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 4 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 4 of 12)
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'HEVEA" AND His TROPICAL WORKSHOP "SAPIUMS" AND BALATA IN THE AMAZON
TAPPING RUBBER TREES AT DAYBREAK THE IDENTIFICATION OF "CAUCHO" BRAVING
THE "DANGERS" OF THE UPRIVER JOURNEY.

I HAD visited the Museu Goeldi many times while in Para, and each
time was more and more impressed with the natural wonders
of Brazil. The museum is crowded with birds, insects, reptiles,
animals or, rather, their carefully 'preserved cadavers and a week
of careful looking- would not enable one to observe in detail a half
of what is there. The result is the visitor goes away with a misty and
mixed recollection of moths as big as shingles, flies the size of one's
hand, beetles bigger than mice, great lizards, monstrous alligators, and
snakes of all sizes, colored in infinite variety. Birds grotesque, birds
beautiful; animals unbelievably strange, and fish of such infinite variety
that imagination itself pauses helpless in stunned surprise.

In cages, dens, and enclosures surrounding the museum buildings
are also housed a goodly number of living representatives of those in
the cases inside. Not that I spent all of my time either in the museum
or the zoological garden, for there is the botanical garden also. And
furthermore, there is Dr. Jacques Huber, who knows more about the
Hevea species than any one else in the world, who has gathered many
of the typical sorts about him, and is steadily observing them day by
day as they develop into mature trees.

The doctor, by the way, in the course of our many conversations,
suggested a new theory for the greater "nerve" in smoked rubber than
appears in the unsmoked. He explained that a pcllc. from the time
it is formed, undergoes a natural, continuous, solidifying pressure, caused
by the evaporation of the water from the outside layers and their
consequent contraction. Unsmoked rubber, on the other hand, put
up either in sheet or rectangular block form, experiences no such pressure.

49



50 THE RUBBER COUNTRY

The theory seemed to me worthy of note. I remember that in Panama,
in gathering Castilloa rubber, we rigged some crude presses to get the
water out, and in some instances, where the rubber was left for a long
time, its strength was greatly enhanced.

As I have said, the worthy Doctor knows the Heveas. He has
quietly, patiently, and persistently specialized on them for years. And
it was with exceeding interest that I heard him state that the Hevea
Brasiliensis is after all, the one producer of really high grade rubber.
He knew them all from the Brasiliensis to the Spruceana, and named
twenty varieties and their characteristics off hand. One that was new













NURSERY OF YOUNG PARA RUBBER TREES, MUSEU GOHLDT.



to me was the Randiana, named after the orchid collector Rand whom New
Englanclers will remember and regret. A very thrifty specimen of this
is in the gardens, but it gives no latex. It is this eminent botanist's
opinion that many other H erects will be discovered, and he is ever on
the outlook for them.

Nor is his attention concentrated upon the trees that produce fine
Para rubber. The Sapiums, which are most plentiful throughout the Ama-
zon country, are known to him equally well, and he has gathered ten
varieties into the garden for observation. Most of them produce a latex
that is exceedingly resinous. One or two species, however, give a good






OF THE AMAZON 51

grade of rubber, and were labor plenty they would be well worth
exploitation.

I had many samples of balata from the Amazon region and took
occasion to ask him of the Mimusops in the Brazils. Just as much at
home on that topic as on Hevea, he named a dozen varieties and told
of sections where the trees are abundant, although the gum is not
gathered or valued at present in Brazil.

The learned Doctor has worked for many years in Brazil, often-
times I fear without the appreciation that his energy and industry have
deserved. At last, however, both the government and the world at large
seem to be awakening to his value. What he had long wished for,




MUSEU GOELDI ADMINISTRATION BUILDING.



an experiment station, has been established about 150 kilometers from the
city, situated on the railroad that runs down to Braganc;a, and he is
much encouraged. By the by, he has invented a tapping tool that looked
pretty good to me. I went out to the gardens at daybreak and saw him
''herringbone" some Hcvea Brasilicnsis trees with it. It is interesting
to note that they gave exactly the same product for their size as Hevea
trees in the Far East.

