Rio de Janeiro (Ree'o deh Zha-nay'e-ro), the capital of Brazil, stands on the west side of one of the most magnificent natural harbours in the world. An inlet of the Atlantic, the bay of Rio de Janeiro runs 15 miles northwards, varying in width from 2 miles to 7; it is girdled on all sides by "picturesque mountains (1500 to 3000 feet), covered with tropical vegetation. The entrance, less than a mile wide, passes between two bold headlands, one of them called the Sugar-loaf (1270 feet). The city and its suburbs stretch nearly 10 miles along the shore. About 3 miles SW. of the city stands the precipitous cone of Corcovado (2336 feet), with a cog-railway up to the top. Public institutions are the vast hospital of La Misericordia (1200 patients), the national library (1807), with 250,000 volumes, the national museum, the large lunatic asylum (1841), the botanical gardens, with a celebrated avenue of palms, the observatory, the Geographical and Historical institute (1838), the former royal palace at Sao Christovao, the arsenal, the naval dockyards, the academy of fine arts, a cadet-school, a school of medicine, a conservatory of music, a polytechnic school, etc. In spite of a good water-supply, chiefly by an aqueduct (1750) 12 miles long, and a new system of sewage-draining, the city is not really healthy; the surrounding hills shut out the breezes, and the heat grows intense in summer. Yellow fever prevails during the hot season; and the Negro population suffer from smallpox. Pop. (1872) 274,972; (1902) 750,000, including many foreigners - Portuguese, British, French, and Germans. Rio is the commercial capital, sending out 51 per cent. of the total exports of Brazil, and bringing in 45 per cent. of the imports. The chief export is coffee; the imports include cotton, gold and silver, metals, wool, provisions, and machinery. The whole sea-frontage of the city is lined with quays, and in 1889 extensive new harbour-works were begun, embracing a dock of 75 acres, a breakwater 3200 yards long, an elevated railway, hydraulic cranes, warehouses, etc. The city possesses cotton, jute, and silk mills, tobacco and hat factories, machine-shops, tanneries, etc.
On 1st January 1531 a Portuguese captain, De Souza, entered the bay, and thinking it was the mouth of a large river he called it Rio de Janeiro - 'January River.' The French held one of the islands in 1555-67. Rio was founded in 1566; was plundered by Duguay-Trouin in 1711; supplanted Bahia as the capital of the viceroy in 1763; and in 1822 was made the capital of the empire of Brazil. The revolution of 1889 centred in Rio; and after the reconstitution of the united states of Brazil Rio remained the capital, the federal district in which the city stands (area 538 sq. m.) being administered directly by the federal authorities. Rio suffered much from bombardment during the rebellion of the fleet (1893-94). - The maritime state of Rio de Janeiro has an area of 26,627 sq. m., and a pop., exclusive of the city, of 1,230,000.