100 Years Ago: September 1920
This is the sixty-eighth installment in my series of reviews of National Geographic magazines written upon their one hundredth anniversary of publication.
The first article in this month’s issue is entitled “Rio de Janeiro, in the Land of Lure”, and was written by Harriet Chalmers Adams, author of several articles including “Picturesque Paramaribo”, “Kaleidoscopic La Paz”, “The First Transandine Railroad from Buenos Aires to Valparaiso”, “Cuzco, America’s Ancient Mecca”, “In French Lorraine”, etc. The article contains thirty-nine black-and-white photographs, of which a full thirty are full-page in size. The article also contains a sketch map of Rio de Janeiro on page 173.
Sketch Map courtesy of Philip Riviere
On a forested hill overlooking Rio de Janeiro, not far from the eighteenth-century stone aqueduct which brought cool mountain water from Tijuca, lived an old man of Belgian blood who had earned a living since boyhood by catching butterflies. The author found the old fellow in the dingy little workshop where he sorted, stretched, and dried his treasures, mounting them in pasteboard boxes lined with pith, to which they could be securely pinned. He had become feeble, and the boys in the neighborhood did most of the netting for him. Once he reached too far and fell off a cliff, and lay for two days and nights in the jungle before he was found. “I am nearly eighty,” he told the author, “and have lived on this hill since I was a boy. Before the war most of my shipments were to Belgium; but now I sell to curio dealers in town and to tourists at the hotel on the hill. We have many varieties of butterflies in this part of the country, and this morpho is the finest of them all.” He pointed to a gorgeous eight-inch metallic blue insect tipped with brown. “It flies here mostly in March.” As multicolored and varied in beauty as the butterflies of the tropics was the metropolis of Brazil. When autumn leaves were falling in the “States”, it was springtime in Rio de Janeiro. Then the treetops on the hills were all abloom in pink and purple, scarlet and gold. In splendor of hue and setting, this great city of the South was unrivaled the world over. Here granite peaks and turquoise sea, tropic forest and rainbow-tinted town, met and harmonized. This city of lure terraced up from a glorious bay – the Bay of Guanabara, mountain-encircled and isle-bejeweled. From the shore, where the parks and boulevards were fast crowding out the old Rio of narrow streets, rose the forested hills on whose slopes the lovelier portion of the city lied.
Spain was a land of paintings, Portugal of gardens. In Brazil many things Portuguese had persisted besides the mother tongue. Colorful indeed were the gardens of Rio. There were walled gardens surrounding houses built in the days of the empire. Those houses usually stood at the head of a canyon, or on the crest of a hill. They were dignified one-story buildings with large rooms, high ceilings, and many windows. Their vivid color was what the Brazilians called “Portuguese blue”, crowned with the reddish brown of weather-beaten tiles. In the gardens of those homes towered royal palms, great jaqueira trees heavy with fruit, wide-spreading mangos, and South Brazilian Parana pines with straight betasseled branches. Those noble trees, foreign to Rio’s hills, told that the gardens were planted back in the first Dom Pedro’s day, or perhaps in the time of his father, Dom Joao the Sixth. In 1808 Portuguese royalty fled from Napoleonic despotism in Europe to set up court in Brazil. The following year, the prince regent, afterwards Dom Joao VI, imported the royal palm of the Antilles and planted it in the botanical gardens of Rio. There the original palm still stood. “Our Mother Palm was sick some years ago,” a Brazilian told Mrs. Adams, “and we were greatly alarmed lest she should die. From this single specimen have come all the wonderful palms which beautify our parks and avenues. We treated our royal patient with care, gave her a medicinal bath, and she recovered.” The author went out to call on that historic tree. With all of its one hundred and twenty feet of height, it did not look hardy. The director of the botanical gardens, however, assured her that it was now free from the ravages of insects and would live for many years. On the railing surrounding the palm was a plaque with this inscription:
Near the palm was a bust of Dom Joao, whose forethought and love of gardens greatly enriched the flora of Brazil. During his reign, valuable Asiatic trees, such as the mango, jaqueira, breadfruit, and tamarind, and many of the Old World flowering trees which glorified Rio’s hills, then came to Brazil through Portugal’s far-flung colonies in Asia and Africa; or were brought from Cayenne, in French Guiana, then known as the Isle of France, where the French maintained a botanical garden from a very early period. In the old gardens were other marks of bygone days besides the venerable trees. Here and there was a wall faced with blue and white Dutch tiles, which found their way to Brazil when Holland invaded its northern coast, in the seventeenth century. On some of the tall gateposts stood big blue or yellow porcelain ornaments in the form of pineapples, imported from Portugal one hundred or more years prior. “They bring good luck to the household,” an old servant told Mrs. Adams. Color ran riot. The purple bougainvillea grew to be a tree; the flaming poinsettia became a giant bush. There was the glowing coral vine; the hibiscus in red and in rose; the violet and lavender manaca. Brilliant variegated crotons bordered the paths. Most conspicuous were the gorgeous flowering trees, such as the native cassia, or “golden shower”, whose yellow clusters resemble the wisteria; the West Indies salmon and red frangipani of fragrant memory; and the flamboyant, or royal pointana of Madagascar, the joy of the garden.
To the author the modern architecture of the city houses was much too ornate. Rio de Janeiro was like a lovely woman, who needed little embellishment. Here buildings on simple lines were best. All the houses, however, had the redeeming quality of varied and vivid coloring, which, combined with terracotta earth and emerald foliage, formed one of the most attractive features of the city. While terracotta, in soil, roofs, and garden walls, was the predominating tone, almost every shade was represented in that iridescent town. Many of the new homes clung to the hillside below the street and were entered from the roof. Others of those cliff-dwellings perched high above the thoroughfare and were reached by a long flight of steps or by elevator on an inclined plane. Some bore the name of the lady of the manor over the front door – Villa Rosita” or “Villa Lucia” – and the dark-eyed lady herself was often seen leaning from the window. Although the women of the capital had evolved to a much freer life than their provincial sisters, they were on the street less than Northern women and were, on the whole, greater home-lovers. Butterflies and birds gladdened every garden; but it was on Santa Thereza Hill that the forest birds congregated in greatest numbers. They woke the author early every morning with their cheery whistling and limpid song. The bird that played star role all day long was the sabia, beloved of Brazilian poets. They always had it perched high in the palm tree, but in reality, it hid in the bush. There were several varieties of the sabia – of the forest and of the shore – birds about the size of robins. The woody-colored one with the orange breast, Sabia larangeira, was the sweetest singer. In variety of form and coloring the birds of Brazil, like the butterflies, outclassed those of other parts of the world. In London, a Brazilian butterfly sold for $150.
