The town was somewhat famous in the 1920s because of the Brazilian cinema pioneer Humberto Mauro and the appearance of a generation of writers around the short-lived Revista Verde. Humberto Mauro shot there some films that earned him a good reputation nationwide. He would later become famous for masterpieces like Braza Dormida (Sleeping Fire) and O Descobrimento do Brasil (The Finding of Brazil) and was a reputed Tupi language scholar.
Industrialisation changed the town quite a lot and caused some of its citizens to become very rich in the 1920s and 1930s. As a result the city centre was remodeled accordingly to the ultimate architecture styles. Oscar Niemeyer (Architect), Cândido Portinari, Djanira and Emeric Marcier (Painters) are some of the famous Brazilian artists who left contributions there at that time.
After three decades of wealth, the town lost its proeminence in the 1970s and 1980s. The economic crisis and the changes due to the modernisation of the industries provoked high unemployment rates and depreciation of salaries, reducing the town's wealth.
In 2003 the town became unfortunately famous throughout the country in the aftermath of an ecological accident caused by the spilling of chemical waste that affected the brook Cágado and the rivers Pomba and Paraíba do Sul, threatening the water supply of more than 20,000,000 Brazilians (including the city of Rio de Janeiro).