The Federative Republic of Brazil (República Federativa do Brasil in Portuguese) is the largest country in both South America and Latin America, as well as the world’s fifth-largest country by both area and population It is the largest country to have Portuguese as an official language, and the only one in the Americas. Bounded by the Atlantic Ocean on the east, Brazil has a coastline of 4,655 miles (7,491 kilometers) and borders all other South American countries except Ecuador and Chile. The country covers 47.3% of the continent’s land area. Its Amazon River basin includes a vast tropical forest, home to diverse wildlife, a variety of ecological systems, and extensive natural resources spanning numerous protected habitats. This unique environmental heritage makes Brazil one of 17 megadiverse countries, and is the subject of significant global interest and debate regarding deforestation and environmental protection. One of the world’s major breadbaskets, Brazil has been the largest producer of coffee for the last 150 years.
It is likely that the word “Brazil” comes from the Portuguese word for brazilwood, a tree that once grew plentifully along the Brazilian coast. In Portuguese, brazilwood is called pau-brasil, with the word brasil commonly given the etymology “red like an ember”, formed from Latin brasa (“ember”) and the suffix –il (from –iculum or –ilium). As brazilwood produces a deep red dye, it was highly valued by the European cloth industry and was the earliest commercially exploited product from Brazil. The official Portuguese name of the land, in original Portuguese records, was the “Land of the Holy Cross” (Terra da Santa Cruz), but European sailors and merchants commonly called it simply the “Land of Brazil” (Terra do Brasil) on account of the brazilwood trade. The popular appellation eclipsed and eventually supplanted the official Portuguese name. Early sailors sometimes also called it the “Land of Parrots” (Terra di Papaga). In the Guarani language, an official language of Paraguay, Brazil is called “Pindorama“. This was the name the indigenous population gave to the region, meaning “land of the palm trees”
The earliest human remains found in the Americas, Luzia Woman, were found in the area of Pedro Leopoldo, Minas Gerais, and provide evidence of human habitation going back at least 11,000 years. The earliest pottery ever found in the Western Hemisphere was excavated in the Amazon basin of Brazil and radiocarbon dated to 8,000 years ago (6000 B.C.). The pottery was found near Santarém and provides evidence that the tropical forest region supported a complex prehistoric culture. Around the time of the Portuguese arrival, the territory of current day Brazil had an estimated indigenous population of 7 million people, mostly semi-nomadic who subsisted on hunting, fishing, gathering, and migrant agriculture. The indigenous population of Brazil comprised several large indigenous ethnic groups (e.g. the Tupis, Guaranis, Gês and Arawaks). The Tupí people were subdivided into the Tupiniquins and Tupinambás, and there were also many subdivision of the other groups.
Before the arrival of Europeans, the boundaries between these groups and their subgroups were marked by wars that arose from differences in culture, language and moral beliefs. These wars also involved large-scale military actions on land and water, with cannibalistic rituals on prisoners of war. While heredity had some weight, leadership status was more subdued over time, than allocated in succession ceremonies and conventions. Slavery among the Indians had a different meaning than it had for Europeans, since it originated from a diverse socio-economic organization, in which asymmetries were translated into kinship relations.
The land now called Brazil was claimed for the Portuguese Empire on April 22, 1500, with the arrival of a Portuguese fleet commanded by Pedro Álvares Cabral. The Portuguese encountered indigenous peoples divided into several tribes, most of whom spoke languages of the Tupi–Guarani family, and fought among themselves. Though the first settlement was founded in 1532, colonization was effectively begun in 1534, when King Dom João III of Portugal divided the territory into the fifteen private and autonomous Captaincy Colonies of Brazil.
However, the decentralized and unorganized tendencies of the captaincy colonies proved problematic, and in 1549 the Portuguese king restructured them into the Governorate General of Brazil, a single and centralized Portuguese colony in South America. In the first two centuries of colonization, Indigenous and European groups lived in constant war, establishing opportunistic alliances in order to gain advantages against each other. By the mid-sixteenth century, cane sugar had become Brazil’s most important exportation product, and slaves purchased in Sub-Saharan Africa, in the slave market of Western Africa (not only those from Portuguese allies of their colonies in Angola and Mozambique), had become its largest import, to cope with plantations of sugarcane, due to increasing international demand for Brazilian sugar.