Many and varied were the street venders, who sang their wares and clapped their hands at the garden gate to attract attention. There were men who balanced burdens on their heads and others who bore weights on their shoulders, the former being more in evidence. The custom among the working class of bearing burdens on the head was a survival of slavery days. Everything was carried in that fashion, from tin pan to piano. It took four men to carry a piano. One man balanced a gigantic breadbasket, weighing ninety pounds, toiling with it up a steep path, one hand steadying the basket, the other grasping a stool. The stool was not for the man to rest, but for the basket. There were more than fifteen hundred of those bread men, each with a license displayed on the basket or on his handbag, which was worn on the hip. They wore tamancos, or heelless wooden slippers, whose rhythmic “clap-clap” was heard in every part of the city, and a circular wad of cloth on their head as a cushion for the burden. Every vendor had his particular call. There was quite an Oriental touch to the city. The vendors who sold vegetables and chickens reminded the author of the Chinese coolies of her youth, growing up in California. They had six baskets suspended on poles, three on each side, slung across their shoulders. The cream-colored zebu, sacred ox of India, was the beast of burden on the hills of the city. There, as in Portugal, oxen were yoked by the shoulders instead of by the horns, as in Spanish lands. On the level streets of Rio, mingling with the countless head-bearers, were carters trudging beside their mule teams, men trundling hand-trucks, and cake-sellers with wares in boxes on wheels. Those cake-sellers were popular, as the Brazilians were very fond of sweets. A unique sight was a cart with two huge wheels, carrying granite blocks or great logs suspended by chains from the axle.
The history of Rio started with Pedro Alvares Cabral, the Portuguese navigator, who in 1500, started out to follow the course of the Phoenicians around Africa, as described by Herodotus, and drifted West to Brazil. A painting commemoration his discovery, on Easter Sunday, hung in the Portuguese library in Rio. It was in a little port south of Bahia that the thirteen ships of the fleet cast anchor and on its shores the first mass in Brazil was celebrated. In the National Library was the original letter sent to the King of Portugal by Pedro Vaz de Caminha announcing Cabral’s discovery. Where Gloria Park met Beria Mar Drive, skirting the bay, stood the imposing monument erected to the memory of Cabral three centuries after the discovery. In the cathedral, in a vault to the right of the altar, were the remains of the navigator, brought from Portugal in 1903 and there reverently interred, just as the remains of Christopher Columbus were long ago brought from Spain to the cathedral in Santo Domingo. Estacio de Sa founded Rio de Janeiro in 1565, although earlier explorers cast anchor in the bay, known to the native Tamoyo Indians as Guanabara – “arm of the ocean”. Historians disagreed as to who first entered the harbor. Perhaps it was Amerigo Vespucci in 1502, or Goncalo Coelho the same year. Some credited Joao Dias de Soles with the discovery in 1515. It was certain that Fernando de Magalhaes (Magellan) spent a fortnight there in 1519, on his way around the world. Next came Martim Affonso de Souza in 1531, on his way to found Sao Vicente, near Santos. He thought the bay was the mouth of a great river and called it Rio de Janeiro, River of January. Even in 1920, Brazilians of the capital called themselves Fluminense, or river folk.
In 1555 an adventurous Frenchman, Nicolas Durand de Villegaignon, Knight of Malta, arrived with a band of Huguenots, and on an island near the entrance to the bay, still called Villegaignon, was held the first Protestant service in the New World, sixty-five years before the Pilgrim Fathers landed on Plymouth Rock. It was with the intention of expelling for all time these French colonists that Mem de Sa, Portuguese Governor of Bahia, sent his nephew, Estacio de Sa, with a body of soldiers to found a settlement on Guanabara Bay. The village, named Sao Sebastiao, in honor of the Portuguese king, was located on a peninsula at the base of a great rock known as Pao d’Assucar, or Sugar Loaf. From it, Estacio de Sa went forth in 1567 to battle the French and their Indian allies. He was victorious, but was mortally wounded. There was an impressive painting depicting his death. He was laid to rest in a humble chapel. The settlement was moved to the summit of a hill called Morro de Castello, or Castle Hill. There the church of Sao Sebastiao was built from 1567 to 1583. It had been remodeled thrice since then. There the remains of the city’s founder were moved. Mrs. Adams visited the tomb, a rough stone slab in the floor before the altar. She asked the Capuchin Monk, who showed her around, if he thought the hill would be leveled for the ever-growing city. He said that sadly it would and that the tomb would be moved to the cathedral. Indians lived on Castle Hill and they obeyed no sanitary regulations, to the despair of the Department of Health. For better public health, all the hills by the waterfront should be leveled. Just at the foot of the hill was a business thoroughfare which compared favorably with Fifth Avenue. Gomes Freire de Andrade, Count of Bobadella, was governor of the colony from 1733 to 1763. He introduced the first printing press and completed the famous Carioca aqueduct. He was instrumental in moving the capital there from Bahia, although he died shortly before the realization of his dream. Carioca was an Indian word meaning “a descendant of the whites”, in contrast with mixtures between Indians, Africans, and Europeans. Thus the “Cariocas” represented Rio’s aristocracy. The author loved the old aqueduct, long the city’s main source of mountain water, but grieved that it was being destroyed to widen the road for motorists.