The rubber known as cancho had been on the market years before
the tree that produces it was identified botanically. For a long time
it was claimed that it was an Hcvca product In 1898, however, Dr.
Huber visited the Ucayali river and, after much searching, was able to
find a few caucho trees. The difficulty in finding them was due to the



THE RUBBER COUNTRY






fact those that remained were growing in dense forests far removed
from the waterways. It will be remembered that the tree is cut down
in every instance to secure the rubber ; hence its scarcity. At the time
of his visit it was not blossoming or fruiting, and only leaves and twigs
could be secured, but these proved it to be a Castilloa. Dr. Huber and
the Italian botanist Dr. Buscalioni agreed that it must be the Castilloa
elastica, and it was not until some years later that it was identified as
a different species, Castilloa Ulei.

To those who are interested in the sources of rubber, caucho was
for a long time thought of as existing only on the upper waters of the
Amazon, notably in Peru. Dr. Huber and his colleagues, however,




MUSEU GOELDI RESERVOIR.



found it in practically the whole region of the lower Amazon, t
Trombetas, Tapajos, Xingu, and Tocantins rivers. Indeed, it is be-
coming evident .that where Heveas flourish Castilloas grow eqnallly well,
and the reverse is also true. During the year 1909 the state of Pa
shipped nearly 1,000 tons of caucho.

I dislike exceedingly to confess it, but I got badly frightened
Para and came very near taking boat back to Barbados and sending the
usual excuses to friends in Manaos, such as "important cables," ''business
complications," or the like. It came about this way. The friendly
Americans and English resident there are delighted to receive and en-
tertain fellow countrymen. Many of their visitors, however, are woe-
fully unfitted for tropical life and make ideal "fever food." Others pay



41,

:







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3 (X

w

J

a K



bo oq



54 THE RUBBER COUNTRY

no attention to cautions, but go out and hunt for fever, and find it.
Then resident friends are obliged to answer frantic cables, furnish
physicians and nurses, and stand the brunt of all the worry. Oftentimes,
too, they supply the funds necessary for cure or decent interment. They




THE TREE FROM WHICH CAUCHO COMES. ''CASTILLOA ULEI."



are perfectly willing to do this that is the former and their kindness
and generosity are spontaneous and without limit, but the strain tells.

If they are somewhat fearful for a visiting friend in Para they
are doubly so for one who goes to Manaos. When, therefore, one
after another showed me cables and letters full of fever stories from



OF THE AMAZON



55



the upriver rubber center it began to make an impression, and I found
myself formulating reasons for dodging. But if one will only dose
one's self with a sufficiency of forebodings, a reaction is sure to come,
and courage returns. This was my case. And of a sudden I found
myself determined to discover what Manaos would do for me. Further




"HEVEA RANDIANA" A BARREN RUBBER TREE.

than that came the belief that with common sense and care I should
probably get through all right. They were exceedingly nice, those
friends of mine, when I rendered my decision. One, with a whimsical
smile, said :

"It's sure to be interesting anyhow. Say your prayers and trust
in c as car a"



56 THE RUBBER COUNTRY

Another secured for me the cabin de luxe on a fine Hamburg-Ameri-
can boat and outlined a river journey princely in its comfort and very
speedy. This I refused, although with real regret. I had my eye on
one of the smaller Booth boats that had accommodations for only six-
teen passengers and would carry on that trip only two, myself and
companion. It was a freight boat, going upriver almost empty, which
would mean hugging the shores to avoid the current. It was a rubber
boat, and its captain had been making the river journey for 30 years.
There would be no shufBeboard, no pleasantly wasted hours in the smok-
ing room, no fascinating acquaintances. All of which would give me
added time and opportunity for observation and work.

We boarded the boat in the early afternoon and the Captain
promptly gave us the run of the ship. There was no social hall but the
chart house deck, above which was the bridge, was roomy, high above
the water, screened from sun and rain, and, although the Captain's
private domain, he made it ours for the river voyage. If I had out-
fitted a swell ocean going yacht the equipment would not have been as
practical as that afforded by this steady, roomy, matronly freighter.

The anchor came up about 5 in the afternoon and, facing a pleasant
breeze, with half of the propeller out of water, "grinding air," we started
out through the tangle of low, heavily-wooded islands that cluster about
the mouths of the Para and Tocantins rivers, heading for the "Narrows"
in the care of two Indian pilots who knew the many channels day or
night by instinct. Unless it came on to rain very heavily we would run
all night. It was soon too dark to see much, so I turned in.






CHAPTER IX.

