Open main menu

Popular Science Monthly/Volume 74/February 1909/The National Exposition at Rio de Janeiro

THE

POPULAR SCIENCE

MONTHLY

 

FEBRUARY, 1909




THE NATIONAL EXPOSITION AT RIO DE JANEIRO
By Professor ROBERT DeC. WARD

HARVARD UNIVERSITY

A MONTH later than the date originally set for its opening, the first National Exposition of Brazil was officially inaugurated on August 11. Patriotic pride in the gratifying evidence which the exhibits give of Brazilian arts and industries, and of Brazilian progress, is the dominant note everywhere. As one of the leading newspapers of Rio has enthusiastically said:

The one feeling that every one has in his heart is an immense satisfaction, an overwhelming patriotic joy, as he sees this splendid exposition which gives evidence of our national capacity for work, and of our national vitality.
In his opening address, the president of the exposition commission referred to the important event in the history of Brazil which the exposition commemorates, viz., the opening of the Brazilian ports to the commerce of the world, one hundred years ago (January 28, 1808), and to the desire of the present government to bring together, on this centennial anniversary, the evidence of Brazilian progress in the last one hundred years. There have, it is true, been previous exhibitions, on a small scale, along similar lines. Thus, the Brazilian exhibits which were sent to London in 1862; to Vienna in 1873; to the Centennial in 1876; to Paris in 1889; to Chicago in 1893, and to St. Louis, were previously collected and open to the public in Rio. But the present exposition is far more representative and more complete than any of these others. Every one of the twenty states of Brazil is here represented, as well as the Federal District of Rio de Janeiro and the territory of Acre, "that precious piece of land recently added to our national demain," as one newspaper characteristically puts it, and goes on to say, "All the cells of our national organism here palpitate
 
PSM V74 D110 National exposition in rio de janeiro 1908.png
Panorama of a Section of the National Exposition Grounds.
In the foreground is the Botanical Garden Pavillion. To the left is that of the San Paulo, and to the right the Federal District Pavillons. The Textile Industries Building is in the bakground. This illustration and the other illustrations used in this article are printed here by the courtesy of the Editor of the Bulletin of the International Bureau of American Republics.
 

with life, showing the latent force which is impelling us on to the magnificent destiny prepared for our country by a Divine Providence."

The background, with Rio's wonderful hills, and the foreground, with Rio's magnificent bay, combine here to make a natural setting which it is safe to say no national or international exposition has ever had. No artificial lakes and canals, picturesque as these may be; no magnificent buildings; no marvels of electric lighting; no fountains or cascades—none of the things that have made other expositions famous, can compare with what nature herself has done in giving Rio de Janeiro this splendid harbor and these mountains, here green and soft, there grim and bare, with the famous "Sugar Loaf" guarding the

PSM V74 D111 The theater at the rio de janeiro exposition 1908.png

The Exposition Theater.
The theater has a seating capacity of about 750.

entrance to the harbor on one side of the exposition grounds, and the precipitous Corcovado, towering up like a sentinel above the city, on the other. To readers who do not know Rio de Janeiro, the words of the opening address, in which the beauties of the city were enthusiastically described, will seem like undue exaggeration. The speaker said:

The most beautiful city in South America, where the deep sea and the laughing bays; the high and solemn peaks; the gently-sloping hills; the rows of houses bathed in sunshine or showing, less distinctly, in the lights of the rosary of diamonds which surrounds the shores, fantastically mirrored in the waters of the bay—these combine to give a picture which is wholly unique in the world—to strangers, a surprise and an enchantment; to us Brazilians a source of pride.