The vistas from the mountain heights overlooking Rio were unparalleled. Turning bay-ward, she looked down on to the treetops of the sloping virgin forest. A scarlet-wing bird flitted to a nearby tree-fern; a big blue butterfly zigzagged lazily by. There were purple orchids within reach and waxen begonias at her feet. Far below, set in the verdure, gleamed the kaleidoscopic city with its crescent shores. The beaches had such euphonious names – Formosa, Santa Luzia, Lapa, Gloria, Flamingo, Botafogo, and Vermelha. The bay, set in its amphitheater of hills, sparkled like a sapphire. To and fro among the ships at anchor plied the busy paddle-wheel ferry-boats to the islands, and to Nictheroy, the little sister-city across the way. In the distance towered the blue spires of the lofty Organ Mountains. On that day she saw the sharp crag called “The Finger of God”. Often it was veiled in mist. Oceanward, she looked down on titanic granite mountains rising sheer from the sea. There was bulky Babylonia, and flat-topped Gavea. Between them lied Rio’s suburban beaches – Leme, Copacabana, Ipanema, and Leblon – in a glistening chain, their white villas nestled between hill and shore. The Avenida Atlantica, which connected them, was equaled only by boulevards along the Mediterranean. One could motor from the city to those beaches and on to Gavea over a new road cut in the rock high above the sea, climbing to the divide at Tijuca, and dropping down, on the bay side of the range, to the stating place in the city – a wonder circuit of forty miles or more. Returning to the city through Rua Conde de Bomfim, she passed the little park known as Praca Tiradentes, where, in 1792, the first martyr of Brazilian liberty, Sub-lieutenant Joaquin Jose da Silva Xavier, nicknamed “Tiradentes”, or Tooth-Puller”, was executed. In the neighboring State of Minas Geraes that this young officer, inspired by the success of the American Revolution, headed a band of patriots bent on throwing off the Portuguese yoke. Tiradentes was tried and executed and his companions were exiled to Portuguese Africa, but Brazil would celebrate the centennial of her independence in 1922.
Brazil swung into a new cycle in 1808, when Portuguese royalty arrived from Lisbon to set up court in Rio, Dom Joao and his mother came ashore in the royal barge, still preserved [in 1920] at one of the island naval bases. That same barge, used only two other times, was sent out to meet Elihu Root on his famous South American tour. The author had a map of Rio, printed in 1808, showing the city that Dom Joao found. It was a maze of narrow, uneven streets and narrower alleys, lighted at night by tallow lanterns hung out by public-spirited citizens. It was rich in churches, convents, hospitals, barracks, a theater, and nineteen public squares. Dom Joao’s portrait showed a portly gentleman with pompadour and sideburns. He was a patron of arts and letters, and brought with him from Portugal the royal library of 60,000 volumes and the “old masters” that graced the Academy of Bellas Artes. The national library was one of his lasting memories, alone worth a visit to Brazil. There were 5,000 maps, 400,000 catalogued volumes, and 500,000 manuscripts. Mrs. Adams saw a Latin manuscript in microscopic writing, of the year 1300; the Mazarin Bible of 1462, the first Bible printed from movable type; a first (1572) edition of Camoes’ “Lusiadas”; a first edition of Hakluyt’s Voyages, 1625; and countless other interesting books. The library had a modern book-carrier and fumigated all its books – a practice which could well have been followed the world over. There it served the double purpose of sanitation and the destruction of boring insects.
Dom Joao’s botanical garden was [in 1920] the finest in the New World and equaled only by that of Buitenzorg, Java. Its century-old imported bamboos were as tall as forest trees, and its native Victoria Regia lilies most queenly of their kind. Its Royal Palm Avenue, almost eighteen hundred feet long, was second only to Rio’s Quadruple Palm Avenue bordering the Mangue Canal. In the early days those palms were a mark of royal distinction and were only planted in parks and avenues near city and country palaces. The story went that a slave stole some seeds and sold them. In 1920, those “feather-dusters of the gods” were in every part of the city. There was a free distribution of seeds and plants from the botanical garden. The author liked best the great trees from the Brazilian wilderness – the jacaranda, sepucaia, ceiba, and the like. In the garden, away from the jungle battle of the survival of the fittest, one could better appreciate those pillars of God. Old carved furniture made from the jacaranda brought a high price at the curio dealers in Rio. It was black, and as hard and heavy as ebony. The sepucaia was the most beautiful of trees, with leaves that turned from pink to green in the spring, violet blossoms, and great seed-cups like those of the castanha, which Americans called the “Brazil Nut”. The ceiba, with its formidable buttresses, was so sure of its foundation that it towered above all other trees. The Quinta da Boa Vista, some distance from the heart of the city, was the country homes of royalty. That splendid estate, now Rio’s finest park, was presented to Dom Joao by a Portuguese citizen. On the king’s return to Europe it was claimed by English bankers for crown debts and purchased from them by the Brazilian Government. The palace was now the home of the National Museum. National Geographic Society members would enjoy a visit to that museum, with its remarkable Indian collections from the upper Amazon; its Brazilian birds, butterflies, woods, and minerals; and its gallery devoted to “Rondonia”, the recently discovered land in Matto Grosso, named for General Candido Rondon, the Brazilian explorer.
In 1821 Dom Joao returned to Lisbon, leaving his son, Pedro, behind. Brazils independence was foreshadowed in his letter to his boy. The king urged him “to place the crown on thine own head rather than have it fall to an adventurer”, even though it meant their lifelong separation. That led to the fateful September hour in 1822 by the River Ypiranga when Dom Pedro uttered his battle-cry, “Independence or Death!” Thus, the seventh of September was the Brazilian Fourth of July and “Ypiranga” the slogan. In choosing the national hero, Brazil named not Tiradentes, but Bonifacio – Jose Bonifacio de Andrade e Silva – who lived between 1763 and 1838. Born in Santos, he went at eighteen to Portugal, where he received degrees in law and philosophy, and fought for a number of countries against France. Returning to Brazil as an educator when he was passed fifty, his name soon stood for his country’s independence. It was he who persuaded Dom Pedro to proclaim the Brazilian monarchy. He was a minister in the first emperor’s cabinet and tutor and guide to his son, who became Pedro II. His portrait represented a gentle, gray-haired man with an intelligent, rather sad face. Beyond the stirring Ypiranga prelude and a magnificent equestrian statue commemorating independence, there were in the capital few reminders of Brazil’s first emperor. Owing to political strife, he abdicated in 1831, retiring to Europe, as his father had done, leaving the throne to his son, then a child of six. There was a painting of the abdication scene: the emperor, tall and grave, was standing near a group of men, hanging the fateful document to the minister. The empress, seated on a divan, with her arms around a golden-haired boy, wept. A woman, kneeling, kissed the boy’s hand – “Long live Dom Pedro II!”
