off the ship on to a floating roadway, I wondered just what sort of a place I
had come to. I could see no old buildings and the larger buildings were not only
handsome but relatively modern.
was met by the Manager
Charles V. Reade took me first to the Manaos Harbour Staff House, the bachelor
quarters for the British unmarried staff. We went up the stairs and I was shown
to my bedroom, a large room with ceiling fan and mosquito net covered windows.
From here we walked to the office. It was a longish room one side of which facing
the street had windows reaching from the floor to the ceiling with metal railings
as protection. Seated at my desk, I could watch passers-by. On the opposite side
of the road were the dock warehouses.
short way away from the Booth Office was the tram terminus, a modern concrete
shelter. All the trams start and end here. Between 5 and 6 pm there was always
a crowd of young men standing around watching the people get on and off the trams.
The trams are of the toast rack type and when there are more passengers than seats
available, people would cling to the sides and back so from a distance it would
appear as a pile of struggling humanity being swiftly borne along by means of
a pole connected to an overhead wire. The most interesting ride was to Flores.
After leaving the tram shelter, the tram passed through the residential part of
the city, then past straw roofed huts and along a track cut though the forest,
over several small streams, past some factories and the aeroplane landing field
to end at a small bar near to the Bosque Club. After dark, the trip was even more
interesting as when passing along the part cut through the forest, one can hear
the thrill chirping of the crickets combined with the singing of the wheels of
the tram on the rails. Fireflies would flit in and out of the tram like little
lights. Two small round green lights against a black background would point to
some animal or other its eyes caught in the lights of the tram.
has two seasons
It seemed to rain a lot whilst I was in Manaus although officially there are only
two seasons, a dry season from June until November and a wet season from December
till May. One of the inhabitants said to me "Manaus has two seasons, a wet
season and a wetter season." I found Manaus rather warm and sticky and my
clothes quickly had a musty smell and my shoes became covered with a green mould.
However on the 24 June, the temperature suddenly dropped from around 90 C to about
60 C due to a change in the air currents sweeping off the Andes Though not really
cold, we noticed the difference and put on our English winter coats. The cold
didn't last and by next day we were sweltering once more. [Ed: a cold front
known locally as a 'friagem' affects Manaus a couple of times a year with drops
in temperature of up to 10 C The cause is cold wind from southern South America
sweeping north across Amazonia and along the Andes mountain chain 1,200 miles
2000+kms to the west].
were fairly frequent and extraordinary spectacles to watch. In the daytime, the
sky becomes overcast, the birds wheel and turn with rapid motions and the air
seems as though charged with electricity. An eerie stillness hangs over the place.
Small sounds become greatly magnified and one seems to be suffocating. Then all
of a sudden a blast of wind blows through the streets sending clouds of dust billowing
over everything. The surface of the river is lashed into a fury of white horses.
Then comes a terrific crash and even in the bright sky, the flash of lightening
illuminates the town. This is followed by a cloud burst as though the bottom had
fallen out of a huge tank. Rain pours down sweeping down the streets. Everything
is blotted out. The noise is deafening and just when one thinks the end of the
world has come, the rain ceases as though turned off by a tap. The sun comes out
and one senses a smell of freshness in the air. If one is caught out in the rain,
it is useless running for shelter. One will get soaking wet anyway.
customs of the people are more Victorian than in São Luís or Belém,
possible because being 1000 miles up river, there is a sense of isolation. Young
girls are not allowed out without a chaperone. When a girl becomes engaged, she
immediately comes under the will of her fiancé and if he does not dance,
then she does not dance. At a dance, an engaged girl may only dance with her fiancé
though he may dance with whom he wishes. A single man will seldom enter the home
of an unmarried girl. If he wishes to court her, he will stand on the pavement
outside her home
the Second World War began many ships used to call at Manaus both from other Brazilian
ports as well as from Europe. The Booth Line ran a Tourist Service with their
Hilary. The tourists were taken on trips through the forest. The ships
would bring foodstuffs,clothing, machinery etc going back with cargoes from the
Amazon Forest such as Brazil Nuts, Rosewood Oil and Timber. However since the
start of the War, few vessels apart from river steamers came and as a result there
was a shortage of many items including sugar.