How THE PARA RUBBER TREE GOT ITS NAME A BIT OF BOTANICAL HISTORY
GRADES OF BRAZILIAN RUBBER HEBREW PEDDLERS ON THE AMAZON DISTRIBUTION
OF THE INDUSTRY OUTFITTING THE RUBBER GATHERERS THE RUBBER GATHERER
AND How HE LIVES LOCATING THE PARA RUBBER TREES TAPPING AND COLLECTING
OF RUBBER DESCRIBED IN DETAIL.

THE present botanical name for the tree that produces the best
grade of Para rubber is Hevea Brosiliensis. Those who write
informing articles on India-rubber from ancient encyclopedias are
very apt to speak of the tree as Siphonia elastica. As a result there has
been some confusion. This is what happened.

In 1775 the botanist Aublet named a Para tree found in French
Guiana as Hcvca Guyahensis.

In 1807 Persoon thought Siphonia elastica sounded better and so
renamed it. The name stuck for about 60 years.

Then Miiller reestablished the name Hevea and the whole botanical
world to-day stands by his decision.

The rubber that is collected in the state of Para comes in three
grades: fine, (/z/m), medium (cutrafina) and coarse (scruaniby). This
latter grade is known in England as negro heads. The rubber gathered
on the island of Mara jo and other islands and on a portion of the main-
land is classed as Islands rubber. An especially good grade known
as Caviana comes from the island of that name. Other rubbers produced
chiefly on tributaries of the lower Amazon are Cameta from the Tocantins
river; Xingu from the river of that name and Itaituba from the Tapajos.
Upriver rubber is the general name for all of the rubber coming from the
state of Amazonas and the upper tributaries of the Amazon. This is,
of course, Para rubber in the three grades aforementioned and is graded
as Manaos and Madeira. The products of the great rubber producing
territory in Bolivia, Peru and the Acre are also known as Upriver.

Curious bits of history as to the early trade in Para rubber are
constantly cropping up. Back in the early 'go's the lower Amazon was
overrun by Hebrew peddlers who went about in boats, supplying whatever

57



58 THE RUBBER COUNTRY

would tempt the rubber gatherer and for a time they practically monopo-
lized the rubber trade there. The State, however, put a tax of $500 a
head upon them and while it did not actually drive them out of business,
it checked them so that other merchants had a chance.

Fine Para is brought to the city in bulk, the coarse often being
strung on lengths of bush rope like a huge necklace. Both fine and




"HEVEA BRASILIENSIS/' THE PARA RUBBER TREE.

coarse are sometimes packed in barrels and if the receptacle be tight
it is filled with water to prevent shrinkage.

To show how generally rubber is distributed throughout the state,
49 of the 53 municipalities produce it ; the bulk coming however, from 35.
Each municipality is governed by an Intendente with a power to assess
local taxes, all of which are collected at Para. On rubber they amount
to /4 to YT. a cent per pound. This is in addition to the regular state
export tax of 22 per cent. When steamers arrive from any of these



OF THE AMAZON



59



municipalities, at Para the captain is obliged to produce an exact manifest
of cargo and submit it to the rccebedoria and only when they iasiie^ a
clearance certificate can the consignee secure any portion of the cargo

The beginning of rubber production is really with the aviador, who
furnishes the rubber producer, or scringueiro, with all supplies and, in re-
turn, receives and sells his rubber. The aviador es, and there are hundreds
of them, big and little, have outfitting places not far from the water front
in Para and Manaos. Some of them are not much more than offices :




LEAVES AND NUTS FROM THE "HEVEA BRASILIENSIS."



others are great and well-stocked stores. When an aviador discovers
what a seringueiro is going to need for the coming season, he supplies
what he may have from his own stock, which may be much or nothing.
He then divides the order into dry goods, provisions, etc., making up
separate orders for city merchants who handle these goods. They fill the
orders, packed and delivered on the pier for shipment. The aviador then
bills these goods, accepting in payment therefor, notes that range from
three to six months. These notes are discounted by the local banks, and
sometimes are extended for another six months, if times are hard. The



6c



THE RUBBER COUNTRY



discount rates are from 10 to 24 per cent., according to the standing of
the merchant.

The aviador is overcharged in his purchase about 50 per cent, by the
general merchant This is because of the risk that the latter takes, as some
aviadores never pay at all, while others may not be able to pay for one or
two years. When the aviador receives rubber he sells it for the seringueiro,
who is credited with the amount received. In remitting to theseringueiro,
if money is sent, the commission is 20 per cent. ; if merchandise, 10 per
cent.

In times past, according to the stories of some rubber merchants, it




RUBBER TREE GROWING ON RIVER BANK.

