge you've served 'em up, and
they're gettin stale," and he stalked unsteadily out.




AN AGGRESSIVE BOVINE BUNKER, ON THE GOLF COURSE, BARBADOS.

All through the voyage every one who knew enough took quinine,
loafed, read, and kept generally quiet. Indeed, although the sea was not
unusually rough, the boat rolled so constantly that the best sailors among
the passengers frankly acknowledged their discomfort. It was not so
much the fault of the boat; it was the cross seas stirred up by the
steadily blowing trade winds that did the mischief, and we were thankful
when the light off Salinas (on the Brazilian coast) was sighted and
we picked up a pilot for the hundred-mile run up the river Tocantins to
the city of Para or Belem the last lap of the journey down the Atlantic.



CHAPTER III.

ENTERING THE TOCANTINS, THE NECK OF THE AMAZONIAN RUBBER BOTTLE
REAL EQUATORIAL RAINS AND HEAT THE 100-MiLE RUN TO THE CITY OF PARA-
THE LONGEST WAY ROUND, THE SHORTEST WAY TO THE SHORE LANDING IN THE
MIDST OF RUBBER.

OUR craft was first and last a rubber boat and had carried millions
of dollars' worth of fine Para to the States and to Europe
$4,000,000 in one cargo. Almost from the beginning the Captain
and officers talked rubber. They spoke with pride of Riker's plantation
up at Santarem, and said he had 50,000 trees and was already tapping.
Posted in the chart room was the following:

"SHIPMENTS OF RUBBER IN MANA6S, PARA AND OTHER

PORTS.

Special Notice to Captains and Officers.

"We desire to call the special attention of our captains and officers
to the fact that for some time past rubber cargoes have come forward
with the weights in kilos incorrectly marked on many of the cases,
the result being that whenever these cases are landed here broken, the
vessel is invariably called upon for the deficiency between the foreign
and the English weight.

"We, therefore, insist upon the utmost care being taken in receiving
and stowing this description of cargo, so that the cases stand no possible
chance of being broken, and that a thorough search for loose rubber be
made in all lighters before being taken away from vessel.

"It is also important that very special attention be given to ports
of destination on cases of rubber for Havre, and that shipments of
pcllcs and other loose rubber belonging to various consignees be en-
tirely separate ; different holds preferred. Great care must be taken
in the storage of nuts and Lisbon cargo, that the immediate discharge of
rubber in Havre and Liverpool be not interfered with. This is very
important."

16



OF THE AMAZON






We had been in the
mouth of the Amazon for
certainly twelve hours, and the
yellow waves gave no sug-
gestion of saltness. We told
each other the ancient tale of
the boat's crew perishing
from thirst, hailing a passing
vessel and begging for water,
and getting the well-known
reply, ''Dip it up then; you're
in the mouth of the Amazon."
We never realized what a
mean trick was played on
those thirsty mariners until
we got a deckhand to dip up
some water. It was exceed-
ingly brackish and far from
drinkable.

At nightfall it began to
rain in torrents and we felt
our way up to the pilot boat,
which lay rolling in the trough
of the sea in a manner that
suggested discomfort to those
on board. After a time -a
boat put off from her side
and we saw it jerkily ad-
vancing over the waves to
meet us. That is, we didn't
see the boat it was too dark
for that; we saw the gleam
of a lantern at intervals v/hen
it rode on the crest of a wave.
The pilot, a huge Indian,
caught the side ladder and
climbed aboard with sur-
prising agility.

After about half an hour



i8



THE RUBBER COUNTRY



steady- steaming, through sheets of rain illumined by occasional lighting
flashes, with the lead going constantly, we anchored in 15 fathoms of
water to wait for daylight before proceeding up the river. At 5 o'clock
the next morning we started on again, and soon it was light. The
yellowish green water had taken on a deeper yellow and the morning
was a mixture of rain squalls and short intervals of sunshine. The
Tocantins looked like one of our own great lakes after a storm. In all
directions were floating forest wreckage and marsh grasses, and in the far
distance the low lying coastline.




NATIVE FISHING BOAT, TOCANTINS RIVER.

