The Union Steam Ship Company’s Map of South & East Africa.

Travel via the Union Steam Ship Company to the gold and diamond fields of South Africa.

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Though pockets of precious diamonds had been discovered in previous decades, it wasn’t until the Witwatersrand Gold Rush of 1886 that thousands of prospectors and entrepreneurs looking to make it rich flocked to the remote mines in the interior of South Africa. The city of Johannesburg sprung up as a result, and within a decade it exceeding Cape Town in size and excess. One problem is that much of the gold was located on the sovereign territory of the Orange Free State and South African Republic – independent states that would soon be swept aside by the British in the impending Second Boer War.

The map shows the southern portion of the continent organized into brightly colored territories shaded according to their territorial status. With the Scramble for Africa formalized by the Berlin Conference in 1885, European colonial interests across Africa had drastically increased. The Boer Republics remain the last independent enclave, as King Leopold would soon claim the rest of the Congo for his Belgian ‘project.’ Gold mines are shown in several areas across South Africa, but are concentrated around Johannesburg.

Other industries like coal, wool, copper, and wheat are also vaguely labeled in certain areas, hoping for a broader appeal to those with economic interests outside of the gold and diamond fields. Transportation details are emphasized for obvious reasons, and include lighthouses and railways, both proposed and completed; though the paucity of the latter still necessitates the use of stage coaches in many areas. Accompanying tables provide the distances for some of the more popular routes.

The map was published with a 66 page handbook of information for passengers and shippers, and includes rate tables, itineraries, and descriptive summaries of the primary locations. The booklet also includes three fold-out deck plans of the ocean-going liners of the Union Steam Ship Company, the S.S. Briton, S.S. Scot, and S.S. Norman.

Map Details

Publication Date: 1894

Author: W.B. Whittingham & Co.

Sheet Width (in): 19.80

Sheet Height (in): 19.30

Condition: B+

Condition Description: Light creasing and moderate scattered discoloration along former fold lines. The discoloration continues into the image and margins in several areas, most noticeably in the upper left and lower right. The sheet is affixed to its original covers, which originally were stapled to a 60 pp. information handbook on transportation to and from South Africa. Now separated. Contents show scattered spotting, but are generally good otherwise.

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