day a Lloyd steamer arrived from Rio Grande do Sul with a cargo of meat and, to
my delight, bacon. Immediately I bought several rashers and on the Sunday morning
when there was no maid or cook, I fried my bacon on a little frying pan over a
Primus Stove.[Ed: kerosene flame] Suddenly a lot of little maggots popped
out of the bacon and fell on to the surface of the frying pan where they were
immediately frizzled up. I thought that they must be full of bacon fat and therefore
good to eat. But then I had second thoughts and decided the bacon itself was quite
after I arrived I bought a lovely green parrot from a man near the docks. I named
him Archibald and kept him in my bedroom tied with a piece of string from his
leg to one of the bars of the window. Then one early morning he woke me up by
biting my ear quite hard. He had eaten through the string and so got loose. I
was furious so after breakfast I told the cook to catch the parrot and prepare
him for my lunch. "What kill and eat poor old Archibald. How can you be so
cruel?! Any way I insisted and the cook served him up roasted. But the meat was
so tough and stringy that I was not able to eat any. I suppose it served me right.
Trevor telling this story
English colony was very different from those on the coast of Brazil. There were
a number of married English couples whose husbands worked at the Manaus Harbour
Company., Amazonas Engineering Company . T.J.Dunn & Company , the Telegraph
Company and Higson & Co.. They were very clique and so and so could
not be invited if so and so was there. Bachelors consisted of an Engineer, Weller,
working for the Harbour Co, Lorimer who worked for T.J.Dunn and myself apart from
the young son of C.V.Reade. As a result, I was very much on my own. It was difficult
to find someone to play with at tennis. I knew very few Brazilian families so
went to few dances. However, from time to time the Harbour Engineer would invite
me to accompany him in his speed boat to fish. To fish is not quite the right
word. We would go out into the Rio Negro after dark, rig a kind of a sail and
leave a lighted lantern hanging in the middle of the sail. Very soon small fish
would be leaping out of the water, hitting the sail and falling to the bottom
of the boat!
time we took with us a local fisherman. We would sail close to the bank of the
river shining a torch. When the light lit up two bright spots, the fisherman would
call out " Jacare " (alligator) Then whilst my friend steered
the boat alongside the alligator, the fisherman would throw a noose over the beast's
head whilst I had to put a noose over its tail. Then, pulling tight the two nooses,
we steered the boat rapidly alongside the bank. The fisherman jumped out and killed
the alligator with a blow of his machete. The tail was then cut off for us to
eat next day. Only the tail part is eaten or so I was told.
OOBC Rowing Club
day I was approached by a Sr. Jones. He was the senior manager of the Brazil Nut
Shippers, Higson & Company . "How would you like to join the OOBC Rowing
Club. We go rowing every Sunday morning. It sounded a good idea so I said "Yes."
" Well met me tomorrow afternoon at the Bar at the corner of Joaquim Ribeiro
for your official enrollment". Apart from Jones, the only other person present
was the other manager of Higson & Company , a Sr. Russell.
"You have to buy drinks for us both and then you will become a member of
the OOBC" Curious I asked "What does OOBC stand for?" Jones answered
"Our Own Bloody Club" as we don't want to have anything to do with other
rowing Clubs. Then Jones gave me a set of Rules, one of which was "Skiffs
are on loan and must be returned in a better condition than received." Another
was "No strong drink allowed whilst rowing" Not owning a skiff, I was
a 'Humble Member' without the right to question any rule or statement of a Member.
used to set off after breakfast from the docks and row up the Rio Negro to a small
beach backed by the bank some metre high. A bamboo pipe had been laid from a tiny
steam allowing water to pour out. We took turns sitting under the pipe with the
water pouring on to our head and over our body.
decided to write
view of the lack of amusements, I decided to write a history of Manaus obtaining
the collaboration of the Authorities including the Interventor, past Governors,
the Chamber of Commerce, and an forest tribesman whom I befriended and some local
Brazilian friends. The Interventor, Alvaro Maia, offered to have my work translated
in to Portuguese and published but the entry of Brazil into the War put paid to
discovered that the Amazon region held a vast number of plants and trees which
provided medicines, food, water, building material and even a type of gasoline
sufficient for all the needs of the forest people and caboclos [riverside
dwellers] of the region. Amongst such plants were.....
Trevor's notes made back in the 1940s give an idea of how natural plant materials
were used in those times...More about these plants can be found on the web and
Alecrin - Rosemary A sweet smelling plant used instead of bath salts.
Small quantities placed inside drawers and cupboards prevent clothes getting a
musty smell. Some of the mulatas - dark coloured girl, pin little pieces
in the hair.
/ the name means 'bitter oil' - crabwood tree - The forest people boil
the seeds of this large tree, then place them on an inclined plane in the sun.
An oil runs out which they collect and is burnt in containers to give light. The
oil can also be used to prevent insect bites.
The sap from this tree can be used to join together wood and rock.
