European financiers and technicians made a significant contribution to the development of Latin America, particularly in the late nineteenth century.1 Among Latin American nations, Argentina was the principal beneficiary of foreign entrepreneurial and colonizing activities.2 These endeavors assisted the republic in establishing political control over a vast area during this period. Nowhere in post-1860 Argentina has the European played a greater role than in the development of Patagonia, to which ethnic migration has continually been a characteristic type.3 Though widely settled by persons of the British Isles, southern Argentina has unaccountably attracted a significant number from the Balkan countries as well.4 One of them, a Rumanian named Julius Popper—explorer, engineer, and entrepreneur—became for a short time a living legend in Tierra del Fuego, and had his life not been cut short, he might well have rivaled in historic importance such foreign entrepreneurs as William Wheelwright and Edward Hopkins.5

Until 1885 the austral regions of the South American continent were largely unexplored and uninhabited, save for a small indigenous population of Ona, Yahgan, and Alacaluf Indians. Early in the nineteenth century, international attention was focused on Tierra del Fuego by the expeditionary voyages of the British ship Beagle (1826-1835). Subsequently a few Protestant missionaries, as well as explorers of various nationalities, visited the archipelago.6 Chileans discovered gold near Punta Arenas before 1867, probably at the Río de las Minas. It is said that its existence on the east coast of Patagonia and on the island of Chiloe was known at about the same time. John R. Spears, an American journalist, noted that it was “at the beginning a very hazy story. I could not learn definitely either the name of the first man who found gold in the vicinity of the strait, or the exact locality in which it was found.”7

About a decade later some stranded sailors accidentally came upon gold at Cape Vírgenes, a promontory located on the southeastern tip of the Patagonian mainland that later became the scene of the first major “gold rush” in the area.8 Though gold prospecting languished for a time, the area began to attract European colonists interested in raising sheep. A sudden influx of population brought into the open the question of national ownership of the entire area, heretofore long disputed between Argentina and Chile. Mediation by the United States resulted in a treaty signed on July 23, 1881, that confirmed Argentina’s possession of the Patagonian mainland. The triangular shaped island of Tierra del Fuego was virtually halved, with Chile receiving the larger western portion and thus full sovereignty over the Strait of Magellan.9

Following the accord, Argentina sponsored three expeditions of more or less official nature. An Italian naval officer, Giacomo Bove, headed expeditions in 1881-1882 and 1884.10 An Argentine explorer and writer, Ramón Lista, subsequently made his second trip to the region.11 It was probably the second Bove expedition that returned to the capital with news of the gold strike that had followed the wreck of the steamship Arctique near Cape Vírgenes. Thus, it had taken almost “twenty years after the finding of the first dust—twenty years, during every one of which, some gold was found in the region—to create anything like a stir in the matter.”12 According to Armando Braun Menéndez, the excited reaction in Buenos Aires attracted not only adventurers from several parts of the world—especially the Dalmatian coast—but also businessmen, stock market brokers, and the monied class of the capital. They had been attacked by a “contagious speculative virus. As a sort of salve, they created syndicates, formed mining companies, petitioned [the government] for gold-mining concessions, elaborated statutes of incorporation, sold stocks, and accumulated capital funds.”13 By the latter part of 1885 a charged “strike-it-rich” atmosphere prevailed in Buenos Aires. It was precisely at this time that Julio Popper came upon the scene.

Popper defies simple description. His two principal biographers, Braun Menéndez and Boleslao Lewin, have chosen to characterize him as “adventurer” and “conqueror.” His accomplishments were not so grandiose as the latter term might suggest, but he was no ordinary adventurer, for Braun Menéndez also remarks on his “mania for polemics, his inventiveness, dictatorial tendencies, and passion for exploration and spectacular business ventures.” According to another description, he was “an engineer of rare attainments—a civil, mechanical, and mining engineer—good in all three branches; an astronomer ; a linguist who spoke and wrote a dozen languages fluently. He could with equal grace and precision conduct a lady to dinner or knock all the fight out of a claim jumper.”14

This man of all talents was born into a modest Bucharest family on December 15, 1857.15 About twenty-eight years later he arrived in Argentina. What little he chose to reveal about the intervening years eventually made its way into the Buenos Aires press and perhaps even into the biographical data that later appeared in Rumania. Lacking corroboration, one can only question the facts of Popper’s so-called “stormy years.”16 Most accounts suggest that at some time during his teens he left his parental home to become a mining engineer. He is supposed to have received an engineering degree in Paris. It is further stated that upon graduation he “embarked upon a trip around the world.”17 Braun Menéndez summarizes most of the accounts: “Obituaries speak vaguely of his many trips through Europe ; of a long stay in the Far East ; of another in North America ; as well as mining activities developed by Popper [there], in Mexico, and on the island of Cuba.”18 According to one version, Popper’s global travels finally brought him to Brazil, where he first heard the news of a gold strike at Cape Vírgenes.19

Arriving in Buenos Aires, he made a good impression on all who met him. He was described as “tall, strong, with a somewhat prominent face, blond with blue eyes, a bald forehead. His skin [was] always high colored. Until his last moment he had a healthy look [and was] elegantly and carefully dressed, always active and in good humor”20 During his first months in Buenos Aires he is said to have made many friends, probably because of his participation in the Masonic movement.21 One such acquaintance was the well-known attorney and man of letters, Dr. Lucio V. López, who later admitted that from the time the explorer arrived, he (López) had “assisted in all the preparations for his diverse and romantic expeditions to the Southern lands and seas.. . .”22

Named inspector of one of the most important mining companies operating in the southern region, Popper made his first trip to Patagonia in May 1886.23 Details of the journey are lacking because most accounts confuse it with one undertaken the following September. What had occurred was that “a great number of persons solicited . . . concessions of mines.. . . But as a greater part of the solicitors had never been in Patagonia, and were obliged to gather their information from others as to the desirable points, it happened that much confusion arose.. . . Many concessions were not only issued on overlapping claims, but on the same claims, and there were many heartburnings and feuds over patches of sand that were not worth anything.”24

This was the scene that confronted Popper when he first arrived at Cape Vírgenes. He astutely realized that little gold could be produced conveniently here. As he observed, Fuegian gold was generally found in alluvial formations on sea beaches behind which there were high banks. Consisting of fine particles, it was associated with a very rich but thin stratum of black magnetic sand, much of which was found underwater and could be worked only at low tide.25 Popper seems to have learned from some “natives” that the geological formations of northern Tierra del Fuego resembled those of Vírgenes very closely. One account has it that a group from Punta Arenas was unsuccessfully working at San Sebastián Bay in northern Tierra del Fuego and that after a conference with them Popper determined to outfit an expedition to that locale.26 To accomplish this end, Popper quickly returned to Buenos Aires.

