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

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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 3 of 12)
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tropics, but we all wore them. And as the other three were stout and I
am not, my collar didn't wilt until the audience was over, which is more
than they can say for themselves. The Governor received us on a sort ot
divan flanked by four chairs, which we occupied. We talked about
rubber planting, in which he is very much interested, and he said that
the State was willing to do anything in reason to encourage planting

-"My friend on the right is one of the largest manufacturers of rubber
in the world. He uses only Para rubber, and his factory is in Ohier/' re-
marked the Yankee Consul.

If he had said "Erhio" or "Oheeo," I think the Governor would have
understood that he was referring to the Mother of Presidents. But as it
was he only looked blank and murmured a compliment, while the Visiting
Manufacturer's eyes twinkled as he thought of his last year's bill for re-
claimed rubber.

It is difficult for a democratic American to know how to address high
toreign officials. The Visiting Manufacturer called the Governor "Mon-



sieur, the Signer," which sounded well. I didn't catch the Portuguese
rendering of the title, but turned into English it reads "Mister the Mister,"
which, although respectful, is slightly tautological.

It was'nt really a heart-to-heart talk as the Governor knew no English
and we knew no Portuguese, and I think his Excellency was glad when
it was all over. Not that he showed it in any way. He was every mo-
ment the courteous, polished dignified gentleman, and the next day sent
his aide de camp around to my hotel to return the call, and, before I left


the city, sent me a score of beautifully illustrated books and some marvel-
ous maps for souvenirs of my visit. His word also placed everything in
the beautiful public library at my disposal.

We also made a formal call on the Intendente. According to
his enemies, he is another Richard Croker. He received us at 8 o'clock
in the morning at his home, a fine big palace of a house, with broad
verandas and magnificent apartments opening one into the other. He
had with him the secretary of the municipality, a huge, intellectual, coal-
black negro, who is probably the finest orator in Northern Brazil, and is


called the "Booker Washington of South America." I asked the Intendcnte
why, instead of shading the streets of the city with mango trees, he had
not planted rubber trees? He answered promptly that years ago
there was much tuberculosis in the city ; that the mango gives off
an aromatic balsam that is very healing, and that consumption had practi-
cally disappeared since the trees had matured. Besides, the poor people
practically lived upon the fruit of the tree for weeks at a time.

The Visiting Manufacturer, who evidently had been picking out the
wrong cabs, said to the Intendcnte :

" Why don't you fine cab drivers who do not use rubber tires?"

The reply came:

"I have done better than that; I have taken the tax off of rubber

fam , v ' v* . ' w

I Ife




tired vehicles and kept it on steel shod ones Now it's up to you to make
better tires so that our drivers will all be able to use them."

After that we retired, the Intendente wearing the honors.

Para has a number of daily newspapers. Two of them, however, are
loaders. One is owned by the Intendente, who edits it vigorously and
wisely. The other the Opposition Paper, with just as much vigor and
great plainness, disagrees with everything the government does, whatever
it is. Both have large circulations and both are excellent papers.

There are a number of good clubs. The Yankee Consul put me up at
the Para Club, where I met the bankers and steamship and rubber men-
American, German and English and had some really good exercise at
billiards in spite of the sultriness that evening often developed.



Then a rubber importer in New York had written the president of the
Sport's Club, who invited me to their functions. I also went to a ball at
the Universal Club, which must have been a very swell affair, for the
streets were lined with people who got their reward by seeing us go in
and out.

The resident head of "Casa Alden" also asked me to soap my legs
and come out to the Golf Club with him. The saponaceous preliminary


that he advised is for the purpose of amusing inoquccns, small and
active red bugs that live in the grass, outside of the city limits, particularly
on golf links. If one's legs are soaped the bugs get so engrossed with
climbing up as far as the kneee, then coasting down to the instep, that
they forget all about biting.

