In 1912, William D. Boyce, the American businessman, explorer and founder of the Boys Scouts of America wrote of Rio in his book, Illustrated South America: A Chicago Publisher’s Travels and Investigations in the Republics of South America:
The Bay of Rio de Janeiro has been the subject of poetic praise and description since it was discovered in January, 1501, by Amerigo Vespucci, and the traveler who comes to it, even after a voyage around the world, is as moved by its charms as if he had not been satiated with other beautiful views.
The Bay is the very gate to a tropical paradise; one doubts if there is elsewhere so bold a coast, such a picturesque cluster of mountains, such a maze of small islands, such a burst of tropical vegetation. Guarding the narrow entrance to this wonder-spot of Nature stands an insurmountable granite peak. 2,200 feet in height, known as the “Sugar Loaf,” which rises almost precipitately out of the sea. A pretty Brazilian legend says of-this towering peak that, having made the Bay of Rio de Janeiro, the Creator was so pleased with His work that He erected this monument as a sort of exclamation point to call man’s attention to His masterpiece.
…the boulevards of Rio de Janeiro are, without exception, the finest in the world. They are lined with shade trees, with walks for pedestrians and seats for those who wish to rest and watch the automobiles skim by at a rate of forty to sixty miles an hour. Of these boulevards the most beautiful are the Avenida Central, with which there is nothing in the United States to compare, and the picturesque Avenida Beira Mar.
It is impossible in a short space to describe the beauty of Rio de Janeiro, which, beginning at the balustrade sea wall of granite, sweeps back over the smaller hills of two hundred and three hundred feet in height, around the peaks that extend upward to over two thousand feet, and up the valleys which are lined with houses set in the very exuberance of tropical magnificence.
Nowhere in Rio de Janeiro did I see evidences of poverty. although the “simple life” was in evidence in the quarters where the laborers toil and live. The genial climate makes an excess of clothing unnecessary, so about all the laborer needs, if he does not care for the conventions of society, is a pair of cotton trousers; while his wife can, and does to a certain extent, manage to get along with a cotton slip built a la “Mother Hubbard.”
The city has a very fine street car system, the bonds of which are owned by Canadian capitalists. The cars are all open and the seats are so narrow that it is difficult for a fat man to squeeze into one. There are two rates of fare, nine cents being charged the ordinary passenger, but in the early morning and in the evening a second-class rate of two cents is charged for the benefit of the laborers going and coming from work.
To write a really adequate description of beautiful Rio de Janeiro would occupy more than one chapter. Even then it is doubtful if one could convey to the reader a word-picture that would do the place justice. In this spot there is a combination of blue sea, of verdant islands, of soaring cliffs and green hills and picturesque architecture, that form a vision of beauty I believe unequaled elsewhere on the globe. All praise to the men of Rio de Janeiro, who had the wisdom and energy to create a city so sanitary, so artistic, and so entirely pleasant for human beings to live in.