The bark of this tree is burnt, then ground into powder and used mixed with clay
by the frest tribes to make earthenware pottery.
This tree has large fibre leaves which can be stripped into long fibre threads
which are then used to weave into the making of hammocks.
The leaves of this plant can be used in the place of soap. When rubbed between
damp hands an abundant foam is produced. It also has germicidal properties..
-vegetable ivory palm This is a palm tree which bears nut pods containing
irregular shaped nuts about the size of a walnut. These are known in England as
"Ivory Nuts". The outer shell of the nut is a light grayish brown, smooth
but slightly brittle. Before the kernel is ripe, it is in the form of a transparent
jelly which turns into a hard substance as the kernel ripens. The nuts are shipped
to Belém do Pará and to southern Brazil where the kernels are cut
into slices and made into buttons.
Nhamuhy This is a tall tree with a yellow wood and is nature's petrol [gasoline]
pump. The base of the tree is hollow and here collects a clear oily liquid. When
a hole is bored into the tree at the base, the oily liquid pours out and can be
set on fire. It has a smell something like that of turpentine. If a motor boat
on the river runs out of kerosene or diesel, this oily liquid can be used and
the engine will restart. The forest people use the liquid as lamp oil.
This is a bush about 6 feet tall [1.6m] The branches are erect and topped by smaller
branches in the shape of a cock's comb. The forest tribes shred the roots and
the branches into small slips which they roll into cigarettes and smoke.
or the cipó-caboclo This is a species of vine. The leaves can be
boiled and used as a foot bath to relieve foot ailments. Long creepers hang down
like round pipes."
of course there are the famous Brazil Nuts which grow on very tall trees. The
nuts or kernels are closely packed into a hard shelled pod about the size of a
large grapefruit. At one end is a small hole filled with a fibre plug. Just after
the flood waters of the Amazon have receded, the pods fall to the sodden ground
and become half buried. The fibre plug decays and eventually the pod disintegrates
and so more Brazil nut trees grow.
pods are collected and at a Brazil nut shelling factory run by Higsons & Company.
young girls are employed breaking open the pods and so releasing the kernels which
are then shipped to the outside world. Until the start of the War, a big campaign
was carried on in both the USA and the United Kingdom to get more people to eat
the nuts. From personal experience, I warn anyone not to eat an unripe Brazil
nut for they are very laxative!
of the principal products of Amazonia is Rubber. The rubber trees are scattered
about the forest so the rubber gatherers known as seringueiros usually
tap a given quantity of trees either for his own account or paid by the rubber
company. Each morning the seringueiro will visit each tree in turn. With
a special knife he makes an obligue gash in the bark about 12 inches in length
[30 cms] and some 6 feet [1.6m] from the base of the tree. At the bottom of each
gash, a gourd or tin is suspended. Then in the afternoon, the seringueiro
returns to the trees and collects the latex in a bucket. Back at his hut, he builds
a fire of "urucuri" nuts and over this fits a funnel shaped chimney
so that the smoke pours out of the funnel.
the fire, he suspends a long pole from the roof of his hut. Around the middle
of the pole he fixes a strip of old rubber, then pours the latex slowly over the
strip of rubber and as it congeales, he pours more turning the pole slowly all
the time. Next day he continues the process until he has produced a ball or pele
of rubber about 3 feet in diameter.[80cms] These peles are then taken to
Manaus where they are cut in half to remove any stones placed there to increase
the weight and so collect more payment, also to remove any defective rubber.
was first introduced in to Europe in 1736 by a French explorer called Charles
Marie de la Condamine. He went to Amazonia and wandered about amongst the forest
tribes. He discovered that the people were using the sap of a tree to make shoes
so he took some of the sap back with him to Europe calling it Rubber. Little interest
was shown however until a Mr Mackintosh [ Ed; as a variation Macintosh]
tried covering cloth with the liquid mixed with naptha. The result was the raincoat
American Mr.Charles Goodyear on the other hand, experimenting in about 1838 accidentally
dropped some rubber into a pot of boiling sulphur which or so it is said was on
the kitchen stove. He removed the sticky mass and seeing that it had combined
with the sulphur he thus discovered vulcanized rubber. Then came the motor car
and the need for rubber tyres which caused a boom in the search for rubber.
rubber boom resulted in hundreds of Englishmen, Germans and other Europeans arriving
in Manaus. Export houses opened up staffing the senior positions with those of
their own nationality. Steamship companies from England started arriving including
The Booth Steamship Company. Manaus was full of foreigners. Many of the Brazilians
rushed into the interior to collect rubber as high prices and wages were being
paid. Such exodus was serious for the city as few were left to clean the streets,
slaughter cattle in the slaughterhouse, attend to the market etc. Portuguese and
Italian immigrants flowed in to take over these jobs. Foreign Traders set-up businesses
selling imported goods at a high price making colossal profits . Those that were
married, and those that were not, lavished jewellery on their wives and mistresses.