More interesting than a city are its inhabitants. The people at Para
are Brazilians and Portuguese. Although the former come largely from
Portuguese stock they do not like to be mistaken for natives of the mother
country, so proud are they of their own. They are a sensitive, hospitable,


enthusiastic race, with a very decided genius for and appreciation of the
fine arts. Many of the substantial business men are Portuguese and one
often sees exactly the same types as once made the men of Portugal the
foremost explorers of the world. The better class in Para are exceedingly
well dressed and no politer people are to be found anywhere.

It was "carnival week" while we were there, and there was ample
opportunity to see the whole city at play. As the beautiful floats passed,
the showers of confetti were constant and the flower fights vigorous.
Then in the afternoon, when the rain drove the revellers indoors and the
cafes were packed to suffocation, a little glass atomizer made its appear-
ance. It was filled with perfume and sold for 4 milreis. How many
thousands were emptied in the course of a few hours who can say? No one
escaped who came within range, and for twenty-four hours every food
product in the city tasted of perfumery. Through all the festivities I saw
nothing but good-humored fun, and was wonderfully impressed with the
graceful, unconscious courtesy of the people of this tropical city.

Speaking of hospitality, I wish I had space to describe in detail one
dinner at the home of a wealthy and cultured Brazilian, a large owner ot
rubber lands in the Acre, that I enjoyed. It would take pages to picture
the cool spaciousness of the dwelling, the beautiful courtyard garden, with
its rare blooms and extensive orchid trellises, and the dinner itself, simple
and appetizingly elegant, and my host, who in almost perfect English
touched lightly on current events in Europe and America and' showed a
knowledge of Paris, London, Berlin, and New York that made me envious ,
but I know I could'nt do it justice, and I must pass it simply as one of
my pleasantest memories.

Every winter that great educational institution, the Hamburg-
American line, gathers together some hundreds of untraveled Americans
and projects them upon the people of other climes. They learn many
things in the voyages ; that is, they have ample opportunity to do so.

Sitting at midday breakfast in the Cafe da Paz one morning, I knew
that one of these great excursion steamers had arrived, for the advance
guard of the army that would soon overrun the city began to trickle in.
They were a comely, well-dressed, respectable lot, and I viewed them with
much interest. The self-conscious swagger (we are all afflicted with it)
that the men took on because they felt that many strangers were looking
at them in a foreign tongue, was most exhilarating. The half-pitying
glances that they cast about were not contempt, but simply embarrass-
ment.- . They were wondering in their innermost recesses what the well-
dressed foreigners thought of these fine specimens of American manhood


And those foreigners, sitting erect over their breakfasts, were probably
wondering what the wealthy and somewhat noisy Americans thought of
the fine specimens of Brazilian gentlemen that they saw for the first time.
Both were self-conscious to the last degree, only the Americans showed it
and the Brazilians did not.

Having heard that Portuguese was the language of the country, the
tourists had a feeling that no one there understood English, or at least
not very well, and it came with rather a shock to me that I was also with-
out the pale. My knowledge came this way. Two nice old chaps stopped
in front of me and one said :

"Do you speak English?"

"A leetle," was my reply.

"Good! Well, we want to take a trolley ride and go as far as we
can. Understand ? See ?"

"Si, Senor, you wish to go up zee balloon. I can arrange him."

"No, no, don't do that. Not a balloon, a trolley car goes on rails,"
showing me in pantomime how an electric car ran, and making a buzzing
scund that was most illuminating.

"He is off his trolley, yes?" I remarked engagingly to his companion.
Then seeing he had left his sense of humor aboard the boat, and they
were likely to get away, I went on hurriedly :

"Oui, yes, si Senor, you wish the trolley tram. The zip car. It is run
by zee door. Go out to Sousa. It's quite a long ride out to Sousa and a
pietty one, and if you stay aboard the car, it will bring you back saving
a transfer."

I got interested in describing these details and forgot my accent. Just
as I finished one of the inquirers said :

"You speak very good English." <

"So do you," said I.

"But I come from Boston," was his retort.

"So do I," was mine.

