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Digging a Trench
Mine workers did much more than just mine.
Here, workers dig a trench as part of a
construction project.

Panning for Gold
Mine workers pan for gold in a temporary set-up
before completion of the automatic washers.

This photo, grouped with photos of a royal visit
from 1893, depicts the "final emancipation" of
the black workers of Morro Velho.
Brazil outlawed slavery in 1888.

The Workers of Morro Velho

click any of the photos for more detail.

The Saint John d'El Rey Company employed a massive work force to construct and to operate not only the mines, but also the support functions at Morro Velho. In addition to the actual mining, laborers for the Saint John d'El Rey Company also cut roads, built surface structures, manufactured needed equipment, and even guarded the gold shipments to the coast for exportation. logo

The mining operations at Morro Velho also called for a large number of skilled workers. Engineers, accountants, geologists, and blacksmiths all played essential roles in the endeavor. Most of the skilled positions were filled by European workers, with the laborers being made up of a mix of native Brazilians, Brazilians of African descent (the vast majority of whom began their careers as slaves), and imported Welsh, English, and Cornish miners.

The employees of the mine lived in company-built houses (of varying quality depending upon position) either at Morro Velho or in the nearby town of Nova Lima. Because the English Saint John d'El Rey Company employed many Britons at Morro Velho, the Church of England also established a parish church for Nova Lima which saw to the spiritual needs of the mine workers.

Mine workers repair the
scaffolding of a new excavation.

Weighing the Gold
Company accountants weigh and record
extracted gold while Brazilian officials look on.

The Switch Maker
Shop workers make and repair switches.

Last updated: May 2nd, 2010.
Created by: Beau Steenken - Graduate Research Assistant
Benson Latin American Collection, University of Texas at Austin
Please send comments to: schroer@mail.utexas.edu

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