Soon we began to see the fishing boats of typical Portuguese con-
struction, fitted with sails, dark brown, red and blue. As we got further
up the river the water became calmer. Did I mention that it was grow-
ing warmer all of the time? It certainly was hot, and those who were
tc remain on board the boat during its stay in port were already get-
ting out mosquito bars. The captain explained to me the reason for
anchoring the night before. It seems this coast is afflicted with unusual
and strong currents. He pointed out a bank which a huge freight



OF THE AMAZON 19

steamer skirted by unlucky chance one dark night, running her bilge
keel upon it, and turned turtle almost instantly. Then, too, he showed
us the reefs where only a short time before another huge freighter
had been wrecked, the captain blowing out his brains when he found
his vessel was a total loss. Soon we sighted some of the many islands
with which the waterway is filled, and then almost at once got our first
glimpse of the water front of the great Rubber City.

In coming up to Para everything is on so large a scale that one








BUSINESS STREET, PARA.



gets no idea at all of the wonderful configuration of the country. The
view is confined to wide expanses of muddy water, low shores, densely
overgrown with tropical forests, and a few islands. A bird's eye view
would show islands big and little by the thousands, rivers of all sizes
coining in from every point of the compass, almost ; creeks, lagoons,
waterways, the whole lower country a gigantic plain rising but a few
feet above tide level, sparsely settled, the riot of vegetation crowding



2O



THE RUBBER COUNTRY



every inch of space, and even stretching far out into the quiet earth-
laden waters.

We passed in safety the little Portuguese built fort that guards
the entrance to the harbor, skirted the shore where the great plant of
the Port of Para* is located, and finally dropped anchor about a mile
from the piers. When the great tropical contractors finish their work,
Para will have a fine system of granite quays, at which steamers may
discharge and load, and passengers go ashore over a gangplank. Until
that is done, cargoes are handled in huge lighters covered with movable




RUBBER WAREHOUSE, PARA.

sheet iron awnings, and passengers go ashore in launches, tugs or
rowboats.

I had heard many stories of the vigilance of the customs officials,
and that everything paid duty. I, therefore, took only hand baggage'
for the first trip ashore, and even then would have had trouble with the
camera had not a smoking room friend explained in profuse Portuguese
that I was intimately connected with the Intendente (mayor) and had

*The American corporation improving the harbor.



OF THE AMAZON



21



come from New York purposely to get his photograph. Both federal
and state customs, who were aboard almost as soon as the anchor was
down, passed me at that. They don't take any chances, however; a
passenger going ashore even for a few minutes cannot return to his
boat without a permit from a shore official, and luggage may remain
in the custom house until the Amazon freezes over, if the officials do
not choose to bestir themselves. At least so everybody says. To finish
my own custom house experience, a newspaper friend went next day,




TYPICAL RUBBKK OFFICES, PARA.



picked out my luggage, got it passed and up to the hotel within two
hours. He did this by reading again and again to the board official
a personal estimate of the writer that he himself had caused to be put
in the daily papers. In self defense the customs man marked the luggage.
The shore tug on which we embarked took us within a hundred
yards of the shore and then tied up to one of the huge lighters, where
we were to be transferred to a small rowboat. We saw a couple of
porters jump on the lighter, walk around its shelf like edge, and disappear



22 THE RUBBER COUNTRY

on their way to shore. Rather than wait for the boat, I followed and
wished I hadn't, for the other side of the lighter was made fast to
what was once a long wooden pier, but the planking having all been
removed there remained an uneven, rotting nailstudded skeleton with
the yellow water looking surprisingly dirty and deep beneath it. I
got ashore all right, but the broiling sun and my exertions put me in
a perspiration that would fill a Turkish bath attendant with envy.

We landed right in the rubber district. There was rubber every-
where, on the sidewalks, in the streets, on trucks, in the great storehouses
and in the air that is, the smell of it. We didn't pause to see the
rubber men then, however, but went up a narrow street to the electric
car line, swung aboard, and were soon at the Cafe da Paz and located
in comfortable rooms.

Breakfast is 12 o'clock noon, in Para, and while I was enjoying
the meal, I took occasion to chat with an American commercial traveler
who came to Brazil once a year. It makes me proud to see evidences
of American enterprise in foreign countries,.* so I asked him a few
questions.

"Do many commercial travelers visit this port?"

"Lots of them," said he.

"How many American drummers are there in town at present?"

"I'm the only one," was the reply.

"How many Germans are here?"

"Eighty," said he.



CHAPTER IV.