I forgot to say that before I left my table two tourists sitting at
another facing me were enjoying huge glasses of excellent Brazilian beer.
One of them desirous of knowing the brew, held his glass aloft (he wore
cotton gloves, by the way, to protect his hands from yellow fever mos-
quitos) and, addressing me cordially, said:

"Pilsener? Is this Pilsener beer?"

"Thank you," I replied courteously; "I drink only zee chmpagnc.
I should be glad of a leetle bottle." And I beckoned to his waiter, while
he gulped the remainder of his drink and bolted.



THE center of the rubber interest in Para is, very naturally, where
the houses of the great importers, or rather exporters, are located.
These are on the water front and are not only easily located by
the pleasant smell of rubber with which the air is permeated, but during
crop arrivals by the great quantities of rubber arriving and departing in
bulk and in cases, often temporarily piled everywhere and anywhere. The
carelessness with which this valuable product is handled would be a shock
to any member of the Rubber Stealings Committee. Evidently there is
no rubber thievery in Para.

A narrow street running from the water front up into the city, known
*.s "Wall street," is where most of the rubber purchasing is done. When
a steamer arrives with rubber for the various aviadorcs, they gather on
this street or in an open room that leads off from it, and the representa-
tives of the big buyers being present, the various lots are disposed of.
There are brokers, but they do only a fraction of the business.

Each of the rubber houses employs a very capable body of men who
receive the rubber, cut and examine it, and pack it in boxes for shipment.
The cutting of the rubber is an absolute necessity, as some lots are baclly
adulterated. This adulteration takes three forms : In one, a subtance
tabatinga is added to the latex, giving a short fibered rubber that
is wholly without nerve. The second is the addition of farinha,
which increases bulk and weight, but also makes the rubber very short and
pasty. The third is a mixture of sand and farinha which is perhaps the
worst of all.

The adulteration of fine Para by the addition of farinha or sand is
not new by any means. Back in the ? 5o's Herndon reports that the
natives thus "diluted" rubber. The gatherer does not put the farinha in
altogether for the sake of adding weight ; its presence causes a quicker



coagulation, and if he gets in too much he adds a little lemon juice and
i able to produce exceeding smooth films, free from bubbles and~ve~ry
quickly. The rubber looks beautifully, that is, until a minute red ant
burrows into it and eats the farinha out. Then when it is cut open the
whole of the fraud is apparent and it is rejected. Of course it some-
times happens that farinha rubber is shipped before the ants get a chance
at it, and the amount present may be so small that the examiner may not
note it when he cuts the pelles open. It is necessary for the manufacturer,
however, to know whether it is there or not, as the strength of the
rubber will show an extra shrinkage if it is present.

jyrf ''/??' '.V- !


Grown from seed secured in Brazil in 1876. These trees have furnished seeds for more than
600,000 acres of planted Hcvea in the Far East.

A very simple test is to have a water solution of iodine and
potassium iodine which may be applied with a brush to the freshly
cut surface. If farin-ha is there the surface will turn from a yellowish
mahogany color to blue.

Coarse Para or Negroheads have ever offered to the careless or
dishonest scringuicro an irresistable chance to cheat. The ball is made
up normally of strips of rubber that have coagulated on the cuts in the
trees and from drippings during smoking. How easy to put in a few
stones, a bunch of burlap sticky with half coagulated rubber, or a
billet of wood as heavy as iron. It gives more weight and at the store

4 o


he is sure to get extra supplies for it. These things are therefore added
and carefully hidden by an outer coat of rubber and it is months usually
before his sin can find him out. The cutting of every pelle by the
exporter however, and the rejection of those which are not up to grade,
has done away with a very much of this sort of adulteration.

To refer again to "Wall street," time was when all the rubber buying
was done in a saloon there, but that is a thing of the past, and while some
is still sold in the "street," most of the purchasing takes place in the offices
of the great operators. Most of the rubber is shipped in cases made of


American pine. I saw a few boxes made of native wood, but the lumber
was heavy and brittle and not to be compared with the imported white
pine, either for safety or ease in working.