Dom Pedro II was Brazil’s biggest name. He led his country into the brotherhood of great nations. With him wisdom and kindliness were preeminent. He was accessible to the humblest of his subjects. There was much of the city still closely associated with his rule, which ended in 1889. The coat of arms of the House of Braganca was still to be seen on many buildings. There were street names such as Marquez de Sao Vicente, Barao de Petropolis, and Visconde de Maranguape. The titled Brazilians still met in the country, and the author realized that not so many years ago Rio de Janeiro was the abode of royalty. Closely associated with imperial rule in decline was the emperor’s daughter, Dona Isabel. While princess regent, during one of her father’s visits to Europe, she signed the most vital decree ever issued in the country. Mrs. Adams saw the document and the pen, set with diamonds and emeralds, with which the princess signed it, the decree of May 13, 1888, which liberated 1,500,000 slaves. As early as 1580 there were 10,000 African slaves in the country, 20,000 “tame” Indians, 5,000 mamelucos of Indian and African blood, and 15,000 Portuguese colonists. Following Dom Joao’s arrival, in 1808, 20,000 slaves were imported annually. After Portugal recognized Brazil’s independence a convention concluded between Great Britain and Brazil, in 1830. It made Brazil’s slave trade illegal and to be treated as piracy. A large number of blacks captured by slave-runners by British vessels were turned over to the Brazilian Government as “free Africans”. Great Britain afterward claimed that many of those “emancipados” were sold into slavery. That led to investigations and trouble. At the time it was claimed that there were 3,000,000 blacks in Brazil. That number gradually decreased as the children of slaves were liberated and the African blood more or less absorbed. By 1920 the Brazilians are, on the whole, without racial prejudice.
The decree of 1888 was immensely unpopular with many of the country’s leading men. That was one reason for the fall of the empire. There was also discontent all over the country owing to the centralization of power in the capital. An Englishman who lived in Rio during those days, in 1889, when Brazil’s last emperor was exiled, told Mrs. Adams of the event. “It came about so quickly and quietly we could not realize it.” He said. “There was hardly a shot fired. Dom Pedro and his family were taken from the palace at night and put aboard a cruiser, from which they were transferred to a steamer bound for Lisbon. They say the Emperor was dazed, the Empress and Princess Isabel in tears. We went to sleep in an empire and awoke overnight in a republic.” Dom Pedro died in Paris in 1891. Princess Isabel married and still lived in France [in 1920]. In 1908 her eldest son renounced his claim to the throne in favor of his brother, Dom Luiz, whose son, born in 1909, was Pedro the Third. When the author was in Lisbon, she visited the Pantheon, where the rulers of Portugal lied. There, Dom Pedro II found a resting place in the land of his forefathers. She was unimpressed with the Pantheon. It lacked the beauty and dignity of the royal mausoleum of the Escorial in Spain. For a small fee, one could climb a ladder and gaze on the embalmed body of Dom Pedro II. This seemed most unfitting to her. There was a movement to build a national pantheon in Rio and bring the remains of Brazil’s historic personages to it in time for the 1922 centennial. The author felt the Portuguese Government would consent, and hoped Princes Isabel would too. The problem was that neither the princess, nor her sons, were permitted to enter the Republic of Brazil and visit the proposed family tomb.
Avenida Rio Branco, Rio’s finest thoroughfare, was named after Barao de Rio Branco, who, as Minister of Foreign Affairs, successfully settled the country’s boundary disputes without resorting to arms. In 1904 it was decided to carve this modern avenue out of the city, over six hundred homes being sacrificed. The avenue, more than a mile long, was so wide that it consisted of two distinct boulevards separated by a row of shade trees. It was thronged day and night with automobiles. Motorists drove on the right, instead of the left as in Buenos Aires. Pedestrians also kept to the right. The sidewalks were of black-and-white stones laid in mosaic designs, like those that were in vogue in Lisbon. The stones and workers were brought from Portugal, but similar pavements, elsewhere in the city, were homemade. Before being called “Rio Branco” this avenue was called Avenida Central. Brazilians changed street names often. Sometimes they “stuck”, but sometimes the old name won out. “Moreira Cesar” was a new name that didn’t take. Its old name was “Rue Ouvidor”. The street dated back to colonial days and it was a residential area. The Portuguese auditor, or “ouvidor” live on it, and in 1920 it was known for its fashionable shopping. The street name was like a brand. Rue Ouvidor and Rue Goncalves Diaz, named after a poet, were unique. They were very narrow, with diminutive sidewalks. No traffic was allowed, so pedestrians walked in the street. Other narrow streets were one-way, but pedestrians had difficulty getting out of the way.
It was at the movie theaters that the Cariocas knew real comfort. They had spacious waiting rooms, where one could sit and listen to music until movie time. After the first movie house started the practice, it caught on and now people refuse to stand outside or enter after the film had started. Because of the space used, the auditoriums were smaller, meaning less profit. The American favorites were popular, quite outclassing Italian and Brazilian film stars. The lottery played an important part in the life of the people, and it was so well established that it was used to raise money for charities, and not frowned upon by religious bodies. There were daily drawings, with tickets being sold in shops and on the street. There were Federal, State, and illegal lotteries. The most popular illegal lottery to the working class was “Jogo do Bicho”. In the legal lotteries, one played a number, in the “bicho” one bet on a cat, dog, rabbit, or some other animal, or bicho, corresponding to the numbers in the day’s national lottery drawing.