By the end of the seventeenth century, sugarcane exports began to decline, and the discovery of gold by bandeirantes in the 1690s would become the new backbone of the colony’s economy, fostering a Brazilian Gold Rush which attracted thousands of new settlers to Brazil from Portugal and all Portuguese colonies around the world. This increased level of immigration in turn caused some conflicts between newcomers and old settlers. Portuguese expeditions known as Bandeiras gradually advanced the Portugal colonial original frontiers in South America to approximately the current Brazilian borders. In this era other European powers tried to colonize parts of Brazil, in incursions that the Portuguese had to fight, notably the French in Rio during the 1560s, in Maranhão during the 1610s, and the Dutch in Bahia and Pernambuco, during the Dutch–Portuguese War, after the end of Iberian Union.
The Portuguese colonial administration in Brazil had two objectives that would ensure colonial order and the monopoly of Portugal’s wealthiest and largest colony: to keep under control and eradicate all forms of slave rebellion and resistance, such as the Quilombo of Palmares, and to repress all movements for autonomy or independence, such as the Minas Conspiracy.
In late 1807, Spanish and Napoleonic forces threatened the security of continental Portugal, causing Prince Regent João, in the name of Queen Maria I, to move the royal court from Lisbon to Brazil. There they established some of Brazil’s first financial institutions, such as its local stock exchanges, and its National Bank, additionally ending the Portuguese monopoly on Brazilian trade and opening Brazil to other nations. In 1809, in retaliation for being forced into exile, the Prince Regent ordered the Portuguese conquest of French Guiana.
With the end of the Peninsular War in 1814, the courts of Europe demanded that Queen Maria I and Prince Regent João return to Portugal, deeming it unfit for the head of an ancient European monarchy to reside in a colony. In 1815, in order to justify continuing to live in Brazil, where the royal court had thrived for the past six years, the Crown established the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil, and the Algarves, thus creating a pluricontinental transatlantic monarchic state. However, such a ploy didn’t last long, since the leadership in Portugal resentful with the new status of its larger colony, continued to require the return of court to Lisbon, as well as groups of Brazilians, impatient for practical and real changes still demanded independence and a republic. In 1821, as a demand of revolutionaries who had taken the city of Porto, D. João VI was unable to hold out any longer, and departed for Lisbon. There he swore oath to the new constitution, leaving his son, Prince Pedro de Alcântara, as Regent of the Kingdom of Brazil.
Tensions between Portuguese and Brazilians increased, and the Portuguese Cortes, guided by the new political regime imposed by the 1820 Liberal Revolution, tried to re-establish Brazil as a colony. The Brazilians refused to yield, and Prince Pedro decided to stand with them, declaring the country’s independence from Portugal on September 7, 1822. A month later, Prince Pedro was declared the first Emperor of Brazil, with the regnal title of Dom Pedro I, resulting in the foundation of the Empire of Brazil.
The Brazilian War of Independence, which had already begun along this process, spread through northern, northeastern regions and in Cisplatina province. With the last Portuguese soldiers surrendering on March 8, 1824, Portugal officially recognized Brazil on August 29, 1825. On April 7, 1831, Pedro I went to Portugal to reclaim his daughter’s crown, abdicating the Brazilian throne in favor of his five-year-old son and heir (who thus became the Empire’s second monarch, with the regnal title of Dom Pedro II).
As the new Emperor could not exert his constitutional powers until he became of age, a regency was set up by the National Assembly. In the absence of a charismatic figure who could represent a moderate face of power, during this period a series of localized rebellions took place, as the Cabanagem, the Malê Revolt, the Balaiada, the Sabinada, and the Ragamuffin War, which emerged from the dissatisfaction of the provinces with the central power, coupled with old and latent social tensions peculiar of a vast, slaveholding and newly independent nation state. This period of internal political and social upheaval, which included the Praieira revolt, was overcome only at the end of the 1840s, years after the end of the regency, which occurred with the premature coronation of Pedro II in 1841.