The rubber warehouse men are perhaps the best paid of any laborers
in the city. They receive about $4 a day, and extra for night work and
Sundays. When rubber is arriving they work willingly night and day,
often drenched to the skin by heavy tropical downpours, which they don't
seem to mind in the least. But the laborers are not the only hard workers.
When the gum is arriving, the exporter, if he is in the market, is kept ex-


ceedingly busy. A single small steamer coming in from the islands, where
she stopped at perhaps a hundred landings, may have rubber from 200
or 300 shippers, consigned to 75 or 80 different houses. All of these
interests, seringueiros and aviadores, knowing more or less about the
market, are intent on getting the best price and also on the passing of any
doubtful rubber without question. To do his own house justice and to
satisfy the sellers keeps the exporter very busy, and he often works nights,
but not out in the pouring rain.

The price at which rubber is sold in Para and Manaos dominates


the spirit of the people, and in boom times, when money is plenty, it is
spent most lavishly. A rich Brazilian, even if it is only temporary wealth
due to a sudden rise in the rubber market, will buy anything, from an
automobile to an opera troupe, and plank down the cash with joy.

Para being the mother of rubber export has not been without twinges
cf jealousy over the wonderful development of her daughter, Manaos.
She never wished the child to come out of swaddling clothes, because
she saw a decrease in rubber revenues as a result. Therefore "Manaos is
unhealthy and not a place to visit ;" "everything in rubber worth seeing can
be seen at Para," et cetera.


Manaos also affects to scorn Para. "She's old-fashioned and con-
servative;" u her rubber forests are rapidly being exhausted," and so on.
Then when the representatives of these two great cities meet they are good
friends and patriotic Brazilians. Their attitude reminds an American of


the rivalry between Chicago and St. Louis. It harms no one, and it makes
both cities more alert and aggressive.

It doesn't take very much perspicacity to figure out the fact that the
rubber market is not made on the Amazon, but in the great outside
centers, like London and New York. During the crop season in Para


the operators are in constant communication with their principals in
Europe or America, and in semi-constant touch with their houses at
Manaos. Each firm has its own cipher. None of them know each
other's cipher ; whether they know the rest of their numerals, it is hard
to say.



ONE of the leading exporters in Para is a s wonderful producer
of artistic photographs. It is natural that he should have
taken boat journeys through the islands and up and down the
great rivers, not only in search of rubber knowledge but in pursuit
of his own particular fad. It was most gratefully, therefore, that
I accepted his invitation to take a launch trip to Isla des Oncas, the
great island that lies some miles to the south of the city. This island
is cut in two by a narrow natural canal which at high water is navigable
by canoes and rowboats. To catch the tide meant an early start. So
I awoke the Yankee Consul and the Visiting Manufacturer at 4 o'clock,
and after coffee we hastened down to the water front, arriving just
as the Exporter appeared, with several porters laden with eatables and

To cross to the island we embarked in a little three-cylinder kerosene
launch and soon were chuff-chuffing across the bay for the ''Island of
Tiger Cats." Once over to the mangrove-fringed shore, we coasted
up and down until finally the sharp eyes of our pilot detected the little
opening of the channel. We were then transferred to the rowboat
that had been trailing behind.

The launch turned back and we entered the dim tree-shaded channel.
In some places it was so narrow that there was barely room for the
oars; in other places it was from 10 to 20 feet wide. The water was
the same yellow brown tint that the whole Amazon affects. From the
start we saw rubber trees the old settlers that had been tapped for
generations, their trunks swollen, scarred and disfigured by thousands
of machadinha strokes. Often pole stagings had been erected about
them, crude contrivances to allow the rubber gatherer to reach hitherto
untapped surfaces.