The “Expedición Popper” set out from Buenos Aires early in September 1886. Popper must have obtained a great deal of support not only from private sources but also from public officials, for the Interior and War Ministries granted him permission to arm his men.27 Some time prior to departure they were trained as a personal bodyguard which, according to some accounts, later alarmed the citizenry of Punta Arenas. After landing at Bahía Porvenir, across the strait from the Chilean center, the party of eighteen men headed eastward and pushed their way through the snow and thick brush until they reached the Atlantic coast. Thus Popper was the first explorer on record to traverse the northern portion of Tierra del Fuego. At Bahía San Sebastián they discovered gold “in a layer of black sand, exactly like the layer that had been found at Cape Vírgenes, although there was no bank of any kind behind the beach.”28 On November 27, 1886, the Argentine explorer, Ramón Lista, reached the southern edge of that bay (where Popper had waited vainly for supplies a few weeks earlier). Lista wrote: “The existence of gold, especially in the southeastern part of the bay is highly problematical.. . . Not even a trace of that infectious metal has been found.”29 Popper later refuted this statement, implying that the southern part of the bay was the richest, and much doubt still exists concerning where and when he discovered gold at San Sebastián. After some further exploration the expedition returned to the capital, having spent less than six months in the field.

The expedition became famous in Argentina not only because of the publicity which Popper gave it in public lectures, but also on account of a photographic album which, with its accompanying text, described Tierra del Fuego and its inhabitants. The original, bound in leather, was presented to Miguel Juárez Celman, then president of Argentina.30 One can readily understand why Julio Popper is said to have “conquered” Buenos Aires when he returned there early in 1887.31

The city was focal point for Argentina’s boom during the 1880s. Countless funds were being invested in real estate, railroads, mining, and other ventures. Having assumed the reins of government in 1886, Juárez Celman and his associates furthered the orgy of speculation, often in an illegal or extralegal manner. Viewing the scene of official corruption coupled with public apathy, one American observer commented :32

Everyone wants to make money rapidly, everybody speculates and everybody lies. . . . I began to think that the Argentines were crazy and their republic an enormous mad house! . . . Whether we examine the republic from the political, the social, or the commercial point of view, we are equally astounded by the blatant and obtrusive immorality. . .. For those who have any delicacy, any conscience, any commercial morality, Buenos Aires is no place.

On March 5, 1887, Popper delivered a lecture concerning his expedition to a “select gathering” of the Argentine Geographical Institute. His speech was published in the April 1887 Boletín of the Institute and later reprinted separately as a pamphlet.33 Aided by a display of objects taken from Tierra del Fuego, Popper’s lecture fired the imagination of the commercial world, which at this time needed little prodding to engage in extravagant investment. In consequence of Popper’s appearance, there was formed by July of that year the Compañía Lavaderos de Oro del Sud which was preparing to send Popper, one of its principal organizers, with men and equipment to erect a mining establishment on San Sebastián Bay.34 Several of the Company’s backers were quite prominent in Argentine society, including Dr. Bernardo de Irigoyen, noted statesman and one of the original founders of the Radical movement; Dr. José María Ramos Mejía, a physician who published several historical works; and Dr. Joaquín M. Cullen, lawyer son of a former governor of the province of Santa Fe.35

Almost a full year had been spent in organizing the company, perfecting title to claims, and making arrangements to ship much equipment, including a steam pumping plant with sluices, to El Páramo camp. Braun Menéndez described the camp, relying on Popper’s account:36

Nothing was lacking: A comfortable building to house the administrative personnel; [one] made more prominent by a small tower whose skylights faced the four cardinal directions; a large ill-proportioned house with space for eighty cuchetas, destined to accommodate a large crew; the usual annexes consisting of a storehouse and a kitchen; and, a little removed from that center, the placer mining area, properly speaking. It included a workshop, the forge, an extensive Decauville [portable railroad] line, the shed where two steam engines were installed, and facing them a centrifugal pump connected to the sea by means of a tunnel dug at seven meters below flood tide. [The pump] filled a raised tank to capacity with liquid, and this volume of water, continually changed, used to serve for washing the gold bearing sands. The [latter] task was effectuated by four machines invented by Popper who named them “Gold Harvesters.”

Lewin, insists that the description is fanciful and cites a report made by a government inspector who visited Páramo in October 1891.37 It is true that Popper had a vivid imagination, but what the inspector saw was very likely the result of the deterioration that time and weather had wrought on the buildings and equipment. José Eizaguirre, a journalist traveling with the government party, also noted that the old machinery had broken down.38 However, another writer observed: “All [this was] improvised in a few months. The few persons who were there were astonished at the innovations, the order which prevailed, and the relative comforts they enjoyed.”39 Popper’s obituaries maintained that he took out patents on his gold harvester in several countries including the United States, but as far as can be determined this was not the case.40 He did receive an Argentine patent, number 830, on November 12, 1889.41 There exists the further possibility that Popper was not the sole inventor of the gold harvester, for a few weeks later he wrote to one of his supervisors : “As I have written you in an earlier letter, I have an invention patent on our apparatus.”42

El Páramo began to produce a yield of one-half to one pound of gold per day or, according to Spears, 154 pounds avoirdupois in the first year.43 Though small, this amount was sufficient to attract poachers from Punta Arenas who, together with the Indians, comprised a danger not only to Popper’s investment but to the morale of his employees as well. In 1890 Popper wrote a fictional account of the effect of the Páramo strike on Punta Arenas, the Chilean town of some 2000 prospectors and fishermen. Because of his difficulties with these people Popper hurried back to Buenos Aires for government protection. The authorities approved his request on April 20, 1888, by establishing a commissary of twelve gendarmes for the northern half of Tierra del Fuego.44 Soon after this it located a station a few miles west of Páramo which included a prefect, a chief of police, and a schoolmaster, as well as the soldiers.45 Popper’s biographers may have erred in stating that the decree named his brother Max in command of the station, for the latter was traveling on a French passport dated 1889 and in all likelihood arrived in the Argentine a full year after the issuance of the above-cited decree.46 Returning, Popper began his longest continued residence in the Fuegian region, one in which he “spent eighteen months at the head of the operations facing all kinds of difficult luck.”47 Yet, despite the difficulties, this period was probably the most fruitful of his brief life and the one which produced most of the Popper “legends.”