During the last phase of the monarchy, internal political debate was centered on the issue of slavery. The Atlantic slave trade was abandoned in 1850, as a result of the British Aberdeen Act, but only in May 1888 after a long process of internal mobilization and debate for an ethical and legal dismantling of slavery in the country, was the institution formally abolished. Brazil won three international wars during the 58-year reign of Pedro II. These were the Platine War, the Uruguayan War and the devastating Paraguayan War, the largest war effort in Brazilian history.
On November 15, 1889, worn out by years of economic stagnation, the monarchy was overthrown by a military coup. The “early republican government was little more than a military dictatorship, with army dominating affairs both at Rio de Janeiro and in the states. Freedom of the press disappeared and elections were controlled by those in power”. In 1894, following the unfoldings of two severe crises, an economic along with a military one, the republican civilians rose to power.
Supported by most of the military, the defeated opposition presidential candidate Getúlio Vargas successfully led the Brazilian Revolution of 1930. Vargas was supposed to assume power temporarily, but instead closed the Congress, extinguished the Constitution, ruled with emergency powers and replaced the states’ governors with his own supporters. In the 1930s, three major attempts to remove Vargas and his supporters from power occurred. The first was the failed Constitutionalist Revolution of 1932, the second was the anti-fascist Brazilian uprising of 1935 led by communists, and the fascist Integralist Movement attempted a coup in May 1938. The 1935 uprising created a security crisis in which the Congress transferred more power to the executive. The 1937 coup d’état resulted in the cancellation of the 1938 election, installed Vargas as a dictator, and began the Estado Novo era, noted for government brutality and censorship of the press.
Brazil remained neutral in World War II until August 1942, when the country entered on the allied side, after suffering retaliations undertaken by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy due to the country having severed diplomatic relations with Axis powers in the wake of the Pan-American Conference. With the allied victory in 1945 and the end of the Nazi-fascist regimes in Europe, Vargas’s position became unsustainable and he was swiftly overthrown in another military coup, with Democracy being “reinstated” by the same army that had discontinued it 15 years before. Vargas committed suicide in August 1954 amid a political crisis, after having returned to power by election in 1950.
Several brief interim governments succeeded after Vargas’s suicide. Juscelino Kubitschek became president in 1956 and assumed a conciliatory posture towards the political opposition that allowed him to govern without major crises. The economy and industrial sector grew remarkably, but his greatest achievement was the construction of the new capital city of Brasília, inaugurated in 1960. His successor was Jânio Quadros, who resigned in 1961 less than a year after taking office. His vice-president, João Goulart, assumed the presidency, but aroused strong political opposition and was deposed in April 1964 by a coup that resulted in a military regime.
The new regime was intended to be transitory but it gradually closed in on itself and became a full dictatorship with the promulgation of the Fifth Institutional Act in 1968. The oppression was not limited to only those who resorted to guerrilla tactics to fight the regime, but also reached institutional opponents, artists, journalists and other members of civil society, inside and outside the country (through the infamous “Operation Condor”). Despite its brutality, like other totalitarian regimes in history, due to an economic boom, known as an “economic miracle”, the regime reached its highest level of popularity in the early 1970s.
Slowly however, the wear and tear of years of dictatorial power that had not slowed the repression, even after the defeat of the leftist guerrillas, plus the inability to deal with the economic crises of the period and popular pressure, made an opening policy inevitable, which from the regime side was led by Generals Geisel and Golbery. With the enactment of the Amnesty Law in 1979, Brazil began its slow return to democracy, which would be completed during the 1980s.
Civilians returned to power in 1985 when José Sarney assumed the presidency, becoming unpopular during his tenure due to his failure in controlling the economic crisis and hyperinflation inherited from the military regime. Sarney’s unsuccessful government allowed the election in 1989 of the almost unknown Fernando Collor, who was subsequently impeached by the National Congress in 1992. Collor was succeeded by his Vice-President Itamar Franco, who appointed Fernando Henrique Cardoso as Minister of Finance. In 1994, Cardoso produced a highly successful Plano Real, that, after decades of failed economic plans made by previous governments attempting to curb hyperinflation, finally granted stability to the Brazilian economy, leading Cardoso to be elected that year, and again in 1998.