The visitor who comes to Rio with the idea that he is to see a grand exposition, on a large scale, will be disappointed. Compared with any of the international expositions, this Brazilian undertaking is naturally very small. It covers but little ground. Its buildings are few in number, and not notable for size, beauty of architecture, or originality of arrangement. The exhibits are not numerous, nor are they very impressive, to the casual visitor. But the Rio Exposition means very much to Brazilians. Seen with their eyes, it embodies the

PSM V74 D112 The portuguese pavilion at the rio de janeiro exposition.png

The Portuguese Pavilion.
This pavilion was erected and offered by Brazil to the Portuguese nation for exhibition purposes.

spirit of their national progress; it gives tangible evidence of what Brazil can do in the way of products and manufactures; it serves to show that Brazil is becoming less dependent upon foreign countries: it therefore strongly appeals to the patriotic side of the people. When looked at by a foreigner so far as possible with Brazilian eyes, this exposition is not merely interesting; it is well worth careful study. The location was wisely chosen, at the southern end of the city, near the old military school, where the land now occupied by the exposition buildings was largely wasted. That quarter of the city will, from this time on, assume a different aspect. Most of the money which has been spent by the government has gone into permanent buildings. The

 
PSM V74 D113 The textile industries building at the 1908 exposition.png
The Textile Industries Building.
This monumental structure, surmounted by a statue of Fame, is the remodeled Military Academy.
 
PSM V74 D113 The bangu factory building.png
The Bangú Factory Building.
This building was erected by the Bangú Textile Mills for the exhibit of its products.
 

 
PSM V74 D114 Exposition palace for official receptions.png
Exposition Palace.
The palace was used for official receptions during the exposition and for the exhibits of those states which had no special buildings.
It was formerly the War University.
 

old military school building was largely torn down and then rebuilt, and one of the other buildings, which before was standing half-done and unused, has been completed and made into a fine permanent structure of stone. The land has been graded and cleared. A new sea-wall and boulevard have been built out to the exposition grounds. This is all clearly for the permanent advantage of the city, although the exposition itself, as a whole, will doubtless be a financial failure.

Brazil is an immense country. From the northern states with their vast forests—which most of us make the mistake of thinking cover the larger part of the country-—to the southern states of Rio Grande do Sul and Santa Catharina, it includes climates of many kinds. The visitor to this exposition will see rubber and wheat; sugarcane and corn; cotton, rice, manioc, coffee, mate, grapes, tobacco, alfalfa, sorghum. He will see most of the familiar vegetables and cereals of home, and next to them can examine the characteristic tropical woods from the forests of the Amazon. Amazonas and Para on the north have sent the products of the tropics; Minas Geraes has sent its famous cheeses, made from the milk of cows pastured on its great inland campos, as well as specimens of its gold and diamonds and precious minerals, and a fine model of its well-known Morro Velho mine. Santa Catharina on the south sends wheat and corn, wine, tobacco, cotton, coffee, dried beef, cheese, tinned butter, and the like—products of its temperate climate and of its cattle industry. It is probable that most Brazilians, as well as most foreigners, will be surprised at the variety of food-stuffs here exhibited, but it is certain that few visitors to this exposition will expect to see such evidence as is here given of the development of different industries in Brazil. Even the leading newspapers of Rio express surprise at the exhibits of cotton and woolen cloth; of footwear and of hats; of canned foods; of wines and beer; of dairy products, furniture, glassware, pottery and iron-work. The pride of Brazilians is especially appealed to by the exhibit of native foundry-work, of agricultural implements and of machinery of various kinds, for preparing rice, manioc, coffee and sugar-cane. By "special concession" on the part of the government, Germany and the United States have been permitted to exhibit machinery, some of it in operation. The former country shows agricultural implements and machinery for preparing rice, manioc, etc. From the United States there are exhibits by the United Shoe Machinery Co., the Continental Gin Co., of Birmingham, Ala., the Oliver Chilled Plow Co., of Indiana, and the Loomis Co., of Indiana. The Federal District (Rio de Janeiro) makes an effective showing with furniture and cabinet work, carriages and wagons, flour, glassware, laces, some excellent pottery and tiles, drugs and chemicals, bricks, wooden-ware, wire work, and a good collection of vegetables (fresh and dried) grown in the market

