New York Sun (newspaper), 25 March 1908, unsigned
In February 1908, the United States Navy paid a goodwill visit to Punta Arenas, as part of a global show of strength (aka The Great White Fleet). For a whole week, the local traders in furs, feathers and the like did a roaring trade.
Strange Sights in Punta Arenas -- Pleasant and Busy Life in City of Perpetual
Winter -- Wealthy and well Ruled -- No place entertained U. S. Fleet with more
On Board U. S. S. Lusitania,
U. S. Battle Fleet,
Punta Arenas, Feb. 7
Anchor was cast soon after noon and by 3 o'clock the first men were inshore.
The glad hand was stretched to them.
The visitors were surprised at the place. They found shops where everything
that one could wish was to be purchased. If you wanted your fountain pen fixed
all the parts necessary were to be obtained. If you wanted kodak supplies there
they were. If you desired paint, brass tubes, fine olives, dog biscuit, rare
wines, high grade cigars, a theatrical performance, a suit of clothes made
to order, fresh meat or fish, fresh milk, diamonds, hunting supplies, exchange,
books, hardware -- well, everything that a reasonable person could wish was
to be had at moderate prices, except furs. The furs were there by the bale,
and they too were cheap when you considered the prices you would have to pay
for the same product in the United States, but they were not cheap for Punta
Arenas. Prices were advanced 50 per cent on furs as soon as the first man from
the fleet struck the shore.
The first thing that struck the eye as the launches swung into the long landing
pier was an enormous sign painted on the sea-wall saying: SPECIAL PRICES FOR
THE AMERICAN FLEET! It was the strict truth, especially as to furs. Fox skin
rugs that had been selling for $25 went to $40. Guanaco skins that had been
$10 went up to $15. Seal skins that were $50 went to $75. The only way to get
the lower prices was to get some resident of the town to purchase for you on
the pretext that he wanted to make a gift of the furs. Then you paid him and
you got furs nearer their real Punta Arenas value.
[...] The bluejackets then swamped the fur stores. Many really fine specimens
of furs can be secured here and at moderate prices compared to those in the
United States. The bluejackets spent thousands upon thousands of dollars, and
so did the officers. Fox, guanaco, seal, otter, alpaca, vicuna, puma - any
kind of fur that seems to be in the market, except tiger's skins, was to be
found. Then the plumage of birds, ostriches, swans, gulls and so on was sought
eagerly. Some of the skins were fully dressed and some not, but the commonest
sight in Punta Arenas for the six days the fleet was here was hundreds of sailors
making for steam launches with great bundles of furs under their arms. Many
a woman in the States will have the opportunity of explaining to inquiring
friends that Tom or Dick or Bill got that fur for her right across from Tierra
del Fuego, and many an officer will show a floor covering with something of
the same satisfaction.
[end of extract]