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Mauá, Visconde de (1813–1889)

Mauá, Visconde de (1813–1889)

Visconde de Mauá (Irineu Evangelista de Souza; b. 28 December 1813; d. 21 October 1889), Brazilian merchant, banker, industrialist, railroad magnate, rancher, and national politician who rose from obscure beginnings to become a major protagonist in imperial Brazil's banking, transportation, and industrial infrastructure. Born in Rio Grande do Sul, Mauá initiated his business-entrepreneurial career in Rio de Janeiro at age eleven as a cashier in a cloth store and was later employed in a British firm, where he learned British business methods and successively held the positions of partner and sole manager by the 1830s, when the firm's founder returned to England.

Mauá invested in a variety of modernizing endeavors, most of which initially were aimed at improving Brazil's transportation and industrial infrastructure. From the establishment of an iron foundry that supplied pipes for a new water system in Rio de Janeiro, Mauá acquired concessions for a tramway line, the first gas-lamp system built in the country, and the first steamship company to operate on the Amazon River. An investor in the Second Bank of Brazil, he founded the Bank of Mauá in 1854, the same year he constructed Brazil's first railroad line from the port of Mauá on Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro to the interior highlands, where coffee production for the foreign market was the mainstay of the Brazilian economy. That year he also received the title of baron.

Mauá represented his native province of Rio Grande do Sul in the Chamber of Deputies from 1856 to 1873, and he received the title of viscount in 1874 after laying the first submarine cable between Brazil and Europe.

Mauá's widespread banking network extended to London, and his business ventures expanded to Argentina and Uruguay, where he held control over Uruguayan railroads, shipyards, gasworks, livestock farms, and meat-processing plants. His economic liberalism was not popular among conservative economic sectors in Brazil and Uruguay, and his creditors were not sympathetic to the losses he suffered in the Río de la Plata region during the War of the Triple Alliance (1864–1870). His finances declined in the 1870s, and in 1878 he was forced into bankruptcy. His "Exposition to the Creditors of Mauá and Company and to the Public," written in that year, attributed the reversal of his fortunes to his placing the well-being of the country before personal concerns, rather than to mismanagement or misdeeds. Mauá spent the remainder of his life managing a modest investment business.

See alsoBrazil: 1808–1889 .


Roderick J. Barman, "Business and Government in Imperial Brazil: The Experience of Viscount Mauá," Journal of Latin American Studies 13, no. 2 (1981): 239-264.

Lidia Besouchet, Mauá e seu tempo (1978).

Anyda Marchant, Viscount Mauá and the Empire of Brazil: A Biography of Irineu Evangelista de Sousa, 1813–1889 (1965).

Additional Bibliography

Caldeira, Jorge. Mauá: Empresário do Império. São Paulo, Brazil: Companhia das Letras, 1995.

Rato de Sambuccetti, Susana. Urquiza y Mauá: El MERCOSUR del siglo XIX. Buenos Aires: Ediciones Macchi, 1999.

                      Nancy Priscilla Smith Naro

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