Prior to his departure for Buenos Aires Popper had begun to establish small gold washeries at places which he had discovered along the coast near San Sebastián. To some of these places he even gave Rumanian names, such as Carmen Sylva, Ureche, and Linaia.48 In May or June 1888 he set out to explore the southeastern canal area of Tierra del Fuego, using for the purpose two boats which he had recently acquired. He concentrated his attention on the area which included the Strait of Le Maire and Aguirre and Sloggett Bays, as well as Pieton, Lennox, and New Islands, which were nominally Chilean possessions. In Popper’s view the body of water touching these locations should have been called “the ‘Mar Argentino,’ a name which I believed more adequate to designate the extension of the nameless sea which washes the extreme austral part of the Republic and which extends from the Staten Islands to the Cape of Horn and from the Beagle Channel to the Atlantic Ocean.”49

In early August 1888, at the height of the Antarctic winter, Popper landed at Sloggett Bay together with an engineer named Wagner. By this time it had become one of the most popular spots for prospectors, because gold there came in the form of nuggets. E. Lucas Bridges, son of the missionary Thomas Bridges, later recollected that in May 1882, while still quite young, he accompanied his father and the Italian Scientific Expedition of Bove to Sloggett Bay, where he collected magnetic iron sand while playing with a toy magnet. After it had lain in his “treasure box” for about three years, the newly-appointed governor of the territory, Félix Paz, recognized the substance as gold and sent a ship to the area which brought back sacks of pay dirt. According to Bridges, this was the first gold strike on the south coast of Tierra del Fuego.50 But prospecting at Sloggett was dangerous and difficult. The southerly gale, which led Popper to produce some of his finest prose, played havoc with the boats moored at that roadstead. Also Sloggett gold was accessible only at the lowest of tides because it was found even further below the sand of the beach than was usually the case in this region.51 There at Sloggett Popper built an important washery which he entrusted to the care of Wagner. According to his later claim, on September 5, 1888, while at Páramo, he received word that the Sloggett personnel had been imprisoned by Argentine authorities. This incident was the basis of his suit against governor Félix M. Paz, whom he held responsible for the fact that his equipment was still being used at Sloggett in 1890 without his authorization and without due compensation.52

Expanding on Popper’s account, several writers tell the story of his encounters with Chilean poachers which supposedly took place in the latter half of 1888. Popper’s success in driving the Chilean miners away from his installation at Beta Creek only provoked them to hold a protest meeting at Punta Arenas that led to the destruction of the washery at Carmen Sylva. At the subsequent Battle of Beta Creek, fought in January 1889, Popper is said to have rid himself of the intruders. Strategically placed straw dummies on horseback were reported to have been the decisive factor at the battle so that thereafter the guard at Páramo consisted of only one man pulling a line of mounted dummies, an act “which occasioned the same preventative effect as a strong patrol with greater economy of the establishment’s personnel.”53 No doubt the story is exaggerated, for the people of Punta Arenas told Spears, the American journalist, that many of Popper’s remarks about them were libelous.54 Certainly, it is most difficult to find nonpartisan accounts of the relationship between Popper and Punta Arenas. Furthermore, the trick of the straw dummies had been known in Patagonia since the 1820s, when the same ruse had helped to save the outpost of Carmen del Patagones from an attack by Imperial Brazil.55

Popper earned the title “Dictator of Tierra del Fuego” because of circumstances which occurred in 1889. By this time he had become a virtual sovereign on the northern or Argentine half of the island. About November 1889, coins or medallions of one and five grams pure gold minted by Popper began to make their appearance.56 One side of these coins bore the inscription “Tierra del Fuego-Popper-1889,” while on the reverse the words “El Páramo” or “Lavaderos de Oro del Sud” were coupled with the value in grams before a background of crossed hammer and pick.57 No doubt the scarcity of specie in that remote area prompted Popper to strike the coins, the first of their kind in the republic minted exclusively with Argentine gold.58 He also began to emit ten-cent postage stamps with a similar design on a red background surmounted by the initial “P” and bordered by the inscription “Tierra del Fuego.”59 To be sure, Popper’s stamps were for the private use of his establishments and followed the precedent set by other private firms or individuals in Tierra del Fuego from time to time.60 But in addition, he maintained a small armed “force” and had a “navy” consisting of one or two transports. Small wonder that his actions, approaching those of a sovereign nation, “couldn’t be tolerated indefinitely by the governors.”61

Three years passed after Argentina signed the boundary treaty of 1881 with Chile before she established sovereignty over her southernmost possessions. Four vessels were sent out to establish subprefectures at Staten Island and at Ushuaia, which for sixteen years had been the site of Bridge’s Anglican mission. The missionary, together with the sub-prefect, Sr. Virasoro y Calvo, and others, hoisted the Argentine flag for the first time at Ushuaia on Columbus Day 1884. Within a year the little town of fewer than a hundred souls was raised to the status of a gubernatorial capital under the administration of Captain Félix M. Paz of the Argentine navy.62

Penned on the Beagle Channel by mountains, Ushuaia maintained only weak communication with the northern half of the territory dominated by Popper. Even so, an altercation broke out between Paz and Popper on the grounds that the governor allowed prospectors on Popper’s territory, because, as in the Sloggett affair, he did not recognize the latter’s concession from federal authorities.63 Popper determined to return to Buenos Aires to settle his grievances. On October 12, 1889, he placed the administration of El Páramo in the hands of a subordinate and departed for the capital.64 Here he wrote a series of articles vilifying the governor which appeared in the newspaper El Diario during January and February 1890. For this, Popper had to face the prospect of a slander suit,65 but the case was settled out of court through the intervention of mutual friends.

The government then replaced Paz with Doctor Mario Cornero. At first Popper thought that Cornero would be “better than the other” and was “very well disposed” toward him, so he ordered that the new governor be given a rousing reception on arrival at San Sabastián.66 Soon, however, the two men were at loggerheads, the governor opposing Popper’s activities as inimical to national sovereignty and Popper criticizing Cornero for corrupt administration. There followed another slander suit. Eventually, Popper was exonerated of the charges brought against him, but Cornero was replaced on May 8, 1893, by Lieutenant Colonel Pedro Godoy.67 Regarding Popper’s quarrels with the authorities, one can only conclude that both sides, jealous of their prerogatives, overstepped their bounds a good deal.68

A more compelling reason for Popper’s return to Buenos Aires late in 1889 might be found in the fact that El Páramo was failing to yield a fair return for its backers. Within a few weeks he personally financed a shipment of new men and supplies to San Sebastián. In December 1889, he informed the administrator at Páramo that the company had been dissolved:69

The company Lavaderos de Oro del Sud does not exist anymore, and all the belongings of El Páramo and the rights of the Company as well as the exploitation of gold at the shores and the occupation of 2500 hectares of land have become my property. In return, I have to remit to them for three years fifteen percent of all the gold obtained. Excluded from the contribution are the belongings of Arroyo Beta, Carmen Sylva, and the south of Juárez Celman River, Cabo Medio, and San Pablo.