The peaceful transition of power from Fernando Henrique to his main opposition leader, Luís Inácio Lula da Silva (elected in 2002 and re-elected in 2006), was seen as a proof that Brazil had finally succeeded in achieving a long-sought political stability. However, following the viral phenomenon of worldwide manifestations (such as the “Arab Spring”, the “Occupy Wall Street” and the “Spanish Indignados”), sparked by indignation and frustrations accumulated over decades of corruption and inefficiencies of political establishment and public service, numerous peaceful protests erupted in Brazil from the middle of first term of Dilma Rousseff (who succeeded Lula in 2010). Enhanced by a political and economic crises with evidences of involvement of politicians from all main political parties in several bribery and tax evasion schemes, with large street protests for and against her, Rousssef was impeached by Brazilian Congress in 2016.
Brazil was the second country in the world, after Great Britain, to issue postage stamps valid within the entire country (as opposed to a local issue). Like Great Britain’s first stamps, the design does not include the country name. On November 30, 1841, the Brazilian Government was authorized by Law No. 43 to create stamps. That law came about through the efforts of J.D. Sturtz, a German who had been a Brazilian consul to Prussia. Enlisting the aid of a British charge d’affaires in Brazil, he urged the adoption of prepayment by means of stamps, following the innovation in Britain.
In 1841, the Brazilian customs authorities seized an engraving press from Pedro Ludwig. This had dies with the design taken from a bank note used by the Imperial Bank of Brazil that had been engraved and printed by Perkins, Bacon & Company of London. The press was confiscated and used in the service of the Brazilian Mint in Rio de Janeiro. On December 24, 1842, a transferring machine and accessories were bought by the Mint from Eduardo Lemerick. Production of the plates involved engraving a flat die with figures and background — a different die for each value; 30, 60 and 90 réis — picking up the design on a roller by rocking it in the transferring machine in close contact and under heavy pressure with the flat die, and then using the roller in the transferring machine to lay down the designs as many times as required on a printing plate.
Copper plates were used, and little more than two months were spent in engraving the dies and preparing the first plate. It contained fifty-four stamps, consisting of three panes of eighteen stamps of each value. That plate was finished on April 29, 1843. On May 9, the President of the Treasury ordered the stamps to be printed from the workshop of the Apolices Press, which adjoined the Mint. By May 29, a second plate of fifty-four of the three values was ready; a third plate, containing fifty-four stamps of 30 réis in three panels of 18 was ready on June 17 but it was rarely used. On June 27, sixty of the 30 réis appeared on a completed fourth plate. Two more plates of sixty of the 60 réis stamps were ready respectively on July 11th and 20th.
A notice ordering use of the “Bull’s Eye” (Olho-de-boi in Portuguese) stamps in Cortes on August 1, 1843, was published on July 5. “Cortes” was the designation by the postal staff for the Rio de Janeiro office since it was the general post office of the imperial court. The nickname of this issue derives from the ornamental value figures inside the oval settings, and the arrangement of the stamps in the sheet, which permitted se-tenant pairs that looked like a pair of bull’s eyes. A 60 réis on fragment at one time held by David Feldman showed clearly a postmark of August 1, 1843 reading GERALDACORTE; cancellations in later years read GERAL DE CORTE.
In the provinces, use of the stamps began much later; in some not until April 1844. The 90 réis issue were reserved for international mail only. The printing of the Bull’s Eyes ceased at the end of 1843. Continued sale of the stock on hand was authorized on August 22, 1844, but use after 1850 is scarcely known. According to L.N. Williams in Encyclopedia of Rare and Famous Stamps (published in 1992), there were 856,617 30 réis stamps printed, 1,335,865 of the 60 réis value, and 341,125 of the 90 réis stamp. Those figures do not include the remainders on hand (466,711 copies) which were burned on March 30, 1846, in the courtyard of the Brazilian Mint following their replacement by the new Slanting Figures issue.
These stamps have long been favorites among collectors, not only are their simple engraved lines most appealing but it is quite hard to find them in optimum quality. One reason for their scarcity is that they frequently were placed on the flap to seal the envelope with many destroyed or damaged at the time of opening the correspondence.
In May 1978 a full sheet of sixty of the 60 réis stamps was sold at a Stanley Gibbons Merkur’s auction in Frankfurt/Main, Federal Republic of Germany, for approximately USD $52,500. Current unused and used values for the Bull’s-Eyes are from $300 up to $3,250 in my 2009 edition of the Scott catalogue. The ‘pair’ of used 30 and 60 réis Brazilian Bulleyes is listed at $300,000.00.