Great credit was due to the Brazilian scientist, Dr. Oswaldo Cruz, who died in 1917. He fought for sanitation, and completely transformed the capital. His memorial was the Oswaldo Cruz Institute, which was run by the government for medical research. One of the staff was an eminent American pathologist. An American public health specialist was director of the Brazilian branch of the Rockefeller Foundation’s work for the eradication of hookworm and malaria. His mail office was in Rio and work was being done in many stations throughout the republic. In Sao Paulo, Brazil’s second city, the author met a third American scientist, formerly from the Canal Zone. Those Americans were of great service during the influenza epidemic, at its worst in October, 1918, when 2% of 600,000 cases in the capital proved fatal. Fifty-seven American sailors on a battleship in the bay succumbed to the disease. Their companions were erecting a monument to their memory in Sao Francisco Xavier Cemetery, which overlooked the bay. The population of the capital exceeded 1,000,000. Among the foreigners were 154,000 Portuguese, 30,000 Italians, 24,000 Spaniards, 4,000 French, 3,500 Turks, Syrians, and Arabs, 3,000 Germans, 2,000 British, 1,500 Spanish-Americans, 1,500 Americans, and 600 Asians. Germans were arriving on Dutch boats in great numbers, but most were bound for the South Brazilian States. Rio’s climate was mainly spring and summer weather. The pleasantest season was from May to November and the warmest months were January, February, and March. There was no rainy season, as showers were frequent year-round.
The author was often asked by visitors on one-day stops, “Which of the excursions shall we make?” The choice was between Corcovado and Sugar loaf. The summits of both easy to access, the views incomparably grand. Corcovado (the Hunchback) was ascended by trolley to the head of the canyon; by electric cog railway two miles up the mountain; and by a flight of stairs to a covered pavilion at the summit. The altitude was only a little more than 2,000 feet, but the view impressed Mrs. Adams more that the one from a Peruvian mountain 19,000 feet up. One overlooked a vast circular panorama of mountain, city, and sea in form and color no painter could adequately portray. Sugar Loaf’s crest was reached from Vermelha Beach, on the Rio shore, by aerial ropeway. The car landed one first on the summit of a lesser rock, Urca, where there was a park and restaurant. The second, longer ropeway carried one high above the forest, and felt like sailing in a balloon. This second ropeway landed on the very peak of the rock. The view, while altogether different from the Corcovado panorama, was magnificent. One was well out in the bay, directly above the forts which guard the entrance, looking back on Rio’s crescent shore. As the sun set, dusk enveloped the land in a mystic reddish haze. At night Rio was a bejeweled goddess on a purple velvet throne.
Tourists wanted to know what they could buy in Rio. The author replied by listing everything from parrots and monkeys which came from northern Brazil; Brazilian diamonds which came from the nearby State of Minas Geraes; and other native stones including Amethyst, topaz, Aquamarine, and tourmaline, the last in many colors. It was easy to go sightseeing in Rio. Automobiles rented for ten milreis an hour – about three dollars. Victorias, drawn by a pair of mules, were less expensive. Horses were nearly obsolete, an epidemic wiped them out many years ago. Were it not for the equestrian statues in the parks, and the occasional appearance of the Brazilian cavalry, one might only see a horse in a zoo. The author was impressed by the city’s trolleys. A Canadian company, known as “The Light”, supplied electric power and operated an elaborate system of trams, or “bonds”. The first electric road issued bonds, hence the name. To every part of the city, to the mountains, beaches, and far-flung suburbs, those trams carried one in comfort. The open cars were large and well-built. No crowding was allowed, and everyone was seated. Smoking was permitted in all but the first three seats. The fare varied with the distance, one hundred reis (about three cents) for each section. There was little of no dust in Rio which added to the pleasure of the ride. Mrs. Adams had twice visited that Brazilian fairyland, and she longed to return. Such was Rio de Janiero, City of Lure. So long as glory of form and color gladdened the eye, Rio would stand preeminent in beauty among the habitations of man.
The second item listed on this month’s cover is entitled “The Niagaras of Five Continents”. It has no byline since it is not an article but the “SIXTEEN DUOTONE ENGRAVINGS” documented on the cover. These engravings, formerly referred to as photogravures, are produced by etching a metal plate with acid. The deeper the pit, or imbroglio, the more ink is transferred to the paper, thus the darker it is. They use special paper that browns with age more readily that the normal stock. The ink is different as well, in this case having a slightly greenish tone. The ink is applied to the plate and the page is then stamped. The paper soaks up the ink, like a sponge. As stated on the cover (twice) there are sixteen, full-page images, numbered in Roman numerals from I to XVI representing pages 211 through 226 in the issue.
The pictures are of waterfalls from around the world. They include: I) Victoria Falls on the Zambezi River, Africa; II) Niagara Falls, between the U. S. and Canada; III) The Falls of the Iguazu, South America; IV) The Cascade of Dianzundu on the Lucalla River, Portuguese West Africa [Angola]; V) The Falls of Stora Sjofallet, Sweden; VI) Vernal Falls, Yosemite National Park, California; VII) Bridalveil Falls, Yosemite National Park, California; VIII) The Cascades between Preslang and Tannin, India; IX) The Lower Falls of the Yellowstone, from Lookout Point, Wyoming; X) The Great Falls of the Potomac, near Washington, D. C.; XI) The Spraybrook at Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland; XII) Emperor Falls on the Grand Fork River, British Columbia; XIII) Kaieteur Falls, British Guiana [Guyana]; XIV) Rainbow Falls, Hilo Hawaii; XV) The Seven Sisters, Geiranger Fjord, Norway; and XVI) Shoshone Falls, Idaho.
The third item, or second and last article, from this month’s issue is entitled “An Expedition to Kaieteur and Roraima, British Guiana”. It has the inside title of simply “Kaieteur and Roraima” along with the subtitle “The Great Falls and the Great Mountain of the Guianas”. It was written by Henry Edward Crampton, Ph. D. It contains twelve black-and-white photographs by the author, four of which are full-page in size. He was also the photographer of the picture of Kaieteur in the set of engravings preceding this article. The article also contains a sketch map of the Guianas, with an inset of the region explored, on page 229.