The final arrangements were probably concluded at a stockholders meeting held on February 28, 1890.

Despite the company’s dissolution Popper continued to be accepted in the highest circles and to wield some influence. People remembered him in this period as having been “elegantly dressed . . . always active and in good humor, an assiduous joiner of all the centers of animated life . . ., [and] always seen on the street, in restaurants, and in theater lobbies with a nucleus of friends who were attracted to him.”70 Interest in Popper and his work reached a climax at the beginning of 1890. The explorer was writing a regular column in El Diario, and many articles concerning his exploits were appearing in other Buenos Aires papers. His lectures before the Argentine Geographical Institute made him a respected intellectual and literary figure of the capital. The traditional image of Popper as the fearless adventurer derives from this varied publicity, which was rather singularly based on his activity before 1890 in the Argentine.

Popper’s activity became abruptly less spectacular from 1890 to his death in 1893. During this phase of his Argentine career he spent very little time in Tierra del Fuego, except for one visit early in 1891, when he crossed the southeasternmost tip of the island on foot.71 The direction of El Páramo fell mostly to his brother and to trusted underlings, as Popper became increasingly absorbed in developing new projects. These tied him to Buenos Aires, for in the aftermath of the 1890 financial crisis funds for new ventures had become more difficult to obtain. Harassing law suits and applications for land concessions also required his presence in the capital.

Popper’s principal business continued to be the exploitation of mining concessions in Tierra del Fuego. El Páramo, of course, was the largest and most productive of the eighteen concessions which he held.72 His efforts there were foiled by the same factors that affected rival concessionaries and prospectors. Not the least of these was the decrease in the yield, for the easily accessible gold-bearing sand was worked off in the first years, and although the supply was somewhat renewed by every storm, it tended to decrease. “Eventually a time came when the miners at Páramo were able to work off all the black sand between storms.”73 A second problem, aggravated by Popper’s peculiar philosophy of labor relations, was the difficulty of retaining responsible employees, particularly administrative personnel. In Spears’ words : “As soon as the men get a few ounces of dust to their credit, they must take it away and go to Punta Arenas and swap it for such joys as may be had in that tiny metropolis.”74

When Popper left San Sebastián in October 1889, he entrusted the management of his establishments to three functionaries, a chief administrative officer who also did the purchasing, a sub-administrator responsible for the bookkeeping, and a foreman or mecánico who acted as a field supervisor. At the beginning of 1890 these positions were held by Mateo Mijaich, Mateo Martinich, and Pedro Gnochi respectively.75 Mijaich wasted little time in escaping with some gold to Chile, where Popper’s lawyer, José María Cabeson of Valparaíso, brought about his capture and extradition. At the time of Popper’s death in 1893, the criminal was still serving a sentence, but had supposedly hidden away “a major part of the stolen gold.”76 Martinich, Gnochi, and several others eventually sued Popper for back wages.77 Popper’s younger brother Max had to take charge personally, but “after a little time fell victim to the vigorous climate . . . [and] on August 27, 1891, died of pulmonary tuberculosis at the age of twenty-three while he was managing the washery in the absence of his brother. . ..”78 Indeed after Popper’s departure he had a difficult time in retaining two administrators. At one point he had to press into the ranks of management one Bruno Ansorge, a man hired in Buenos Aires to serve as a geologist and botanist.79 It was Popper’s questionable tactics as an employer, coupled, of course, with the harsh conditions of work in Tierra del Fuego, that accounted for the rapid turnover of his employees. He would promise them in private correspondence a salary greater than what the register called for, but request that they keep the fact secret in order “not to arouse the jealousy of the men.”80 If we are to believe the testimony of several of these men, Popper then failed to pay either the extra salary or a percentage of the profits as earlier agreed. Nor was he entirely aboveboard in Buenos Aires, for he often changed mailing addresses and apoderados (legal representatives), and in one case he dropped a partner in about two weeks.81 Though Popper was careful to supply El Páramo with its necessities—mandatory in his case, for he had frequently railed against the government’s failure to keep the territory adequately provisioned—he frequently failed to pay his debts to the Punta Arenas merchants who supplied much of the equipment.82 Thus, while El Páramo was literally being run into the ground, Popper remained in Buenos Aires, where in addition to defending his honor dramatically in the courts and in the press, he began directing his energies to the development of new projects.

As early as December 1889, Popper had been considering “placing establishments similar to El Páramo in other countries and particularly in the [Argentine] province of Jujuy.”83 Managers for these new ventures presumably would have been “graduates” of El Páramo. In April 1890, Popper sent a party headed by one of his boat captains to the arid tablelands of Jujuy for a preliminary investigation. He was scheduled to follow the group in May and then return to Tierra del Fuego by way of Bolivia and Chile.84 The impression given by a series of articles which he wrote for El Diario is that he did not reach Jujuy until August. Working with a large staff and three machines he “sought . . . for a long time a fragment of terrain that might contain fifty cents worth [of gold] per ton.” Still that “difficult veteran,” as he termed the auriferous metal, eluded him, and he became disillusioned with the new area.85 Thus there was probably no truth in a subsequent obituary notice statement that he had earned 5000 gold pesos “in an excursion to the Puna.”86

Popper then turned his attention to “colonizing” Tierra del Fuego. He was not the first to attempt this, for as early as 1886, while he was exploring the northern half of the island, Thomas Bridges was in Buenos Aires petitioning the government for farmland on which he could “usefully” employ the natives. Bridges’ talks about the archipelago and its inhabitants no doubt helped to prepare Popper’s warm reception in the capital.87 As with Popper’s projects, opinion has been sharply divided concerning the value of the missionary’s civilizing activities. Spears and Rockwell Kent depreciate his career. “Harberton was the first practical and permanent result of English missionary activities among the Yaghan natives, ” wrote Kent. “Granted as a freehold to Thomas Bridges, the first and last superintendent of the mission at Ushuaia, it became for him an immediate stepping stone from godliness to wealth.”88 Bridges’ son and the noted traveler A. S. Tschiffeley have defended the colonization attempt at Harberton.89

On March 24, 1891, only six days after enabling legislation had been revised, the Argentine Land Office granted Popper some 80,000 hectares of choice Fuegian land. As Lewin points out, the concession’s provisions bore a startling resemblance to the colonial encomienda, for Popper was required to settle 250 native families on the land, Christianize them, teach them agricultural or pastoral pursuits, and provide for their well-being.90 “Truly Popper’s efforts on behalf of the Onas ended with the contract of concession,” remarked Braun Menéndez.91 The Expedición Popper album had shown him, gun in hand, with one foot on the back of a dead Ona. Though he found that a difficult image to overcome, Popper tried to convince audiences that he had sincerely reversed his former views and attitudes about the natives. Had he been required to pay for the land conceded, it would have probably sold at the low figure of less than one cent (gold) per hectare.92 But he might not have been able to afford even that amount, as he took no steps to improve his land. Referring to Popper’s first concession of mines, a surveyor reported that “Popper did not permit the measuring of the land, nor did he fulfill any of the concession contract. It is difficult to assess [the land’s] value because [in order] to gain ultimate title under the concession one would have to spend a fortune to fulfill the requirements.”93 It is quite evident, then, that because of the mediocre output in his mining establishments, he lacked the necessary capital to obtain full title to the land conceded.94