The trunks of the trees as far as one could reach were not only





swollen as if they had woody elephantiasis but the surface was gnarled,
twisted and roughened. This surface was covered with a very thin
attenuated bark, that often yielded but little latex. The real trouble
is not that the tree has been overtapped but that the cuts have been
too deep and into the wood. Up to the present time there is no record



of any overlapping of the Hevea trees if only the lactiferous ducts
are severed without reaching the cambium. As for disease in rubber
trees, we are apt to jump at the conclusion that the jungle-grown
wild tree is healthier than its plantation prototype.

When the canker appeared on the planted Para trees in Ceylon
all the world knew of it. At once the cry was that nature abhorred
man's attempt to coerce her. That tropical trees could not be planted
in groves if they were, that nature would send disease or pest to
restore the equilibrium. To an extent this is doubtless true. It, how-
ever, assumes that the Hevea in its native forest surrounded by trees of


other kinds is free from fungi and destructive insects. This, however,
is not the case. Dr. Hennings of Berlin, Dr, Huber of Para, and Dr.
Ule, all have discovered parasitic fungi on the Hevea and on the Castilloa
Ulei. Not in one place, but from the lower Amazon up to the Andean
slopes. The fact is that just as the well fed, right living civilized man is
healthier, stronger, and more productive than the savage, so the cul-
tivated Hevea, whether in Amazonia or elsewhere, will be a larger,
stronger, healthier tree than that which struggles up in the inhospitable

But to return to our boat journey. On the surface of the igarape


through which we were passing often appeared a curious little fish,
with a pair of bulging eyes in the top of the head to view the upper world,
and another pair underneath to view the nether world. As we got further
into the island the waterway broadened. We passed many little river
huts, and occasionally met a canoe whose occupants courteously and
gravely bade us bom dia. The curving stream, fringed with palms,


hugh mocco-mocco plants with white calla like blossoms, and great
ceiba trees, was wonderfully beautiful.

Of animal life we saw little ; of birds there were parrots and hawks ;
of animals, one black monkey ; and of insects, great blue butterflies,
and one huge bird catching spider as big as a saucer.

Our botanist also pointed out a cow tree, that looked as if it



had been much milked. The natives use the milk as a beverage with no
serious after effects. It is known as the "massaranduba" and it secretes
cieamy latex, said to be very pleasant to the taste. The milk after
standing, ferments and partly coagulates, the product being an
exceedingly sticky, resinous mass that may or may not contain a certain
amount of india-rubber. It is said that on the upper rivers certain of
the balata trees furnish milk that the natives also drink.


We went ashore and filled our pockets with nuts of the rubber
tree as souvenirs. The nut of the Hcvea looks something like that of
the horse chestnut only it is three parted, containing three speckled
seeds. They look like smooth, slightly flattened nutmegs. As these
seeds ripen, the outer envelope bursts with a sound like a far away
pistol shot and the rich oily seeds drop to the ground. A number of
rodents, the agouti in particular, at the sound of this popping make
for the foot of the tree. Here thev often encounter a verv venomous


snake which lies in wait at the foot of the rubber tree for just such
hungry seed seekers.

As we were emerging into the river on the other side of the
island a sudden shower fell, and we all held a tarpaulin above our heads
until it was over. It was then that my companion exclaimed that a
wasp had stung him. The wound didn't look like a bee sting, as there


were two little punctures, close together. Being on the back of his
hand he was advised to suck it as a precaution, which he did, and no
inflammation followed.

The rain having ceased, the tarpaulin was put away, when some-
body said "There goes a centipede," and we caught a fleeting glimpse
of something that looked like an elongated earwig which ran into the
Visiting Manufacturer's pocket. It was rather a trying experience,


but he never turned a hair and sat perfectly calm, while the Exporter
with a pair of small scissors very gingerly turned the pocket inside out,
but did not find a cent or pede, either. A moment later the insect was
discovered in the fold in his trousers, and very dexterously nipped with
scissors and thrown overboard. Then we all breathed a sigh of relief,
for the bite, though not dangerous, is apt to give one fever for a few days.



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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 3 of 12)