PSM V74 D116 Exposition post office and telegraph building.png

Post office and Telegraph Building.

gardens around the capital. Para, at the mouth of the Amazon, sends pottery and tiles; and an excellent exhibit from one firm in the city of Porto Alegre (State of Rio Grande do Sul) includes metal bedsteads and other articles of furniture, stoves, galvanized iron-work, safes, locks, etc., which would look well in any exposition anywhere. Those who have traveled in Germany will see unmistakable evidence of German skill and workmanship in the Santa Catharina exhibit of

PSM V74 D117 Agricultural department building at the exposition.png

Agricultural Department Building.

needlework and embroidery, baskets, furniture and woodenware, and oil paintings, and a copy of "Der Urwaldsbote," published in Blumenau, shows that the language of the Fatherland is not forgotten in the midst of the new surroundings of Brazil.

Mere enumeration of the kinds of exhibits is tedious alike to writer and to reader; it leaves a confused impression on the mind. In any exposition, even a small one such as this in Rio, the best that can be done is to single out a few things for special mention. The exhibit made by the director of the Botanical Garden is representative, so far as it was possible to make it under the circumstances. In and around a glass pavilion there are shown, in pots, 1,337 selected plants, all carefully

 
PSM V74 D118 The federal district building at the exposition.png
Federal District Building.
 
PSM V74 D118 The san paulo pavilion at the exhibition.png
The San Paulo Pavilion.
The San Paulo Building stands next to that of Minas Geraes, and covers an area of 4,593 square feet. It was one of the finest buildings of the exposition.
 

labeled and classified. These include 345 palms, 144 ferns, 112 fruits, and a large number of specimens of special economic and medicinal value, including dyewoods. The colors of the labels distinguish the different groups of plants. For example, dark green is for medicinal plants; white for cotton; red for the purely ornamental; yellow for fibrous; vermilion and white for dyewoods; vermilion for oil and resinous; etc. The opportunity here afforded, of a close examination, within a conveniently restricted area, of the characteristic plants of Brazil, is an excellent one. A collection of all the publications of the Botanical Garden is arranged inside the glass pavilion, and includes two volumes of the splendid work by Dr. Barbosa Rodrigues, the director of the garden, "Sertum Palmarum Brasiliensum." These volumes are placed on an inclined shelf, where they may be freely consulted by any visitor, and are not even fastened in any way to the shelf. The authorities must have abundant faith in the honesty of the public here. Or perhaps it may be the duty of some watchman—who was absent on the occasion of the writer's visit—to guard these books.

The Astronomical Observatory of Rio has put on exhibition a Wiechert seismograph, recently imported from Germany. This machine is of a somewhat simpler pattern than the Bosch-Omori seismograph, lately installed in the Geological Section of the Harvard University Museum, at Cambridge. It is very badly set up so far as detecting earthquake shocks is concerned, for it cannot fail to be affected by the movements of the people who are walking about on all sides of it, but the writer was given to understand that, for exhibition purposes, it was desired to have the public see, with its own eyes, how sensitive such a machine is, and from that point of view it is admirably exposed! The observatory exhibit also includes several large diagrams showing the variations in the different weather elements at Rio during the year. Here one may see the extraordinary preponderance of winds from southeast and from northwest; the slight changes in temperature throughout the year; the marked rainy season of summer; the higher pressure, clearer skies and drier air which characterize the winter. Another meteorological exhibit is that of the meteorological department of the Brazilian navy. This branch of the government has charge of the daily weather map and of the daily weather forecast, and has a small working meteorological station in the cupola of the building of the mail and telegraph service, where the work is explained and the forecasts are displayed.

The broadest generalization that one can give regarding the exhibits as a whole is that the southern states of Brazil are far ahead, industrially, of the central and especially of the northern states. This results naturally from the fact that the southern states have a far more extended railroad development and are—or rather because they

 
PSM V74 D120 The bahia building at the exposition.png

Bahia Building.