Three projects occupied Popper’s last years in Argentina. The first of these revolved about his interest in the establishment of a tugboat company to work the Strait of Magellan. In his view, tugboats would relieve ships of the very “difficult and costly passage of Cape Horn.” It would be not only a commercial success, he argued, “but also one of the most humanitarian projects of the century.”95 A second project, in which he cooperated with a certain Dr. Ayerza, received more favorable attention. It called for the construction of a telegraph line from Viedma, capital of the territory of Río Negro, to the southeastern tip of Tierra del Fuego. The authors agreed to build the entire line, including maintenance shacks and beacons, at 275 pesos per kilometer, a sum which could be paid in federal land. The Director General of Mails and Telegraph appointed an investigating committee of influential persons to consider the plan. At the time of Popper’s death in 1893 the project was still being reviewed by the government. The line was not completed until the second presidency of General Julio A. Roca (1898-1904).96

Finally, Popper proposed to explore Antarctic Argentina—those regions claimed by Argentina near the South Pole. As part of this undertaking he was contemplating a trip to the Falkland Dependencies of the South Orkney and South Shetland Islands, as well as to Graham’s Land.97 On January 17, 1893, Popper purchased a 42-ton ship, which, after extensive repairs had been made, he renamed the Explorador,98 It was reported that an old Norwegian whaleboat captain by the name of Carlos Jansen and the naturalist Bruno Ansorge would be Popper’s principal assistants. But the expedition never sailed, for “the trip which Julio Popper . . . was about to undertake . . . would be one totally unexpected, premature, and eternal.”99

Popper’s body was discovered on the morning of June 6, 1893, by Julio Belfort, an administrator who had just “returned to Buenos Aires to get more instructions.”100 Several of Popper’s friends feared foul play and called for an autopsy. Though the official verdict was heart failure, rumors continued to circulate. Several people had reported seeing Popper—“healthy and strong”—only two days earlier.101 The American journalist, Spears, dared to say in 1894 what surely must have been on everyone’s lips: “Unfortunately when just beginning to realize on his investments in Tierra del Fuego, he died at the hands of murderers. He was poisoned in Buenos Aires by men whom he had offended in the south.”102 Without speculating further as to whether a crime was committed, one might point out that Popper had not only made many enemies, but also left some seventeen unpaid creditors along with numerous disenchanted investors.

Popper’s remains were buried in the Ayerza family tomb at the capital’s oldest and most distinguished Catholic cemetery, where many of Argentina’s leading personages had been laid to rest. It is unusual that in this ease there was little concern with the fact that he had been born a Jew.103 Perhaps it was because Popper’s relationships with the Jewish community had been minimal.104 One need only reflect on the widespread expression of grief that accompanied his passing to realize that Popper’s faith was an unimportant factor. La Prensa editorialized: “Popper’s loss is great to the youth, the intelligentsia, and the entrepreneur. He loved this country as his second land; it will lose a great champion, and we join in mourning his loss.”105La Nación echoed: “With Julio Popper, Buenos Aires loses one of the most noted and sympathetic personalities of its cosmopolitan world. . . . [It is] a shame that he died when just beginning to enjoy abundance after a hard fight for existence. . ..”106 Lucio V. López, in his funeral oration, passionately described Popper as a great hero who preferred adventure to wealth and depicted him as one who had suffered the torment that is the hallmark of great men. Popper, he went on, was also a sensitive and brilliant writer whose literary talents could be compared to such masters as Poe, Cooper, and Twain. Popper’s final honor came from the Geographical Institute which pledged itself to transfer his remains to Ushuaia, capital of Tierra del Fuego. There an appropriate resting place was going to be built as a reminder of the “services [he] rendered to national geography.”107

Julio Popper’s biography does not end with his death, for he continued to prove troublesome to many persons. Two weeks after the funeral, Belfort started succession proceedings in order to” avoid depredations and conserve [Popper’s] rights.”108 As noted, he had owned 80,000 hectares of land, eighteen mines, and one boat. His personal effects, inventoried and crated by the police on the day of the funeral, included numerous papers such as patents, projects, title deeds, and court proceedings, as well as books in several western languages.109

Those suits against Popper which had not been settled to that date were entered in the estate. Other creditors appeared in a short time—suppliers of Punta Arenas; La Platense Flotilla, the company which had outfitted the Explorador; various administrators including Popper’s doctor, haberdasher, and landlady. Popper’s estate, therefore, had to consider the claims of some seventeen individuals or firms and had to pay the salaries of several functionaries such as lawyers, auctioneers, and even the watchman of the boat. The court-appointed receiver discovered that after he had used the profits derived from the sales of Popper’s lands to pay these people, the estate had to recognize an unpayable debt of 13,134 pesos with nine cases still in appeals by the end of 1894.110 Popper’s insolvency became public knowledge at the time and may serve to explain what Lewin labels as an injustice the fact that “one does not find his name engraved anywhere” in the Republic.111

Popper’s mother, hearing of her son’s death and probably unaware of developments in the estate, initiated proceedings in Bucharest to be recognized as sole heir. She knew only that her son was “exploiting gold mines and had a possession of relative importance in Tierra del Fuego.” Since Rumania had no representative in Argentina, the French minister was called on to intercede in her case and did so successfully.112 Yet great must have been her surprise to learn that her son died penniless. Beyond a condolence message from the Argentine Geographical Institute, she received only her son’s personal effects. Even these were obtained by the receiver only after a stirring appeal before the court :113

I ought to remind your excellency that there were things left by the deceased which even if they have no value in money, are a treasured product for those who were associated with him through ties of affection. These are his personal papers, those thousand manifestations of a superior spirit, [and] of surprising activity which reveal in him a man of exceptional conditions who vanished prematurely from life leaving a luminous star in his past and an emptiness difficult to fill.

No richer than when he arrived, Popper departed from Argentina bequeathing to his family, friends, and admirers only his memory!