No one walked if he could help it and the sight of prosperous foreigners and traders
driving in their carriages, a large cigar in their mouth was no uncommon sight.
Ribeiro - the expansionist Governor
Customs revenue in 1911 was the highest for any port in Brazil. At the end of
the 19th century Manaus was lucky to have as Governor the wise and far seeing,
Eduardo Ribeiro. He laid out wide avenues, had constructed the famous Opera House
and the Custom House amongst other buildings In 1902 he awarded the contract for
the Manaus Docks won by the Booth Company. Due to the large rise and fall of the
river, the Manaus |Harbour Company built a floating roadway based upon that in
1913 came the crash. About 1876 an Englishman Henry Wickham was commissioned by
The Royal Botanic Gardens Gardens, London to obtain and bring back to England
some rubber seeds. In all he gathered some 70,000 seeds and packing them in crates,
declared them as specimens of butterflies, orchids and tropical plants. As soon
as he arrived in England the seeds were planted in the famous hot houses of Kew
Gardens. Two months later seedlings were shipped to Ceylon and later to Sumatra
and Java. Thus began the rubber plantations of the East which in time greatly
reduced the amount of rubber being purchased from Brazil as the price was much
cheaper since the rubber trees were in plantations and so could be worked so much
easier and produce so much more rubber. [Ed: The Wickham story has many variations]
June 1942 a Pan American Conference was held in Rio de Janeiro after Brazil broke
off diplomatic relations with the Axis Powers and a Trade Agreement was signed
with the United States. Amongst other items, it was agreed that the American Federal
Reserve would provide a fund of US$5 million for the development of Amazonian
Rubber. The Rubber Development Corporation was formed and offices opened in Manaus.
A number of Americans arrived with the idea of teaching the rubber gatherers how
to tap the Rubber. In return they gave them food and implements apart from wages
thus encroaching upon the presence of the regular traders who had been long established.
This obviously caused a lot of ill feelings.
One of the RDC employees, thinking to speed up the collection of rubber, decided
to offer the seringueiros twice the usual payment for each ball of rubber
collected. He thought the seringueiro would work twice as hard. What he
didn't reckon for was that the seringueiro promptly halved the number of
balls of rubber. Why not? The money he received before was sufficient for his
needs. If they paid him twice as much, then he need work only half as much and
be able to rest a lot more!
the Fish and Reptiles to be found in Amazonas are some of the more unusual ones.
Trevor gives an idea of the way people in Manaus viewed the wealth of wildlife
in the forest and rivers beyond the city. This was life Amazonia before the spread
of scientific information
Piranha Roughly a foot in length, they make up for their lack in size with
a ferocious expression. Their mouths are full of needle like teeth pointing backwards.
Should they detect even the slightest trace of blood, they 'go to town' in their
hundreds attacking the unfortunate person or beast ripping out chunks of flesh.
Within a very short time, they have ripped all the flesh off a man or beast leaving
just the bare bones.
One of the largest freshwater fish. It is dried and sold as a type of Portuguese
'bacalau' or dried cod. The fish can reach 8.5 feet 2.5m in length and weight
up to 100 kilos.
is known as the 'cow fish' because it has two human like breasts with which it
suckles its young with a type of milk like substance flowing from its teats. Its
fore fins have fivc finger like appendages giving it a sort of human hand appearance.
The fat is used for lighting.
Eels are about 6 feet in length. When they wish to eat they switch on an electric
current and any small fish in the vicinity will receive an electric shock sufficient
to stun them. The power of the electric current is sufficient to knock a man unconscious.
or Alligator These are slaughtered for their hides. They have short mouths
different from the long mouths of crocodiles. They reach a length of 10 to 15
feet. Their eggs are 4 inches long.
They are often to be seen in the street with a piece of string or cord tired from
its waist to their owner. They always look half starved with two pitying eyes
turned towards the onlooker as though imploring to be cut free.
meat is occasionally sold in the market though not very popular as most people
seem to have the idea that by eating a monkey they are behaving like cannibals.