The Bahia Pavilion occupies an area of 54,359 square feet. The exterior is adorned with two majestic statues of Justice and Science, and a central group consisting of figures bearing a shield, representing the State of Bahia.

are—settled by a large number of recent European immigrants. The exhibit of Rio Grande do Sul, the southernmost Brazilian state, adjoining Uruguay, is a revelation to every one who sees it. The writer's guide through this exhibit was a typical representative of the state. With French and German blood in his veins, but himself a thorough Brazilian, he took enthusiastic and wholly justifiable pride in pointing out the variety of the products and the excellence of the workmanship exhibited in the collection of articles sent by his state. These include articles of clothing of all kinds, of silk, cotton, woolen, linen and leather; straw and felt hats; furniture; leather and canned goods; soaps, perfumery and drugs; glassware; pianos and musical instruments; preserves and pickles; cigars and tobacco; articles of horn; books; artificial flowers; furniture; papers; brushes; beer and wine; flour; crackers of all sorts. It is clear enough that European manufacturers will soon have to meet strong competition here in Brazil. As the writer's guide proudly said: "We make Just as good biscuit, and just as many varieties, as the English do." The state of San Paulo, next south of Rio de Janeiro, makes an exhibit which is fully as complete and as varied as that of Rio Grande do Sul. On the other hand, we have the exhibit of that great northern state, Amazonas, whose name at once brings up vistas of immense tropical forests, with their precious woods of all kinds, and especially with their most precious rubber—the rubber which is causing so much jealousy about national boundaries in South America; the rubber to secure which men are being held in slavery as harsh and cruel, probably, as any slavery ever was in the world. An "Inferno Verde" the life of these rubber-collectors doubtless is. Such is the title of a recent book on this subject which is attracting attention here in Rio. Its cover-design is the figure of a naked Indian woman, bound hand and foot to a rubbertree, her blood dropping out, from many wounds, into the little tin cups used in collecting the precious sap of the rubber-tree. The Amazonas exhibit gives a good opportunity to see how this famous—or infamous—rubber is collected and prepared for shipment. A rubber-tree, with a gash, and the little tin cup shows the first stage. Bottles of the milky sap, "rubber-milk" they call it, show the rubber as it came from the tree. This liquid is then carried to be smoked and dried; and is rolled up into great bales for shipment. One of these huge oval masses of rubber, weighing 800 kilograms, forms part of the Amazonas exhibit. All these steps are well illustrated by photographs. Amazonas is typical of the non-industrial states. It is rich in woods. The present exposition includes 200 specimens of these woods, ranging from those which are soft and light and porous, to the very dense and very heavy pao ferro (iron-wood). The brilliant feathers from the Amazon forests, wonderfully colored, would arouse the anger of our Audubon Society members, especially if they were told that many of these feathers go to the United States. Even Amazonas is not wholly destitute of manufactured articles, although they are few in number and mostly of a primitive kind. As one runs over the exhibits from the states situated successively farther and farther south. the industries increase, until, in San Paulo, Paraná, Santa Catharina and Rio Grande do Sul, they reach their maximum variety and highest development. Rich in promise for the future is the immense western state of Matto Grosso, across which a new railroad line has recently been surveyed, to connect the railroads of San Paulo on the east with those of Bolivia on the west. Matto Grosso sends to this exposition

PSM V74 D122 The minas geraes building at the exposition.png
The Minas Geraes Building.
A stately and solidly constructed building, expressing the power and wealth of the great central State. It was designed by the Brazilian architect, Rebecchi.

specimens of its sugar and farina and rice and corn; of its herbs; and of its woods, including the famous quebracho and shows, by means of photographs, some of its great herds of cattle. The state now has 3,000,000 head of cattle. Rio Grande do Sul has a fine exhibit of live cattle. Special mention may be made of the thoroughbred Durham and Hereford bulls, of which a considerable number are shown.

