ABSTRACT

São Paulo’s rapid urbanization in the final quarter of the nineteenth century led to the city’s growth from 30,000 in the 1850s to 300,000 at the turn of the century. Under the monarchy of Dom Pedro II and during the first decades of the new Republic, urban development had been concentrated in the hands of a number of companies which enjoyed monopolies and exclusive privileges that had long undermined the city’s urbanization and growth (Brito, 2000; Reis, 2004, pp. 124–128). 1 Gas lighting, for example, had been introduced by a British Company (São Paulo Gas Company) in 1872, whose contract with the state government granted it a monopoly for twenty-five years 2 and such favorable terms that there was virtually no reason to improve the service or respond to complaints. Many of those complaints have been recorded: in 1887, a public official recalled that during the previous two years, at a period of enormous growth of the city, only twenty-four new gaslights had been installed, and the lighting seemed “clearly inadequate” for a city of this size and dynamic growth. Fraya Frehse (2003) has suggested that, at least initially, the particular socio-economic conditions in Brazil led to a lack of perception and appreciation of the quality of street life. Before slavery was finally abolished in Brazil in 1888, streets were frequented mainly by slaves and poor freedmen. Walking in the street could signify a lack of distinction, as the wealthy traveled in carriages. While contemporary photographs actually do show streets downtown populated also by the the middle class, the inadequacy of street lights did not create enough of an annoyance for the privileged to have a major impact (Frehse, 2003).