Certainly the sight of someone busily gnawing a perfectly formed wrist and hand,
even though of a monkey, is enough to put even the most hardened person off his
food. Again monkeys howl and cry in such a human manner if wounded that many a
hunter has sworn never again to shoot a monkey after hearing a wounded one cry.
the various species is the Guariba, the largest monkey in Amazonia. It
is about 65 cms in height, with a large head, very long tail.[Ed: This would
be a Howler monkey genus Alouatta - ]
Cairara monkey has bald head and a scarlet face and fair skin and in known
locally as the "English Monkey" [ Ed: Cacajao calvus - Bald Uakari]
the various types of snake, the most noticeable is the Giboia, a boa constrictor
which can measure up to 30 feet in length. They only eat occasionally but when
they do they will swallow anything up to the size of a cow. It will silently slide
up to the cow which is busily chewing the cud, curl itself around its body, then
contract squeezing the poor old cow until it is dead. Then the snake practically
dislocates its jaws and slowly swallows the cow little by little. To do this it
moves to a convenient place where it can enjoy the cow over the following weeks.
If the cow has horns which it cannot swallow, it will allow these to decay until
they fall off.
is said to be the the longest snake in Amazonia reaching a length of 40 feet but
it has to be confirmed. If it exists it is probably related to the Anaconda or
and industry - beer....
there are few factories in Manaus, there is one very popular one. It is the Beer
Factory owned by Miranda Correia & Cia which produces three main types
This latter is
very popular but inclined to be rather strong. Another factory, that of Andrade,
Xarope de Guarana
Champagne de Abacaxi (pineapple)
amongst other less popular drinks. Of course
from time to time when a Brazilian ship arrives from the South it brings supplies
of the well known Antartica and Brahma beer and chopp
tribes and ice cream
....' There are over 400 different tribes in Amazonas. Of these the Purus are
notorious for their savagery and are greatly feared by other tribes. Occasionally
a half civilized Indian will be found wandering the streets of Manaus I met an
Indian one day and in a mixture of Portuguese and sign language invited him to
have an ice cream with me. We became friendly and he gave me much information
about Indian folklore. Months later he returned to Manaus when he gave me a lovely
Indian comb as a present for my having bought him a pair of trousers when he was
here before. Most of the tribes wear little or nothing but some wear elaborate
head-dresses and ornaments. The head -dresses seem to be a sort of badge of office,
often consisting of beautifully matched bird feathers.
are mainly necklaces possibly used as a protection against evil spirits and consist
of animal teeth, beetle wings or seeds.
For killing wild animals, they use
the blow pipe, a long wooden tube up to 10 feet in length. They use a dart like
a small thorn dipped in a very potent poison known as Curare. They also use bows
and arrows, mainly for shooting fish
I got to know very few Brazilians whilst in Manaus and I knew few local clubs
. As a result I did little or no dancing and so knew very few Brazilian girls/
However, one day whilst I was in the local library searching for historical items
for my book, a man approached me and asked what I was doing. When I told him I
was writing the History of Amazonas, he invited me to his home. His name was Rezende
and he told me he was a staunch monarchist and against the Republic. In his housze
he has many pictures of Dom Pedro II and members of the royal family and a large
Royal Flag of Brazil with the regal arms. He provided me with a lot of useful
'History of Amazonas'
had now finished typing my History of Amazonas on my portable typewriter using
a copying ribbon. Each sheet I then placed face downwards on to the damp clay
of our copying machine. The clay was in an oblong tray about foolscap size. I
then wiped the back of the sheet of paper with a piece of cloth. When I removed
the sheet, there was print on the clay. Then I would place a\ clean sheet of paper
on to the print, wipe the cloth over the back and when I removed the sheet, there
was a copy of what I had written. In this way, although rather laboriously, I
managed to take five copies of my work. This is how all copies of work were done
in those days. One copy I gave to the Interventor, one to my father and others
The next job was to gather together all the photographs, drawings,
maps etc and insert them where appropriate amongst the text. Then I took the whole
work to be bound into a volume A4 size by 3 inches thick. When I gave the copy
to Alvaro Maia, the Interventor, he said he would have it translated into Portuguese
and then have it published together with the edition in English.
on 30 July a cable was received from Pará saying that I was to proceed
immediately to Belém to catch the Benedict to return to
I embarked on the Raul Soares which happened to be in port
and I arrived in Belém on the 8th August, almost one year since I left
Belém for |Manaus,
on the Benedict in formation was received that Brazil had declared War
on the Axis. When I eventually arrived back in Brazil, I contacted Alavro Maia
about my book but he replied that due to the War nothing could be done until after
it had finished. By that time I was far away from Manaus and my book would need
to be brought up to date. As a result it remains as an original work ready for
reference purposes only..