Boer War Page 91j

Rare Boer War Discoveries

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Below are some of the items the Canadian Boer War Museum has added to its collections in its ongoing efforts to preserve memorabilia from this period.

CDV - Paul Kruger, Signed - c 1882

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
President Paul Kruger, c 1890
Orig. CDV - Size -
Found - Archdale, NC
An extremely rare signature to come across, especially on a photograph, is that of Paul Kruger, the late, lamented President, from 1882 to 1900, of the South African Republic (SAR) or Transvaal Republic, until the British invasion, during the Boer War, sent him into exile in the Netherlands.

The press, cheerleading the invading forces - some things never change - portrayed him as being as evil, at that time, as Saddam Hussein was vilified in ours.

But Kruger had not the slightest similarity to the mass murdering dictator.

Not, of course, that the members of the press would notice or care; they're just told who the enemies are and then go shape the news to fit the target...

In fact Paul Kruger, affectionately known as Oom Paul - Uncle Paul - was democratically elected for four terms as Transvaal President and much beloved by his people.

Which politician, in our day, can say that, especially after we have watched them in office for only a few years... ? Can Tony Blair? George W? And recent Prime Ministers of Canada who fare well in that department, are usually dead! Good and dead seems to be the message, from the Canadian electorate...

Paul Kruger was different - a man who fought to defend his family from the Zulus, a man who, more than once, put his own life on the line for his people. Not, like in our day, when politicians seem to be single-mindedly supporting only business or political cronies, to curry favour with powerful monied groups in order to amass corporate directorships for themselves in the afterlife, after leaving office. Claiming, all the while, that this is all in the best interest of Freedom, Democracy, or The People!

An exceptional man, Kruger was much admired among the neutral nations in Europe and America, he was feted wherever he went in exile, trying to drum up support to defend his Republic and his people.

Left, in August 1900, sitting on the far left end of the porch left, which was his last headquarters at Waterval Onder. Behind him stands a uniformed Presidential Guard. The last meetings of the SAR government were held here as Lord Roberts' armies pushed them eastwards along the railway.

Right, as he looked a few months before he left South Africa.

Giant Saareguemines Paul Kruger Toby Jug - 1890s

A Great Canadian Villain and a Great Canadian Hero all at the same time!
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Saareguemines Toby jug of Paul Kruger - 1899
Ceramic Majolica jug - Size - 7.25" h x 7.5" d x 5" w
Found - Minnetonka, MN
Signed Saareguemines on bottom.
A Great Canadian Villain: Rarely is one lucky enough to find a major piece of ceramic that celebrates a villain in history.

Here we have a marvellous toby jug of Paul Kruger, who was the luckless President of the Transvaal Republic of South Africa from 1883 till 1900 when he was deposed by the British Army after Lord Roberts' fabled March to Pretoria, which was Kruger's capital.

The Face that Launched 1000 Canadians: In 1899 Paul Kruger was public enemy number one in Canada. Thousands of eager Canadians clamoured to be allowed to put on a uniform and go to South Africa to unseat him, and put him in jail, or send him packing, or worse!

The effort to depose him launched a major national effort, as Canada sent its first military contingent, ever, of 1000 men overseas to fight in a foreign war. This crusade spawned an avalanche of memorabilia items that celebrated the leaders of this national effort, naturally all featuring British and Canadian heroes.

A Great Canadian Hero: But in Quebec, and among French Canadians from coast to coast, Paul Kruger was widely regarded as a hero, fighting - like the French Canadians - to preserve the rights of a minority people against the overwhelming might of the all powerful and "ruthless" English majority.

This fabulous huge portrait of Paul Kruger was found in Quebec and is adorned with French tobacco advertising. Hundreds of copies could be found in Quebec businesses during the Boer War to signal to all where majority sympathy of most French Canadians was during the conflict.

We have seen a similar portrait featuring Paul Kruger's celebrated army commander General Piet Joubert, in a Quebec antique shop.

In some breasts the age old conflict carries on, so these symbolic portraits still do yeoman service 100 years after they were loudly posted in French Canadian shops to thumb their noses at any Anglo who happened to enter. Today Joubert's picture, as grand as the one above, probably graces the wall of the home of a Separatist Quebecker as a reminder of a conflict between the French and English culture and political power which, in some quarters, carries on unabated as it did 100 years ago.

Saareguemines: Wonderful jugs like this were not made in England or Canada as this would have been considered treasonous. But Kruger money boxes, which mocked him were common. This jug - like so many ceramic items celebrating the Boers during the conflict were made in the Netherlands, Austria, Germany, Russia, and France.

Saareguemines was a major French manufacturer who produced numerous plates and other Boer War commemorative items which found their way to sympathizers overseas. This one ended up in the US where immigrant groups like the Irish, Germans, and French were strongly sympathetic to the Boers.

The jugs came in different coloured versions (right and below)

Crazing: One sure way to tell if a ceramic item is very old is to check for crazing, the tiny fissures that are often found on the glaze of old ceramic items. Often crazing can hardly be detected unless one looks closely at an item. On this jug the crazing is very minimal and only in certain places (beside the eye and on the base left) and cannot be seen at arm's length.

We were happy to see the crazing! Crazing can be a very good proof of age as it happens when extreme changes in temperatures go to work on the glaze. Many Staffordshire figures are modern repros and are pristine, having no crazing at all. Beware of no crazing! You are probably looking at a repro. Always ask if there is crazing and hope there is... (You don't want to end up with a Staffordshire Lord Baden-Powell which was only made last year when you're looking for a Boer War period piece.) Then ask how much crazing there is, and where? Once you've got proof an item's really old, you want no crazing at all! Less is best... The most preferable crazing is underneath the base; it's proof the item is old, and can't be seen unless you turn it over...

But sometimes crazing is so bad it ruins the look of the piece. Always ask about crazing and ask to see pictures. Do not let a seller tell you that it only has the "normal crazing for its age." There is no such thing. Many old plates, jugs, and cups have absolutely no crazing at all even if 100 years or older. Others have lots. That is what collecting is all about, replacing pieces with cracks and crazing etc., with one that have none...

These jugs - including the one right, where he is wearing the sash of President of the Transvaal Republic and which was produced in the Netherlands - sought to honour Paul Kruger.

Others were not so kind.

Below are two that mock the President of the Transvaal Republic as H(is)M(ajesty) Oom (Uncle) Paul Kruger.

The first one has a rope handle. The second has managed to fashion a crown to the back of his hat, creating an altogether ridiculous effect. Exactly the intention of a jug which no doubt caused peals of laughter in many a British Victorian parlour.

The first has weathered a hundred years of use and abuse quite well. The second has suffered serious paint flaking, either because of a poor firing job, or the attacks of successive waves of heat, cold, and dampness over the years. Both are rare and cherished mementoes of a politician who bestrode the world stage in late Victorian times, an object of ridicule in the British Empire, but revered in France, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Russia, the Netherlands, and France, as a champion of freedom.


c Goldi Productions Ltd. 1996 & 2000