(Showing taproot reaching barely to the water. The laterals never thrive where it is

permanently wet.)



was an exceedingly easy thing to become an aviador. One asset only
was necessary. That was the friendship of a director of a local bank.
The man who planned to become an aviador would register his firm at the
Junta Commercial with a capital perhaps of 50 contos. Through the
director he would discount notes for that amount. This money would
be used for buying shares in that bank, which would be pledged in another
bank for a certain amount. This money he would deposit in a third bank.
By this means the aviador was able to give two banks as references. In
one of them he was a stockholder to the amount of about 45 contos, and
in the other a depositor of 40 contos. Without a cent of money of his
own, he would be rated as being worth about 100 contos When he there-



OF THE AMAZON



61



fore sent letters to rubber producers offering to outfit them and sell their
rubber, they were much impressed and he got the business.

The manner just cited is not the usual way, by any means, and it
could not be done to-day. The bulk of the rubber business is built with
real capital and many of the atiadores are seringueiros who, selling their
places or retaining them as they choose, established themselves in Para or
Manaos as amadores. The aviador is the most generous man in the world
in certain respects. He will gladly supply the seringueiro with two or
three times as much as he orders, and when the proper time comes take




ti

.



SKETCH SHOWING TRUNK OF HEVEA BRASILIENSIS AND

LACTIFEROUS TUBES MUCH ENLARGED.

A Latex tubes in bark. C Wood.

B Cambium. D Proper depth of cut.

a mortgage on his estates, and very rarely is the mortgage liquidated.
Indeed, many times it is foreclosed and the seringal or rubber estate
thereafter is the property of the aviador.

The amadores also attend to another detail of the rubber gathering
usiness, which is the arranging for contract laborers. Each year, before
the beginning of the rubber season, they send agents to Ceara, Rio Grande
do Norte, Parahyba and Piauhy, where abide the hard-working Brazil-
ians, commonly known as the "Cearenses" They live very well by culti-



62



THE RUBBER COUNTRY



vating the land and raising cattle; that is, when the rains are regular;
but one dry season works great havoc. Their crops are destroyed, the
cattle die of hunger and thirst, and the Amazon and rubber gathering is
all that stands between them and starvation. It is usually necessary for
the agent of the aviador to advance a little money and pay the passage of
the laborer to the seringaL These advances are later deducted from his
earnings.

The Cearense, with what little baggage he owns, including always*




DWELLING OF RUBBER GATHERERS ON THE AMAZON.



a gaudy handkerchief and a business-like stiletto, is loaded on one of
the small river boats with hundreds of others and started on his journey.
This is at the time of high water, the start being made in the latter part of
March or the first part of April, and it is probably the beginning of May
before the seringal is reached. Here he is installed in one of the thatched
huts provided for the laborers, if he has his family with him ; if he travels
as a bachelor he may sling his hammock in a large thatched house with
the rest of the unmarried men.



OF THE AMAZON 63

A seringal is really a little village, which centers about the big frame
house roofed with tile where the manager lives, where is also the office
and the store. Round about this are grouped the thatched huts of the




PLAN OF A "SERINGAL."

(Showing Estradas, Number of trees in each, and seringueiro's huts. Hut number 1 houses 7"
ten, who work 15 estradas; number 2, 6 men 12 estradas, and number 3, 2 men, 5 estradas.)-






laborers. These villages are located on rising ground beyond the reach
of the river, and cut off as they are from the rest of the world for months,
at a time, the manager is really absolute ruler.



64 THE RUBBER COUXTRY

The Amazon begins its great rise in December, and the land is not
uncovered so that men can work until about the middle of May. During
all of this time the tapping of rubber trees is discontinued. The laborers
who remain, spend their time in smoking and sleeping and in endless




"SERINGUEIRO" GOING HIS ROUNDS.



trivial gossip. Occasionaly they take too much cachaca and do some
desperate fighting. According to a physician whom I know, whose prac-
tice lies in the waterways above Iquitos, the Cearenses do a good deal of
shooting at each other. One of his chief duties was the extraction of
bullets from rubber gatherers' arms and legs. He said they never seemed
to hit each other in the body, and it was only rarely that one was killed.



OF THE AMAZON 65

His fee, incidently, for extracting a bullet was paid in rubber, and at
present prices would be about $1,000.