Belfort and a certain Juan Fernández, probably one of the backers of the German-Argentine corporation that came to control El Páramo, bought the mines and the land at little cost.114 Yet with Popper’s death gold mining in Tierra del Fuego began to decline, save for a mild short-lived boom which began in 1904, when an American introduced steam dredges.115 Subsequently, northern Tierra del Fuego, where Popper had been “dictator,” settled down to sheep raising under the domination of the Braun Menéndez family.116 Popper’s significance lies in the fact that his efforts focused a great deal of attention on the archipelago and in some measure helped to speed its settlement. Furthermore, his career in the Argentine in the last two decades of the nineteenth century illustrates how talented Europeans could successfully adapt to a different cultural milieu and contribute effectively to Latin America’s commercial and technological development.


United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Foreign Capital in Latin America (New York, 1955) is a most comprehensive work on this subject, espectially Chapter 1, reprinted with minor deletions in the useful reader, Foreign Investment in Latin America, edited by Marvin D. Bernstein (New York, 1966). See also Simon G. Hanson, Economic Development in Latin America (Washington, 1951), 369-388. J. Fred Rippy, British Investments in Latin America, 1822-1949 (Minneapolis, 1949), is recommended for its discussion of the role played by the principal European investors in Latin America. Lacking however, is a survey of major foreign entrepreneurs and technicians in Latin America.


By 1914 Argentina had attracted between 2.3 and 2.8 billion dollars, fully one-third of all foreign investment in Latin America. Foreign Capital in Latin America, 6; Hanson, Economic Development, 388. The republic also received about half of the estimated 12 million persons who migrated to Latin America in the century after Independence. Maurice R. Davie, World Immigration (New York, 1936), 446-449. To 1900 net immigration to the Argentine was 1,700,000 persons. Preston James, Latin America (New York, 1959), 334.


See: Armando Braun Menéndez, Pequeña historia patagónica (Buenos Aires, 1936); James, Latin America, 321-322; John E. Baur, “The Welsh in Patagonia; An Example of Nationalistic Migration,” HAHR, XXXIV (November 1954), 468-498; Charles B. Hitchcock, “Empresa Borsari: Italian Settlers in Tierra del Fuego,” Geographical Review, XXXIX (October 1949), 640-648.


Segundo censo de la República Argentina, 1895 (Buenos Aires, 1895), II, xl, xliv, 661-662; José María Sarobe, La Patagonia y sus problemas (Buenos Aires, 1935), 112. Most of the European immigrants arriving in Punta Arenas in 1891-92 were Austrian Slavs, Croats, and Dalmatians. Enciclopedia universal ilustrada (Madrid, 1928), LXI, 1118; E. Lucas Bridges, Uttermost Part of the Earth (New York, 1949), 174.


On the two American promoters cited see: Juan B. Alberdi, The Life and Industrial Labors of William Wheelwright in South America (Boston, 1877); Victor L. Johnson, “Edward A. Hopkins and the Development of Argentine Transportation and Communication,” HAHR, XXVI (February 1946), 19-37. Since Popper’s name was Hispanicized in Argentina to Julio and it is the name with which he signed his several articles, it will henceforth appear thus in this article.


Bridges, Uttermost Part, part I. The naturalist, Charles Darwin, sailed on the second voyage of the Beagle.


John R. Spears, The Gold Diggings of Cape Horn (New York, 1895), 3. A convenient summary of the discovery of gold in the area is found in R.A.F. Penrose, “Gold Mining of the Strait of Magellan and Tierra del Fuego,” Journal of Geology, XVI (November 1908), 686-687.


Spears, The Gold Diggings, 4-5.


Harold F. Peterson, Argentina and the United States, 1810-1960 (New York, 1964), 240-246; Ricardo Levene, A History of Argentina (New York, 1963), 496-498; Enciclopedia universal ilustrada, LXI, 1115-1120.


Braun Menéndez, Pequeña historia fueguina (2nd ed., Buenos Aires, 1945), 217-218; Bridges, Uttermost Part, 104-105, 111-112.


Spears, The Gold Diggings, 4 ; Braun Menéndez, Pequeña historia fueguina, 218. The latter contradicts himself on the dating of the Lista expedition (cf. p. 163, 310 fn.).


Spears, The Gold Diggings, 3, 6-7 ; Boleslao Lewin, Popper, un conquistador patagónico (Buenos Aires, 1967), 17.


Braun Menéndez, Pequeña historia fueguina, 214.


Ibid, 254, 310. Spears, The Gold Diggings, 9-10.


Sucesión de Julio Popper, 1893, Archivo General de la Nación, Buenos Aires, Sección Tribunales (cited hereafter as AGN-T), Leg. 7644, fol. 120-1.


The “facts” are principally found in Popper’s obituaries of 1893 and have been reiterated by various writers since that time. Lewin, Popper, 10-13, relies chiefly on Rumanian sources. See also Braun Menéndez, Pequeñn historia fueguina, 213. Some of Popper’s own writings are reprinted in Lewin, 101-231.


Universal Jewish Encyclopedia (New York, 1939) V, 601. Several writers introduce unfounded romantic or psychological explanations for Popper’s several years of wanderings.


Braun Menéndez, Pequeña historia fueguina, 213-214.


Lewin, Popper, 13. He further maintains that Popper drew up some kind of “plan” for the city of Havana in 1884.


“Julio Popper, su muerte inesperada,” La Nación, June 7, 1893, 1.


Lewin, Popper, 13, bases his account on information furnished by a student of Masonry in Argentina, Alcibiades Lappas.


La Nación, June 8, 1893, 1. López was to become known as a member of the junta that fomented the Revolution of 1890 which toppled the Juárez Celman regime. See Levene, A History of Argentina, 492.


Braun Menéndez, Pequeña historia fueguina, 163, 215. A contradictory account was circulating at the time in Europe to the effect that Popper was hired by the Argentine government at La Plata—probably a reference to the province of Buenos Aires with capital in La Plata. See Hayom (St. Petersburg, Russia), June 14, 1887, 1.


Spears, The Gold Diggings, 8.


Experts since Popper’s time have debated whether the source of the gold is a vein across the sea, or a sunken mountain range. For further discussion of this subject see: Penrose, “Gold Mining,” 693-696; Spears, The Gold Diggings, 7, 13-15; Braun Menéndez, Pequeña historia fueguina, 195-208, 215-216, 222.


Diccionario enciclopedia hispano americano (Buenos Aires, 1912), IX, 798.


The decree was dated September 6, 1886. Julio Popper, Conferencia dada en el Instituto Geográfico Argentino el 5 de marzo de 1887 (Buenos Aires, 1887); Lewin, Popper, 48.


Spears, The Gold Diggings, 10.


Ramón Lista, Viaje al país de los Onas (Buenos Aires, 1887).


The author has had the opportunity to examine a rare copy of this album through the courtesy of Dr. Justo P. Sáenz of Buenos Aires. The account of Braun Menéndez, reprinted in A. S. Tschiffely, This Way Southward (New York, 1940), 123-124, follows the album closely.