Sketch Map courtesy of Philip Riviere
As the field for thorough scientific exploration, South America was coming into its own. The great bulk of Africa had yielded up its secrets. But until recently, our sister continent of the South had remained what Africa was in the early nineteenth century: cities had been built along the coast and at some inland points, precious minerals had been sought and found in the lofty Andes, but few besides the natives, themselves unknown to science, were aware of what the jungles and plains possessed. Now the region was receiving ever-increasing attention from science, and as the past era was that of Africa, so the twentieth century was claimed by South America. Dr. Crampton made a journey of scientific exploration into the little-known interior of British Guiana [Guyana] and northern Brazil. There were two main “experiences” for the author on this journey – the great falls of Kaieteur, far hidden in the forest of British Guiana, and the tableland of Mount Roraima, a feature of more than geological interest, which lifted its sheer walls at the point where Guiana, Brazil, and Venezuela came together. The purpose of the expedition was to run a “biological traverse” from the Atlantic Ocean to the heights of Roraima. It was undertaken for the Department of Invertebrate Zoology of the American Museum of Natural History; of which department the author was the curator.
Outside of the Andes, there were few places in South America where one could cross so many different types of terrains in the same short distance. From the coastal plain, extending two hundred miles inland from the ocean, there was an abrupt rise to the high forests of Guiana. Certain Amazonian tributaries were followed to the dry, open savannas or northern Brazil. Those in turn culminated in the Pakaraima Range of mountains, whose highest element was Roraima. The region around Roraima was chosen as the goal because of its great geological age, and the antiquity of its fauna and flora. From that place originated many of the living forms of the Antilles and of southern North America when the northward retreat of the ice-sheets, formed during the Glacial Period, permitted the establishment of climatic conditions favorable for organisms of the hot and temperate regions. Before the journey, Dr. Crampton was doing fieldwork in the Lesser Antilles from St. Thomas southward, especially in Dominica, which far surpassed the other islands in natural beauty. At first, the party included Roy W. Miner and Frank E. Lutz, both of the Museum staff. Later, Dr. Lutz continued with the author through Martinique and St. Lucia to Georgetown, the capital of British Guiana, on the mouth of the muddy Demerara River. The waters of the river, far out to sea, had indicated the presence of the continent of mystery. At this well-built and populous city many new-made friends gave them information and encouragement. The party was told that their planned route was impractical, as far as the region between Kaieteur and Roraima was concerned. They were told it would take twelve months, they only had two. They were told that perhaps they could do it in ten, but they would come back dead. As it transpired, the journey to Roraima and back was completed in exactly eight weeks.
It was on the 8th of July that the party embarked with their equipment and an invaluable Hindu servant, Raggoo, for the run of 65 miles south on the Demerara River to Wismar. From there, a railroad took them across the flat plains of the alluvial coastal strip to Rockstone Landing, on the Essequibo River – their real point of departure into the interior. The river was high above its banks and flowed ten feet deep about the pillars supporting the bungalow used for a last night of comfort before entering the wild. All through the night, their first in the “bush”, a chorus of frogs and toads swelled in notes of deep, booming bass and shrill, piping treble. The fish and alligators splashed in the waters about the house. A boat or two of rubber collectors came toward the shore, singing their musical chanteys. It was a night the author could never forget. The howling monkeys aroused them in the morning, as they came to drink and to bath at the water’s edge. No larger than a terrier, a bony flask at the throat enable it to magnify its call to a roar. After a day of notable observations and collecting, the journey was resumed by a diminutive steamer, and night brought them to the cataracts of Tumatumari, 153 miles from Georgetown, on the Potaro River, a branch of the Essequibo. The hills about the river made a welcome change from the low, unbroken levels of the coastward country. In that region they met their first signs of Indian inhabitants, who were few and scattered, and dwelt mainly in the further interior. Here and there, on the borders of the river, a clearing had been made, where, among the stumps of felled trees, the cassava or manioc plants were growing. A still smaller launch conveyed them to Potaro Landing, where a carry, or portage, of seven miles across sandy roads and low-forested hills ended at Kangaruma, on the river above the Pakatuk Rapids. From that point to Tukeit, in the Kaieteur Gorge, they travelled in heavy-built river boats manned by Indians and blacks arrayed along the gunwales. The carriers at Amatuk and Waratuk were reached and passed. Not far from the latter, a little more than 190 miles from Georgetown, the river gave up its tortuous course and straightened out in the lower gorge of Kaieteur.
The sides rose abruptly to more than a thousand feet above the placid waters. The falls, still many miles away, reflected in the mirror-like waters. Many days of labor elapsed before the expedition came close to Kaieteur, the first stage of the journey. At Tukeit, four miles below the falls, the end of river-boating was reached. All goods were landed, and two of the three Indians engaged at Kangaruma were dispatched to the further country for additional bearers, who would be needed for the journey to Roraima. Then came the big day in mid-July when Dr. Crampton stood upon the brink of the great falls. He had left Dr. Lutz at Tukeit and set out with a small party of bearers, provisions, and a tarp for a base camp on the plateau. He made the ascent to the upper level and followed the roar of the waters to the edge of the gorge. From there he had an unimpeded view of the falls and gorge below. Over the red-brown cliffs at the head of the chasm poured a vast sheet of water more than 800 feet in height. That white curtain stood out against the dark cavern hollowed behind it. The waters poured down into the depths with a tremendous roar, to be heard for miles around. Mist rose in clouds that were striped with rainbow colors. The breath was some 300 feet, and more in the time of flood, and the symmetry was wonderful. The huge scale of the whole scene was difficult for the author to comprehend. There were no works of man to mar the surroundings, it was wild nature at its best. The geological details were no less interesting. The plateau was surfaced with rock bearing very little soil. Despite heavy rain it afforded poor holding ground for vegetation. In effect, it was a rocky savanna. Its characteristic plants were a giant Bromeliad and an abundant sundew (Drosera), beside the grasses of the more favorable areas. At the brink of the falls the rocks fell away in great blokes, sometimes leaving a step upon which the waters dash into foam before plunging into the depths below. In the cavern behind the falls immense flocks of swallows passed the night, winging their way back in late afternoon from their day’s flight around the countryside.