Whoever thinks of Brazil thinks of coffee, and whoever thinks of coffee-production in Brazil thinks of the state of San Paulo, the greatest coffee-growing district in the world. In the San Paulo exhibit the visitor will see bag after bag, and sample after sample, of coffee, of all grades, varieties, qualities, prices—confusing monotonous, if you will, but very instructive. A large diagram, hung on the wall, shows the export of coffee from Brazil in the year 1906-7. The total amount exported was 20,190,000 sacks, of 60 kilograms each. Santos, the world's greatest coffee port, exported 15,392,000 of these sacks. All countries outside of Brazil exported only 3,595,000 sacks. In this diagram these various amounts are represented by small coffee sacks, and each of the sacks of the diagram really represents 50,000 sacks of 60 kilograms each! Whether the traveler to Brazil can manage to get into the coffee district or not, he should surely not fail to see Santos. As the steamer comes up to the city through the narrow channel, winding about through green fields, one wonders where this famous coffee port is, of which every one has heard so much. You see some houses in the distance, very unattractive to the eye, and are told that is Santos. Your surprise continues to grow until, on making a final turn in the river you see, stretching out on your left, the famous Santos docks and warehouses, with steamers of all sizes and of many flags, lying two deep in many cases, the whole length of the docks. Everybody is busy. Teams, and mule-carts and donkey-engines and traveling cranes and porters—all busy loading coffee. Coffee is everywhere: in the streets, in the stores, on the train. If coffee is injuring the human race, Santos is doing its best to accomplish that purpose. From Santos to San Paulo there is a fine railroad journey up across the Serra do Mar; a steep climb, by cable road, to 2,500 feet above sea level. This trip should be taken by the late afternoon train. The contrast between the hot muggy air of Santos and the cool, fresh air on top of the Serra is then most striking and refreshing; the light on the mountains is then softest and most varied. The views down into the valley, with its many banana plantations, are very fine, and even the least observing traveler can not fail to notice the extraordinary precautions which have been taken to guard the line against washouts. The whole mountainside is actually walled up, in places, and everywhere are seen the brick and cement drains and ditches which carry off the rainfall. One of the engineers of.this road says that the ideal for which he is striving is to know what will become of every drop of rain that falls on these mountain slopes! To maintain this line, in good order, is one constant struggle against the destructive action of

 
PSM V74 D124 Restaurant pao de assucar at the exposition.png
Restaurant "Pão de Assucar."
The restaurant is situated at the northern end of the esplanade Fraia Vermelha. In the background is the Pão de Assucar (Sugar Loaf), one of the natural features of the exposition grounds.
 

rain-water, which is flowing downhill—nothing more—and, unfortunately for the railroad, nothing less!