Braun Menéndez, Pequeña historia fueguina, 222.


Theodore Child, “Present Crisis in the Argentine Republic and its Consequences,” Harper’s Weekly, XXXIV (August 9, 1890, supplement), 609-610; see also Thomas P. McGann, “The Generation of Eighty,” Americas, X (October 1953), 156-157.


Popper, Conferencia dada . . . el 5 de marzo de 1887.


Braun Menéndez, Pequeña historia fueguina, 223; Spears, The Gold Diggings, 12; Lewin, Popper, 16, 48-49.


Braun Menéndez, Pequeña historia fueguina, 312 (fn. 8); Levene, A History of Argentina, 493-495; Mark Jefferson, Peopling the Argentine Pampa (New York, 1930), 55-59, 203; Enrique Udaondo, Diccionario biográfico argentino (Buenos Aires, 1938), 310.


Braun Menéndez, Pequeña historia fueguina, 224. His basis was Popper ’s pamphlet Tierra del Fuego: La vida en el extremo austral, a collection of articles published during 1890 in a Buenos Aires newspaper originally.


Lewin, Popper, 51.


José Eizaguirre, Tierra del Fuego, recuerdos e impresiones de un viaje al extremo austral de la República (Córdoba, 1897), 238-240. By 1894 the place had neither grown nor changed appreciably. Spears, The Gold Diggings, 11-12.


“Julio Popper,” La Prensa, June 7, 1893, 3.


A review of the Annual Report of the Commissioner of Patents (Washington, 1884-1894), reveals that, while such machines and processes were invented in the years cited, there was no patent, design patent, trade mark, or invention patent issued to Julius Popper or to Lavaderos de Oro del Sud in the United States.


Lewin, Popper, 52-55.


Popper to Mateo [Mijaich] December 16, 1889, in Mateo Martinich contra la sucesión de Julio Popper por cobro de pesos, 1893, AGN-T, Leg. 7644, fol. 5-6. The name of the recipient of this letter has been interpolated from other sources. (See infra, fn. 75.)


Spears, The Gold Diggings, 13; Braun Menéndez leads one to believe [pp. 222, 312 (fn. 12)] that Páramo produced about forty percent of Tierra del Fuego’s gold in the years 1887-1889. This incredible figure stems from his over-reliance on the official production figure of 1070 pounds for that period.


This account appeared in Tierra del Fuego: La vida en el extremo austral. See note 36, above. Braun Menéndez, Pequeña historia fueguina, 225-226; Lewin, Popper, 11.


Spears, The Gold Diggings, 11-12.


Sucesión de Julio Popper, AGN-T, Leg. 7644, fol. 32.


“Ecos del día—Don Julio Popper,” El Diario (Buenos Aires), October 25, 1889, 1.


For the significance of these names see : Hayom, June 14, 1887. Some, for example, referred to estates of Rumanian royalty, others to significant personages.


“Correspondencia del Sr. Julio Popper,” Boletín del Instituto Geográfico Argentino, XII (January-April 1891), 1.


Bridges, Uttermost Part, 108, 173.


Spears, The Gold Diggings, 18-21. The Grosse Jüdische National Biographie (Cernauti, Rumania, 1931), V, 72, maintains that large deposits were found on the expedition including an alleged 115 kilograms (253 pounds) on one day. The claim may well be preposterous, inasmuch as Spears [p. 16] says that one of the largest strikes on New Island netted about 100 pounds in a month! A very rich layer of pay dirt at Lennox Cove yielded seventy kilograms (154 pounds) in three months, See Bridges, Uttermost Part, 176.


Popper, La vida en el extremo austral, 7. Actually according to Braun Menéndez [p. 236], Interim Governor Teófilo Iglesias was responsible for the act.


Braun Menéndez, Pequeña historia fueguina, 231.


Spears, The Gold Diggings, 46.


Details are given in W. H. Hudson’s delightful account Idle Days in Patagonia (London, 1924), 91-95.


“Nuestros monetarios de ayer,” El Clarín (Buenos Aires), November 19, 1959, 9.


W. S. Barclay, “Life in Tierra del Fuego” Nineteenth Century (New York), LV (January 1904), 102; Braun Menéndez, Pequeña historia fueguina, 233.


Lewin, Popper, 61-64.


Braun Menéndez, Pequeña historia fueguina, 233.


E. van der Wee, Catálogo guía de álbum de sellos postales de la República Argentina (2nd ed., Buenos Aires, 1944), 68.


Rolando A. Riviere, “La última aventura de Julio Popper,” La Nación, February 24, 1957, 2:2.


Bridges, Uttermost Part, 122-123, 128; Spears, The Gold Diggings, 108-109.


Braun Menéndez, Pequeña historia fueguina, 234-235.


Martinich contra la sucesión de Julio Popper, 1893, AGN-T, Leg. 7644, fol. 1; “Ecos del día,” El Diario (Buenos Aires), October 25, 1889, 1.


“Julio Popper versus Félix M. Paz,” Deutsche Plata Zeitung (Buenos Aires), February 6, 1890.


Martinieh contra la sucesión, AGN-T, Leg. 7644, fol. 26, 30-31; Braun Menéndez, Pequeña historia fueguina, 237-238, 242.


Braun Menéndez, Pequeña historia fueguina, 242-246, 249-251; Mario Cornero, Justificación de los procederes del gobernador de Tierra del Fuego (Buenos Aires, 1892); Riviere, La Nación, February 24, 1957, 2:2. Popper’s premature death precluded a confrontation with Godoy.


Popper’s charges of corruption were partly corroborated by Spears who noted that Fuegian officials would pad their budgets since “nobody gets pay enough here to make it worth while staying” (p. 117).


Popper to Mateo [Mijaich], December 16, 1889, in Martinich contra la sucesión, AGN-T, Leg. 7644, fol. 5-6.


“Julio Popper, Su muerte inesperada,” La Nación, June 7, 1893, 1.


In a letter to the Argentine Geographical Institute, Popper vividly described the geography and climate of the territory he had traversed. Returning to Buenos Aires, he expanded the account into a lecture given at the Institute on July 27, 1891. This lecture was printed as Apuntes geográficos, etnológicos, estadísticos e industriales (Buenos Aires, 1891).


Sucesión de Julio Popper, AGN-T, leg. 7644, fol. 166-191.


Spears, The Gold Diggings, 13.


Ibid., 14.