The base camp at Kaieteur was established a mile or so above the falls, near the margin of the upper Potaro River. A rough framework of saplings supported the tarpaulin roof. A camp bed was useless or worse; one slept in a wide hammock of Indian weave, slung from the shelter’s poles. There were many poisonous snakes and scorpions several inches long. The author quickly learned the habit of shaking out his boots every morning. A cheesecloth covering went over the hammock, making a tent, into which one crawled by a hole in the bottom. The myriad of insects and vampire bats made that obligatory. Fires were kept going at night, for the jaguars, pumas, and other large cats rarely molest a camp with its fires burning. A few days later the Indian messengers returned with eleven others whom they persuaded to enter the author’s serve. They were strong and fit, for hunting had been good and their cassava fields were flourishing. The wore abbreviated loincloths, and the one elderly woman among them wore a small apron of white beads. They were all Caribs and members of the Patamona division of the Ackawoi tribe. This was their ancient territory. They were shy at first, but once cordial relations were established, the author thought they were childlike, as he did all primitive people. They each had a “mission name”, such as Joseph, or Albert, given by a missionary or trader. The natives withheld their real names from strangers until a real friendship was formed. They feared that knowledge of them enabled an ill-wisher to do them harm by sorcery. They cheerfully began to transport the equipment from Tukeit to the higher camp. The trail was only five miles long, but so steep that only one load per day could be brought up. The carriers would reach camp around noon, receive their stipulated rations, cooked and ate their meals, and then return to Tukeit to repeat the climb the next day. One night, the author had sent everyone down and remained alone. A jaguar was stalking a tapir, and both animals rushed out of the forest, a few yards from his hammock. Of course, he always slept with firearms withing reach, just in case.
With the last load, a week later, Dr. Lutz came up and the final preparations were made for further progress. Long before, it was decided that the author would leave Dr. Lutz at the base camp, due to the limited time available. Ordinarily, two white men could not travel as fast as one. The goods were loaded on a wooden punt, which the Indians had brought down from an abandoned plantation up the river. Canoes were also loaded, both dugouts and “wood-skins”. Waving farewell to Dr. Lutz, as he stood on the bank with the Indian man and two boys left with him, the little flotilla passed around a bend of the river toward the unknown. High forests came down to the very edge of the water, and the trees were so festooned with vines as to constitute a veritable wall, echoing the crash of the paddles, as if from a cliff of rock. Thirty miles of hard paddling against the swollen current of the upper Potaro River brought them, in three days’ time, to Chenapowu, a region of widely scattered Indian settlements consisting of one or two huts at most. At Chenapowu began a long walk. The route to Roraima was due west, but the rivers and streams ran north to south. More than a hundred miles through almost trackless country laid between Dr. Crampden and the mountain. In preparation for the long march, the equipment was slightly reduced and the bearers were increased to twenty-five. Soon they filed off into the heavy forest toward the Brazilian border. Every day, when the party set out from the previous night’s camp, it rained heavily. The dense treetops formed a canopy that funneled and pour the water upon them. The interlacing roots of trees caught their feet, not being able to penetrate the rock, the roots ramified like traps under the thick wet cover of fallen leaves. They constantly searched the ground for deadly labarria and the “bushmaster”, which was well camouflaged. Up steep slope of 500 feet or more, clinging to the bushes, and down gullies, where swollen streams had to be forded, day after day, they struggled on toward the settlement of Saveritik, near the Chimepir Creek, at the border.
On one of those days, after seven hours of hard work, progress of only five miles had been made. But it was the psychological effect of the experience that got to the author. The fatigue, wet clothes and body, and the strain on the senses, all took it toll. Dr. Crampton had explored tropical jungles before in Polynesia, but nowhere else had he experienced a deadened, soul-crushing sensation, as if he were a robot going through the motions. The people of the region had a saying that a person lost in the bush for only a day and later found “leaves his mind behind him”. The camps at night, and the noonday halts were made at the waters of the Turuaparu, Wung, Murepang, Uliparu, and Kopinanang streams which were crossed at right angles. From the Kopinanang to the Ireng River along the border, settlements of one or two huts were found and many interesting incidents befell the author. In one village he participated in the cassava ceremony of hospitality. Cakes of cassava were ordered out, together with a “buck-pot”, or clay bowl filled with pepper infusions. The visitors took fragments of bread and dipped them in the pepper, ate it, and then general conversations were in order. At length, the head of the Chimepir was reached and they could see the cloud-filled valley of the Ireng River, a northern branch of the Amazon system, which separated Guiana from Brazil. A day later they reached the three huts of Saveritik, situated on the river itself. Natives from up and down the river flocked to the author’s camp. They studied the stranger and wanted to barter with him, offering food and baskets for beads, powder, shot, and cloth. The journey through the jungle had dwindle their supplies to the point that there wasn’t enough for the journey to Roraima and back to that spot. Dr. Crampton could either cross the river and explore the savannas of Brazil or continue to Roraima and hope to find more food among the locals.
The author chose to continue on to the mountain. A few porters were sent back to Chenapowu for some food left there, and some others were let go. Finally, with seventeen bearers he crossed the river and set foot in Brazil. A full half day was required to climb the 1,500 feet through the forest of that beveled edge of Brazil. At a point midway between Mt. Elidik and Achimatipu, they emerged upon the wide, grassy savannas, open and sun-drenched. The author’s spirits were lifted after the gloom of the jungle. Trees grew only in patches, elsewhere the rolling plains were covered with green grass. Travel was faster now. Terrace by terrace the land rose to an altitude of 4,700 feet. Now and again, it was necessary to cross the hollows of small tributaries of the Amazonian waterway. At last the high tableland of Roraima was sighted from a high point on the eastern crest of the Cotinga (Kwating) River valley. On the savanna, the party set out early each morning, and made brisk progress in the relative coolness of the dawn in those higher altitudes. Among the bright flowers of the plains, myriads of basket-like spider webs glistened with the dew. Hundreds of gray dome-like termite nests could be seen from any hillock. Here and there an earth-colored mound built by termites of a different species were found. Such a find was welcome indeed to the bearers. They tore the nests open and devoured the softer-bodied inhabitants as they swarmed out of their broken galleries. The huge grasshoppers of the plains also were greatly enjoyed by the Indians. As the day wore on, the heat became intense. At the noon camp, every available shelter was employed to protect the party from the direct rays of the sun.