The unusual naming of Brazilian stamps continued with the later issue of smaller, but rectangular designs, which were nicknamed snake’s eyes, and the issue of similar designs to the Bull’s Eyes, but smaller, of which the blue were called goat’s eyes, and the black, cat’s eyes. On July 1, 1844, a new series was issued which is known as the “Slanted Numeral” series. Subsequent stamps were in a similar format until the first pictorial stamps were issued in 1866 depicting Emperor Dom Pedro II. The emperor was represented on all issues until 1884, first with a black beard.
For many years stamps from Brazil were inscribed BRASIL CORREIO but the current trend is to just have the country name and year, e.g. BRASIL 2016.
Official stamps are issued for use on mail sent by an authorized department of government, governmental agency or international organization. Brazil has issued three sets of official stamps — a set of thirteen issued on November 15, 1906 (Scott #O1-13), in orange and green all with the same portrait of President Affonso Penna but with different frames; sixteen issued on November 15, 1913 (Scott #O14-29) all with the same portrait of President Hermes da Fonseca with the center in black but the remainder of the stamp in sixteen different colors and eight different frame types; and five stamps released on April 11, 1919 (Scott #O30-34) bearing a portrait of President Wenceslau Braz. The official decree for this final series called for eleven stamps but only five were actually issued.
Scott #017 was one of the 1913 series of Brazilian Official stamps, denominated 100 réis and engraved on unwatermarked paper in vermilion and black, perforated 12. Hermes Rodrigues da Fonseca (1855-1923) was a Brazilian soldier and politician. The nephew of Deodoro da Fonseca, the first Brazilian President, he was the country’s Minister of War in 1906 and was elected as the eighth president of Brazil in 1910, serving until 1914. He was on an official visit to Portugal when the revolution that overthrew the Portuguese monarchy and replaced it with a new republican regime took place. His father was from Alagoas and served in the Brazilian Armed Forces; as part of his service, he was transferred to São Gabriel where Hermes was born On May 12, 1855. When his father was sent to the Paraguayan War, the family returned to Rio de Janeiro.
In 1871, at 16, Hermes got his bachelor’s degree in Science and Letters and enrolled in the Military Academy, where he was a student of Benjamin Constant Botelho de Magalhães, a promoter of the ideas of Auguste Comte in Brazil. When he graduated, he served as aide-de-camp to Gaston, comte d’Eu. He was a supporter of the republic proclaimed by his uncle Deodoro da Fonseca and was invited by the latter to be camp assistant and military secretary after the coup. During the Revolta da Armada (1893) he proved his worth in the command of the defense of Floriano Peixoto’s government. He headed the Police Brigade of Rio de Janeiro from 1899 to 1904, when he assumed command of the Military Academy of Realengo.
As commander of the Academy he fought against the Vaccine Revolt. He was promoted to Marshal and performed various jobs until becoming Minister of War under Rodrigues Alves. He continued in that position during the next president, Afonso Pena, and reformed the army and the ministry with the creation of technical and administrative services. Of these innovations, the most important was the institution of obligatory military service. He resigned due to the discussion in Congress about the participation of soldiers in politics of Brazil. He was later a minister of the Supreme Federal Court.
For the first time in republican history, there was an actual campaign in 1910 with the “civilista” campaign running in open election against Hermes da Fonseca. Once elected, he traveled to Europe, where he was witness to the fall of the monarchy in Portugal. Among the events of his presidency were the Chibata Revolt and the Contestado War. Renegotiation of Brazil’s National debt meant a second funding loan was set up.
After leaving the presidency in November 1914, Hermes ran for the senate for Rio Grande do Sul, but refused to take the position because of the assassination of Pinheiro Machado in September 1915. He traveled to Europe, returning to Brazil after living in Switzerland for six years, when a new presidential campaign was underway. He was welcomed by the military men and assumed the presidency of the Military Club in 1921. In this post, he was involved in the Copacabana Fort revolt, which started at Fort Copacabana.
Hermes Rodrigues da Fonseca died on September 9, 1923, aged 68 in Petrópolis, Rio de Janeiro,