PARA A PLEASANT SURPRISE How THE "WHITE WINGS" WORK IN PARA THE
YELLOW FEVER MOSQUITO AND How TO DODGE IT A MILITARY FIRE DEPARTMENT
BITS OF EARLY HISTORY.

I MUST confess that I was agreeably disappointed in Para. The
steamer gossips had said much about the city, and little that was
good. I paid 12 milreis a day at the hotel and found both service
and food excellent. The gold milreis, the standard of the Brazilian mone-
tary system, is equal to 54.6 cents in United States money. Business,
however, is conducted mainly on a paper money basis, with the price of
the milreis varying with the rate of London exchange, which averages
a little over 15 pence, or 30 to 31 cents.

My bedroom, with its lofty bare walls, 1 2-foot double casement,
and narrow bed with mosquito net draped over a white parasol
and hanging in graceful folds to the floor, was just my idea of a tropical
apartment. To be sure, if one lighted a lamp and put it in the open case-
ment at night, it was possible to coax mosquitos in. Some visitors do this
and then kick. I did not. I had my cheerful little brown chamber man
look through the net in mid afternoon for mosquitos, then tuck it secure-
ly under the mattress, and what few bites I got did no harm.

As long as we are talking about mosquitos, there are two kinds that
work mischief the little black ones that carry malaria, and the larger
striped ones that may or may not provide yellow fever. We recognized
both kinds and they recognized us, but nothing came of it.

The day of my arrival a Portuguese physician, who was a friend of
mine in Rio, called and left a packet of powders with directions
to "take one every morning," and I would not have yellow fever. His
medicine was all right. I took it three days and escaped ; then somebody
stole the box and so I couldn't experiment further. Speaking of yellow
fever, it would be foolish for any one to disregard ordinary precautions.
But to my mind the pneumonia of our Northern clime is much more eas>
to get and just about as fatal. Yellow fever is endemic in Para. There
were several deaths a week while I was there, but it was a question if they



24 THE RUBBER COUNTRY

were all yellow fever. Most of those who died from it were from the
lowest classes, who weaken their stomachs by drinking cachaca and
then get what may be a low malarial fever or almost any kind of bilious
fever; it all goes down as amarello.

The city itself is exceedingly beautiful. Near the water front it
develops some smells other than those produced by rubber, but up in the.
city proper it is fine and clean. The cafes, with tiny round tables out on
the sidewalks, remind one very much of Paris. In the residence section
for example, the Avenida Nazareth the elegant homes, luxuriant tropical
gardens, the well-paved streets, and the shaded sidewalks are worth com-
ing a long distance to see. Before daylight every morning, an army of




THE AVENIDA REPUBLICA, PARA.
(At the right is shown the Hotel da Paz).

laborers sweeps every city street, using broad palm branches, one of which
does the work of a dozen brooms. The litter is then carted away in huge
covered tip carts, each drawn by a single well-fed, patient-eyed steer. Then
in the afternoon the heavy showers come and help notably in this street
cleaning. The city in many respects is very modern. Automobiles are there
in plenty, and as there are no speed limits, the drivers scorch up and down
any and all streets at 35 to 40 miles an hour, but with no accidents as far
as I could observe.

The police service is excellent, and one cannot go anywhere after
dark without seeing a policeman at almost every corner.



OF THE AMAZON 25

The parks both in the city proper and beyond the city limits, as well
as the magnificent Botanical Gardens, are beautiful beyond compare.

It is, to be sure, a tropical city ; that is, it has its hours of relaxation
every day, and its days almost every week. Certain of the offices, for ex-
ample, open at 9 in the morning, close between n and I, and close again
at 3. They also keep the bars up Sunday and feast days, which latter are
many. While the lesser officials watch the clock and kill time, the




PRACA DA INDEPENDENCE, PARA.



Intcndente works day and night, so 'tis said, and it is to his energy
and foresight that many of the beautiful buildings and parks, as well
as public utilities, are due.

There is an excellent fire department, with the best tropical equip-
ment I have seen. Accustomed to the freedom of American cities, I
started to walk into one of the central stations one day to look it over, and
was promptly held up by a businesslike young chap with a Mauser rifle,
who called for the Corporal, who reported to the Captain, who in turn got



26



THE RUBBER COUNTRY




SALON IN THEATRO DA PAZ, PARA.



the Commandante. He very politely detailed an officer to show me through
the yards, stables, gymnasium, dormitories, and munition room, and to
examine the engines, hose carts and ladder trucks. It was the first com-
bination of barracks and engine house that I had seen, and I was much
interested, and said so to the Commandante, the Captain an:l the Corporal,




PUBLIC LIBRARY, PARA.