Another exhibit, mention of which is suggested by the above note on coffee, is that of maté. Barrels and bags and smaller samples of maté are seen best in the exhibits of the state of Parana. The common name for maté, "Paraguay tea," associates this plant with Paraguay, but Brazil is becoming a more and more important maté-producing country. When white men came to these parts of South America, the Indians were found to be drinking maté, and the Jesuit missionaries soon discovered the excellent properties of the plant and forthwith adopted the native custom of using it. The maté tree grows to be 10 to 20 feet high; its natural habitat is on the plateaus 1,500 or more feet above the sea, and chiefly in Matto Grosso, Paraná and Paraguay. It is now extensively grown on plantations. Advocates of the use of maté as a drink, in place of tea and coffee, have gone very far in attributing to this herb medicinal, nutritive and stimulating qualities which would seem to make maté an absolute essential to health and happiness. The writer has before him at this moment a report on maté, made to a commercial and industrial body in Paraná a few years ago, and in this account the benefits to be derived from the use of maté tea are enumerated at great length. But whether these beneficial qualities are exaggerated or not, the fact remains that maté-drinking is very much on the increase, and that those who indulge in it are practically unanimous in stating that maté is far superior to tea, in not producing insomnia or nervousness. Americans who want to see a maté factory will do well to visit Curityba, the capital of the state of Paraná. There the "Fabrica Tibagy," one of the largest in Brazil, will be freely opened to their inspection. This factory exported last year 3,000,000 kilograms of maté, the whole amount exported from Paraná being 30,000,000 kilograms. The leaves and small stems are brought to the factory in burlap or rawhide bags, and after being thoroughly dried, in ovens, are passed through a screening process, which separates the stems and leaves, according to their size. The coarsest stems are used for fuel; the less coarse ones are sold for the cheaper grades of maté. The leaves are then carefully sorted, according to their quality, and are next run through crushing machines. The best maté is in the form of a very fine olive-green powder. Maté tea is prepared much like ordinary tea. It may be taken in a cup, if properly strained, but the native way is to leave the powder in the water and to suck up the tea through a tube provided at the lower end with a fine strainer. The taste of maté to the novice is not unlike that of a very weak solution of hot turpentine. It is therefore safe to say that maté-drinking is an acquired taste for those who are accustomed to ordinary tea. Most of the Brazilian maté goes at present to the Argentine Republic, but some is already being exported to France. The visitor to Curityba should, by all means, going or coming—preferably both going and coming—take the trip by rail between Curityba and Paranaguá. This is without question one of the most picturesque railroad journeys in the world. From Paranaguá, on the coast, the railroad ascends the splendid range of coast mountains up to a height of about 3,000 feet above sea level, by a long series of curves, tunnels and bridges which are marvels of engineering skill. Bare rock, mountain torrent and waterfall, forested slope distant views over the deep valleys and plains below, follow one another in rapid succession for two hours. On the lowland and lower slopes you see, in the greatest profusion, oranges, bananas and sugar-cane. On the way up you pass through a densely-tangled forest, whose trees are almost completely covered with moss, creepers and parasitic plants of all kinds. Once across the top of the mountains you find yourself on a canipo—rolling; sparsely wooded, very bare by contrast. Very few American tourists ever take this journey. But one can hardly be said to have seen anything of Brazil who has not been farther inland than the immediate sea-coast, and it is in the coast cities that most travelers spend their time.

American visitors to this exposition will be especially interested in the exhibit of the experimental rice farm at Moreira Cesar, in the state of San Paulo. On this farm, with the aid of irrigation, our fellow countryman, Mr. Wellman Bradford, of Louisiana, is carrying on an experiment station where students, selected by the government, are being taught scientific rice-growing. Mr. Bradford has had many difficulties to contend with in his work, but he has faithfully persisted in his undertaking, and deserves the greatest credit for his skill and perseverance. Japanese rice, which has lately been sown on this farm, has been found to give the best results as to quality of the crop. Another exhibit of interest to Americans is that of the model farm at Piracicaba, in the state of San Paulo. This farm is carried on, as is the rice farm just referred to, under government auspices. Its director was formerly at the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station. Cereals of many kinds are raised, as well as cotton, rice, sorghum and alfalfa. Experimental plantings of various kinds of wheat and corn from the United States are being made, and the people who come to the farm are being taught modern methods of farming, and stockraising. No more important work for the agricultural future of the country here in Brazil is being done than that now in hand at the rice farm at Moreira Cesar, and at the Fazenda Modele at Piracicaba.

The National Exposition at Rio de Janeiro, taken all in all, is immensely significant, instructive, impressive. It tells of the natural wealth of Brazil; of the variety of its products; of the many arts and industries that have here been developed almost wholly without the knowledge of the bulk of the people in whose midst the factories and mills and machine-shops have sprung up. It is fitting that this exposition should take place in celebration of the centennial anniversary of the opening of the ports of Brazil to the commerce of the world. The exposition finds its appropriate location in the new Rio de Janeiro, with its new avenues and boulevards, docks and warehouses, and the many other improvements which have changed it so recently into a modern city.

 

PSM V74 D127 Building at the exposition.png