As has been often explained, a tropical forest rarely shows a pre-
ponderance of any one kind of tree. It is a heterogeneous crowding of
hundreds of different kinds of trees, criss-crossed and lashed together by
giant vines. Where the rubber trees flourish they may be thirty feet apart
or hundreds of feet apart. They certainly are never close together. In
order to work them, narrow pathways are cut through the forest, leading




TAPPING A PARA RUBBER TREE.

(The seringueiro holds a hatchet in one hand and in the other a latex cup; several cups have
already been attached to the tree; he carries a can for collecting latex and always a gun.)






from one tree to another in some general direction, until 50 or 60 trees
have been located. The path then turns, either to the right or the left,
and is continued back to the central camp from rubber tree to rubber tree.
This makes a very irregular ellipse and is called an estrada, or path.

The rubber gatherers do not waste effort, and if the reader has pic-
tured a sylvan pathway, broad and smooth and easy to traverse, he is
oing too far. A stranger, unused to a forest, would never suspect the



66



THE RUBBER COUNTRY



existence of these paths, and once he was on one would have difficulty in
following it.

The first thing the laborers on a seringa! are set at, when a new
season begins, is the cleaning of the old estradas. Five or six months in a




SERINGUEIROS BRINGING HOME LATEX.



tropical forest bring great changes. Huge trees have fallen across the
paths, dragging others in their fall and often making impassable barriers
around which a way must be cut. Vines and young trees have sprung



OF THE AMAZON 67

i-p and grown enormously, and everything that nature could do to efface
man's work has been done. So that the cleaning of the estradas is jio_
light task. It means not only reopening the path, but cutting a circle
about two feet wide around each rubber tree, so that there will be room
to work. Then comes the opening of new estradas, if there are laborers
enough to work them. And next in order is the tapping.

This starts very early in the morning. The seringueiro rises at 4
o'clock, boils some coffee which he hurriedly drinks, and, provided with a
machadinha, or little tapping ax, and several hundred tin cups, starts
barefooted for his estrada. When he reaches the first rubber tree he
attaches as many cups as the size of the tree warrants, usually in a circle
as high up as he can conviently cut. These cups are attached directly
under the cuts, and catch the latex or rubber milk as it flows out.

The capable rubber gatherer carries a little finely kneaded clay to
stick the cups to the trees if he uses clay cups ; if he uses tin ones the top
is bent over and caught under the bark. A great many gatherers rub
the tree down with cocoa husks before tapping. This removes mosses and
enables them to affix their cups much more easily. A native gatherer
will often point out a tree calling it cancado, which means that it gives
little latex and is diseased and not worth tapping.

There is a great difference in trees as far as the production of latex
goes. Some bleed freely, others reluctantly ; some furnish thick, creamy
latex, others thin latex, and occasionally one gives none at all.

Although alone in the jungle that shelters many wild beasts and
venomous snakes, the rubber worker is very rarely molested. The wild
creatures all get out of . the way of man when they can. To be sure,
if the tree tapper should leave his pile of tin cups for a short time, a
trouble seeking monkey might swing down from the branches above,
lift the stack, and throw it high in the air just for the delight of seeing
the cups scatter.

From tree to tree goes the rubber tapper until all on his estrada have
their girdle of cups. He now discards the tapping tool and, taking some
vessel, very frequently an empty kerosene can, begins the collection of
the latex. His first visit is to the tree first tapped, where the latex has
probably ceased running, and the cups may be a quarter, a half, or nearly
full, depending on the productiveness of the tree. By the time he has
finished this round and collected all of the latex it is 9 or 10 o'clock, and
he is ready for breakfast. This he prepares himself and it usually con-
sists of dried beef and beans, always accompanied by farinha.



CHAPTER X.

THE SMOKING OF THE RUBBER MILK PALM NUT FUEL WHAT BECOMES OF
THE DRIPPINGS BRANDING METHOD OF COLLECTING "CAMETA" INDIANS AS
NATURAL BOTANISTS SIZE OF RUBBER TREES VARIOUS INVENTIONS FOR PRESERVING
LATEX AND SMOKING THE RUBBER MILK BLENDING OF OTHER RUBBER MILKS WITH
HEVEA TAPPING SEASON.

THE rubber worker is now ready to do the day's smoking. On
the fire smoldering in his hut he heaps some of the heavy oily
nuts that are borne abundantly by the "urucuri" palm (Attain
e.vcelsa). Over this, if he has it, he places a funnel that is like a truncated
cone open at each end, part of the lower edge being cut away to make a


1 2 4 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 4 of 12)