The question of who discharged chief administrative duties at El Páramo on the departure of Popper has been rendered difficult by the complexity of three letters that Popper wrote to a certain ‘Mateo’ on December 16, 1889, on May 14 and May 31, 1890. The firm employed several Mateos. Internal criticism of the letters and supporting evidence from cases that became attached to Popper’s estate leads one to the conclusion that two or three administrators managed Páramo at the same time, as has been described. One must also conclude from the above that the letter of December 16, 1889, was written to Mijaich while the two letters of May 1890, for some inexplicable reason, must have been directed to Martinich. The question that survives is why did Popper write to Martinich in May 1890, if he had no knowledge of Mijaich’s disappearance?


La Prensa, June 7, 1893; José María Cabeson contra la sucesión de Julio Popper por cobro de pesos, 1893, AGN-T, leg. 7645.


Don Pedro Gnochi contra Julio Popper por cobro de pesos, 1891, Archivo de los Tribunales de Buenos Aires, Sección Civil, legajo 9923, fol. 6; Martinich contra la sucesión, AGN-T, leg. 7644, fol. 1.


La Prensa, September 30, 1891; Lewin, Popper, 11.


Bruno Ansorge contra la sucesión de Julio Popper por cobro de pesos, 1894, AGN-T, leg. 7645, fol. 1.


Popper to Mateo [Mijaich], December 16, 1889, in Martinich contra la sucesión, AGN-T, leg. 7644, fol. 3.


Popper to Mateo [Martinich], May 14 and May 31, 1890, in Martinich contra la sucesión, AGN-T, leg. 7644, fol. 26-30.


As for Popper’s debts, one need only cite the ease of Wehrhan Brothers of Punta Arenas, who claimed a debt of 8000 Argentine pesos dating to purchases made by Max Popper in 1890. Wehrhan Hnos. contra la sucesión de Julio Popper por cobro de pesos, 1893, AGN-T, leg. 7645.


Popper to Mateo [Mijaich], December 16, 1890, in Martinich contra la sucesión, AGN-T, leg. 7644, fol. 6-7.


Popper to Mateo [Martinich], May 14, 1890 in Martinich contra la sucesión, AGN-T, leg. 7644, fol. 27.


Julio Popper, “La fiebre de la Puna,” El Diario, November 7, 1890, reprinted in Lewin, Popper, 200-205.


La Prensa, June 7, 1893, 3.


It is strange that the volume by Bridges’ son, so detailed in its description of the history of the island, does not mention the career of Julio Popper.


Rockwell Kent, Voyaging Southward from the Strait of Magellan (New York, 1924), 134 fn.


See for example, Bridges, Uttermost Part, 172-176.


Lewin, Popper, 38-40; sucesión de Julio Popper, AGN-T, leg. 7644, fol. 28, 144, 166.


Braun Menéndez, Pequeña historia fueguina, 242, 313-317 (fns. 14, 15).


This was the prevailing price of Patagonian grazing land following the enactment of the law of November 3, 1882, under which six million hectares were sold by 1893. See A. F. Zimmerman, “Land Policy of Argentina, with Particular Reference to the Conquest of the Southern Pampas,” HAHR, XXV (February 1945), 22.


Sucesión de Julio Popper, AGN-T, leg. 7644, fol. 166-191. The court sold Popper’s land at ten centavos per hectare.


This contrasts sharply with the case of Bridges, who, after obtaining a loan from a boat captain, was able to earn a modest income from farming at Harberton (see Bridges, 137).


Popper, Apuntes geográficos, 51. Braun Menéndez (246-247) notes that the idea was a good one in the early days of steam navigation, but that by the 1890s “they were, in reality, absolutely unnecessary.”


Braun Menéndez, Pequeña historia fueguina, 247-248, 315 (fn. 19); “Julio Popper,” La Prensa, June 7, 1893, 3; Lewin, Popper, 44-47.


Elizaguirre, Tierra del Fuego, 274.


Nicolas Mihanovich contra la sucesión de Julio Popper por embargo, 1893, AGN-T, leg. 7645; La Platense Flotilla contra la sucesión de Julio Popper por cobro de pesos, 1893, AGN-T, leg. 7645; La Platense Flotilla (en liquidación) contra la sucesión de Julio Popper por embargo preventativo, 1893, AGN-T, leg. 7645.


Braun Menéndez, Pequeña historia fueguina, 249.


Julio Belfort contra la sucesión de Julio Popper por cobro de pesos, 1894, AGN-T, leg. 7645, fol. 1.


See for example, Eizaguirre, Tierra del Fuego, 274; La Nación, June 7, 1893.


Spears, The Gold Diggings, 10.


Sucesión de Julio Popper, AGN-T, leg. 7644, fol. 103, 119-121. At the time Jews were generally buried in a special section of the British cemetery on the outskirts of the capital.


Popper took no part in the affairs of the J ewish community, though his brother, Max, had been accepted in July 1889 for membership in the Congregación Israelita, the Republic’s oldest synagogue. Archivo de la Congregación Israelita de la República Argentina, Libro de Actas II, fol. 26.


La Prensa, June 7, 1893, 3.


“Julio Popper, Su muerte inesperada,’’ La Nación, June 7, 1893, 1; “Julio Popper, honores merecidos,’’ La Nación, June 8, 1893, 1; “Punebre de Sr. Popper,’’ El Diario, June 8, 1893, 2.


“Trelles y Popper,’’ La Nación, June 17, 1893, 1; El Nacional, June 17, 1893. There is no evidence that the pledge was kept; Lewin, Popper, 78.


Sucesión de Julio Popper, AGN-T, leg. 7644, fol. 3.


Sucesión de Julio Popper, AGN-T, leg. 7644, fol. 6, 16, 28-34.


Sucesión de Julio Popper, AGN-T, leg. 7644, fol. 251, 267.


Lewin, Popper, 33.


The court declared Popper’s mother legal heir within six months. Sucesión de Julio Popper, AGN-T, leg. 7644, fol. 72, 99-125, 220.


Sucesión de Julio Popper, AGN-T, leg. 7644, fol. 267-268.


Sucesión de Julio Popper, AGN-T, leg. 7644, fol. 192, 196, 266. The corporation retained Ansorge as foreman. See Spears, The Gold Diggings, 14.


Penrose, “Gold Mining,” 687-689.


“Since 1924, four firms related by . . . marriage own all of the land fit [for grazing] . . . about 1,000,000 hectares.” Jacinto Oddone, La burguesía terrateniente argentina (Buenos Aires, 1936), 205, cited in Lewin, 41. For further information on the Braun Menéndez family, its holdings, and northern Tierra del Fuego, see: “Lords of Patagonia,” Time LXXXII (November 1, 1963), 103; Guía de la Patagonia (Trelew, 1919); Bridges, Uttermost Part, 521-525.

Author notes


The author is Assistant Professor of History at the State University College of New York, at Buffalo. Fulbright and Organization of American States grants helped make possible the research for this article.