Time in today’s digital age is elementary compared with the original time keeping devices. Even simpler are the making of the machines to create these time keeping devices. Once upon a time watchmaking was a work of art invented by the Germans and perfected by the Swiss.
Edward Preiss gained much experience in the watchmaking trade in London, Paris and Switzerland and brought his skills to the town of Port Elizabeth, South Africa in 1859. He began Fischer’s & Co Jewellery and made such a great success that he employed an experienced young German man by the name of Alwin Fischer.
Edward Preiss retired in 1865 and passed the reins on to Alwin Fischer who was in charge when this letter was sent to Fischer’s & Co watchmakers from the Gold Fields of the Transvaal.
TRANSVAAL 1884 K(AAPSCHE) GOUDVELDEN LETTER TO PORT ELIZABETH
This rare cover originated from the small town of Kaapshehoop which was situated close to the top of an escarpment overlooking the flourishing De Kaap Valley. It is set between large natural clearings of quartzite rock formations where a small amount of gold was discovered in a creek running through the town. The town was named Kaapschehoop because of the hope this new gold discovery had instilled in its early occupants.
These rock formations are a part of the Transvaal Supergroup of Black Reef Formation. They are made up of quartzites which have no banded layers that used to be pure quartz sandstone. Sadly the gold that was found was not enough to sustain the town which subsequently faded away into the tourist attraction it is today. Larger gold fields had been discovered in other parts of South Africa.
Table Bay was once known by another name. In May of 1503, António de Saldanha and his squad of three vessels (himself, Rui Lourenço Ravasco and Diogo Fernandes Pereira), were sent to accompany Afonso de Albuquerque’s fleet, who had already gone ahead, in order to reinforce Cochin. Cochin was an important spice trading centre for the Portuguese in India.
On their long, hard and dangerous journey down the west coast of Africa, de Saldanha lost sight of one of the ships captained by Diogo Fernandes. With countless errors and poor pilotage, Saldanha and Lourenço mistakenly sailed into the Gulf of Guinea and somewhere along their continued journey south lost sight of each other as well. Battling winds and currents and miscalculating their Cape crossing led him to anchor on the pages of history in Table Bay. Of course, at that time, the bay had no name so it became known as Aguada de Saldanha (Saldanha’s watering stop). In order to have a better vantage point, Saldanha climbed the flat-topped peak adjacent to the bay. He was the first European recorded to climb Table Mountain.
Table Mountain, the northern end of a sandstone mountain range, has become a beacon of South African history from the Khoikhoi displacing the San about 2000 years ago, to the British building block houses in the late 1700’s; to the release of Madiba from Robbin Island in 1990, which led to freedom for all South Africans .
This famous African mountain has been featured on several stamps, including a 1900 Cape of Good Hope 1d, as seen below.
CAPE OF GOOD HOPE 1900 TABLE MOUNTAIN DE LA RUE SPECIMEN SHEET – Available from Filat AG.
Aguada de Saldanha became a convenient harbour for those travelling the long journey to the East and became the first unmanned post office. Packets of letters were often left under postal stones inscribed in French, Dutch and Danish for passing ships to pick up and carry to their destination. In 1601 a cartographer renamed the bay “Table Bay”.
Back in May 1503, whilst António de Saldanha was unknowingly making history climbing Table Mountain, Diogo Fernandes was patiently waiting for his fellow voyagers in the mouth of the Red Sea.
Exploration before modern technology was a risky business. Not only for the pockets of those funding these travels, but for the lives of those brave enough to venture into the unknown.
Willem de Vlamingh was a Dutch sea captain and whaler by trade who later joined the VOC (Dutch East India Company). His second voyage was a rescue mission to look for survivors of the Ridderschap van Holland which had been missing for two years. The Nine Year’s War with France forced him to take a route along the coast of Scotland to Tristan da Cunha and then on to the Cape of Good Hope. Here, their journey was hampered by the dreaded illness, scurvy. Finally, after many weeks of recovery they continued their journey to the East, searching for the missing ship and its crew.
On their route they stopped at the islands of Île Saint-Paul, Île Amsterdam, and one which they were the first to land on. Willem de Vlamingh named it Rottnest Island because of the creatures that resembled rats. Eventually they reached the western coast of Australia. Venturing up a river one day they spotted a black bird in the shape of a swan. A black swan? Could this be? Up until this point black swans only occurred in the imaginations of the Early Europeans as a metaphor for that which did not exist. There, on a continent far away they discovered that black swans did exist.
The black swan has become a widely recognized symbol for Western Australia. It can be found on the Western Australian flag and coat of arms, coins, logos and mascots, and of course stamps.
WESTERN AUSTRALIA 1861 SWAN 6D PERKINS BACON COLOUR TRIAL BLOCK
Even though no wreckage was ever found, nor any souls saved, the mission to rescue the Ridderschap van Holland was not a complete failure; a new island was named and a bird was discovered.
On the day Alexandrina Victoria was born she was only fifth in line to ascend to the throne. Before the age of one she moved up to third in line after the death of her father in January 1820 and her grandfather a week later. She became heir presumptive at the tender age of eleven after the death of her two oldest uncles who had no legitimate surviving children. The Parliament of the United Kingdom passed The Regency Act 1830 that provided regency in case the person next in line to the throne was not yet eighteen. This would mean that should King William IV die before Alexandrina Victoria had come of age, her mother would act as regent.
King William IV distrusted Alexandrina Victoria’s mother and publicly stated that he wanted to live until after her eighteenth birthday. His wish came to fruition… just. He died within a month of Alexandrina Victoria turning eighteen and so it was that she became Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland on 20 June 1837.
Queen Victoria did not get along well with her mother and often refused to see her. However, due to social convention she was obliged to live with her until she was finally married to her first cousin in 1840. She was besotted with Prince Albert and together they had nine children, all of whom married into royal and noble families across the continent, and her forty two grand-children were spread all over Europe.
The “Victorian Era” is how her reign came to be known, and with it being the longest reign than any of her predecessors, marked many changes within the United Kingdom and a great expansion of the British Empire.
The Scottish born and popular British hero in the Victorian Era, David Livingstone, discovered the Victoria Falls and named it so in honour of Queen Victoria. Two stunning examples of Victoria Falls stamps can be found here and here.
RHODESIA 1905 VICTORIA FALLS 1D- 5/- TUNISIAN UPU SPECIMENS