OF THE AMAZON



27



each of whom sainted politely with outstretched hand and raised hat as I
left. To the sentinel I gave a big black cigar with a gorgeous band -on it,
and underneath the band a revenue stamp, which every cigar in the Brazils
is obliged to wear.

Para is a very old city and was actually founded four years before
the New England Pilgrims set foot on Plymouth Rock. The founder
was a fighting Portuguese named Francisco Branco who drove out the
French, who had no right there. For twenty-five years, or until 1641,
the state of Para was part of the province of Maranham but in that year
it became independent. Then the Dutch took possession of the city but




CITY HOSPITAL, PARA.



after a time got weary and abandoned it. In 1641 there was a strong
company formed in Portugal called the General Commercial Company
of Brazil. It had a monopoly on Amazonian commerce, it's only duty to
the home government, besides making money for it and for themselves,
being to keep other trading vessels out of the waterway. It kept 31
armed ships in commission for this and was in full control for 70 years.
The commerce had grown so that in 1700 Para afforded the best
market in all of the Brazils, shipping great quantities of cacao, vanilla
and indigo, and raising some coffee. Cattle raising was also introduced
or a large scale on the island of Marajo. In 1741 La Conc'amine visited



28



THE RUBBER COUNTRY



Para, sent out by the French Royal Geographical Society, to discover
the real shape of the earth. That he did not decide it was flat after
seeing the lay of the land in that part of the world speaks much for his
perspicacity. He has also gone down into history as the first scientist
to report upon india-rubber. The good father, familiar with the metal
piston syringes used in Europe, was amazed and delighted with the rubber
syringes made by the Omagua Indians. He was also further amazed




FIRE DEPARTMENT ON PARADE IN FRONT OF THEIR BARRACKS, PARA.



when he discovered that an Indian chieftain giving a banquet, presented
a syringe to each guest for use before eating.

Up to 1741 the state of Para reached inland as far as it chose but
in that year the great state of Amazonas was created, and definite
borders given to each.

When in 1822 Brazil separated itself from Portugal, Para did not
approve, and the government at Rio sent a warship up to reason with
them. Its mere presence quieted things down and there was no blood



OF THE AMAZON 29

shed. Thereafter, however, there was a strong republican sentiment in
the city and state and in 1889 when the Republic was declared r the
people of Para welcomed it gladly.

The city of Para at the present time has a population of about
100,000 people. It is on gently undulating ground rising very gradually
from the river front. There are no real hills in the city proper or near
it. Deep natural ditches called igarapes, "canoe paths," run far inland
from the river, many of them containing water enough to float canoes,
and small boats. The tide rises and falls regularly in these natural
waterways sometimes for miles from the river. Not only the mainland
but the islands have hundreds of these natural water paths that afford
access to the interior where road making would be difficult.



CHAPTER V.

RECEIVED BY THE GOVERNOR AND "INTENDENTE" CLUB LIFE ON THE AMAZON
CARNIVAL SCENES BRAZILIAN HOSPITALITY HAMBURGER TOURISTS.

A FRIEND had suggested, almost as soon as I landed, the advisability
of visiting the Governor and, when I agreed, promptly arranged
for an audience. But I was in flannels and my frock coat had
been carried off, I knew not whither, to be pressed. The Yankee Consul,
however, stepped into the breach and communicating to the Governor
my predicament, the audience was set for the day following. To learn
all of the details, I meandered over to the consulate, where the Consul
greeted me like a long-lost brother. If I had come from Ohio, his native
State, I believe he would have embraced me. A husky, warm-hearted,,
quick-tempered, bustling Westerner, he won my heart then and there, and
when he came around next morning in a taxicab with a visiting rubber
manufacturer from the States and a leading Brazilian rubber merchant,
I was glad I was ready.

A frock coat and a top hat are not the most comfortable things in the


2 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

Online LibraryHenry C. (Henry Clemens) PearsonThe rubber country of the Amazon : a detailed description of the great rubber industry of the Amazon valley, which comprises the Brazilian states of Pará, Amazonas and Matto Grosso, the territory of the Acre, the Montana of Peru and Bolivia, and the southern portions of Colombia and Venezuela → online text (page 2 of 12)