There were also myriads of minute black flies attacking the wayfarers, the bites marked with a drop of blood. Their torture continued until the smoke of the campfires at dusk rid them of their presence. An occasional snake was flushed out by the foremost Indian beating the grass. It was usually a rattlesnake. In every way – botanical, zoological, and geological – there was the sharpest contrast to the thick forests through which they previously passed. Only in an occasional clump of trees in a hollow, or along the borders of a river – a forest in a grassy sea – did the Guiana butterflies and plants disclose themselves. On the same day as the first sighting of Roraima, a long march brought them to a place mapped Parmak, near the Cotinga River, but Parmak had vanished. The hundreds of natives had moved away and only one “banaboo” remained. The children darted into the nearby woods upon seeing a white man for the first time. They had hoped for a comfortable night under thatch, but instead they had to make camp in the dripping forest. They had traveled fifteen miles under the blazing sun that day. Provisions were getting low. They continued westward and the next day they found a volunteer guide who knew a shorter, by two days, route to Roraima. With fresh courage Dr. Crampton crossed the Continga, a river of great beauty. They worked their way up a wide lateral valley toward Mount Weitipu, southeast of Roraima. At last, in mid-August, the author reached Roraima. From the camp on Erkui Creek, on the west flank of Weitipu, they proceeded to the Arabopo River, an upper branch of the Orinoco system, climbed over an intervening plateau, 4,500 feet in altitude, and gazed upon an impressive scene. Fifteen hundred feet below spread a wide, undulating plain that rolled up to the forested zone at the foot of Roraima, only a few miles distance.
The flat-topped mountain, which was nine miles long and three miles wide, presented them with its southern point, and rose like a vast battlement constructed by nature. Upon its sheer walls, 2,000 feet without a break, that rose to a height of 8,600 feet, gleamed silvery threads of waterfalls that formed the beginnings of rivers that flowed to the distance ocean. On the east the waters flowed into the rivers of Guiana, southward they entered the branches of the Amazon, while on the southwest they ran into the wide-circling tributaries of the Orinoco system. There on Roraima, those widely divergent streams had their common origin. With their end almost attained, they climbed down the valley and proceeded to the village of Kamaiwa-wong, situated just south of the cleft between Roraima and Kukenaam, a sister mountain almost as impressive. There resided a large tribe of Arecuna Indians. Their chief’s “mission name” was Jeremiah. Two incidents prevented the party from reaching the village that night. The first was the encounter of a huge ant-bear [giant anteater]. The author photographed the animal and, after it bolted, ran it down and shot it. It measured six feet and six inches in length. The animal (Myrmecophaga jubata) was very interesting, as it fed exclusively upon ants. It was covered with coarse, wiry hair of dull fawn and black. Its tail bore a heavy brush of longer growth. The head was slender and tapered to small mouth that allowed a long, sticky tongue to be protruded. The creature shambled from one ant-nest to the next, tearing them open with the huge curved claws of its forefeet. When the ants ran out, they adhered to the snaky tongue, which darted here and there, collecting a mouthful of the small creatures. To feed such a large animal required an enormous number of insects to be consumed. The second chance factor was a drenching downpour that overtook the party when they were a mile short of reaching Kamaiwa-wong. The author decided to pitch camp in a patch of forest on Kauwa Creek, at the very foot of the great mountain.
Dr. Crampton was torn. He was satisfied that the end of his “biological traverse” was in sight, but apprehensive of the return journey. The Indian bearers had been weakened by the arduous journey and the effects of influenza, known as the “Brazil cold”. They could only carry the barest necessities, which would include the hoped-for new supplies of food they expected to obtain from the Arecunas. The return trip needed to be made without hindrance or setback, if they were to reach home safely. With bitter disappointment, having considered the situation, the author decided to forgo an attempt to reach the summit of Roraima, and to turn back after a single day of biological study and association of the Indians of the locality. He had read books by other explorers who had climbed the mountain and wrote of the views from the summit. He knew that vista was not as important as the science to be done, but he regretted not being able to give in to his own personal desire. The next day was eventful. Some of the bearers went to the village the night before and had apprised the chief of the author’s arrival. They learned that an American missionary had died there some two weeks prior. Jeremiah feared that the author would blame his people for the death. Every injury or death was attributed by these people to “kenaima” work, or sorcery. From what the author could learn, a tribe to the north was possibly responsible, or it was natural causes. The author approached the village with four of five of his bearers in the early morning. He was not greeted as expected, so he asked where Jeremiah lived but got no answer. He approached the largest bamboo whereupon the old man emerged with his sons. His failure to order the cassava ceremony seemed strange. The author shook hands with all the natives standing in a great half-circle. By inadvertence, a second round was started to the amusement of the villagers. Still no cassava was forthcoming. The author then started to dance a few steps of their “paiwari” dance. It amused the Indians so much that they began to laugh and chatter; Jeremiah acquiesced; the cassava was ordered, and all was well.
The remainder of the morning was passed getting fresh supplies of cassava bread for the return journey, and trading powder and shot, fishhooks and pins for specimens of their basketry, bows and arrows, and blow-guns, which used tiny arrows poisoned with deadly curare. Many of the natives trooped back to the author’s camp to see what he might have for which they could trade. The party set off the way they came. One night a villager fell ill and the word passed around that the author was causing his death by “kenaima”-work, in reprisal for the missionary’s death. Fortunately for him, the victim did not die until after the party had broke camp and were on their way the next morning. At Parmak, Chief David and some of his tribe, who had heard that the party was near, intercepted them for the purpose of barter. With his bearers so weak, Dr. Crampton decided not to trade. That made David angry and he pulled a knife. The author quickly bestowed “gifts” to him and his crew. Food supplies were dangerously low, and the chance kill of a deer put them all in better humor. A last look at the rolling savannas of the Brazilian border, a plunge down the slopes to Guiana, a series of forced marches to Chanapowa, and a day on the upper Potaro brought them to within earshot of Kaieteur Falls and to base camp, from which Dr. Lutz had departed shortly before, according to plan. Four weeks to a day had elapsed since he had left that place for the interior. The trip had been made despite many obstacles and delays. Only one day’s provisions remained. The author reached Georgetown after an absence of eight weeks. Through the courtesy of the Hon. J. J. Nunan an account of the journey and its scientific results was given before the Scientific Society of Georgetown, the last of a series of varied experiences that would always remain in Dr. Crampton’s memory.