100 Years Ago: October 1922
This is entry number 93 in my series of writings about National Geographic Magazines from a hundred years ago.
The first article in this month’s issue is entitled “Transporting a Navy Through the Jungles of Africa in War Time” and was written by Frank J. Magee R. N. V. R. The article contains thirty-one black-and-white photographs by the author. Five of those photos are full-page in size. Before the article starts, there is a one-paragraph editorial note praising the amazing adventure by 28 daring men documented in this article. The article makes numerous references to the supplement map of Africa accompanying this issue (discussed later in this post).
Early in the summer of 1915, J. R. Lee arrived in England from Africa and laid out a plan before the authorities that were in session at the British Admiralty. He proposed that the government send, by an overland route across Africa, two small boats to the assistance of the Belgian forces on Lake Tanganyika. Lee, having lived in Africa for some years and possessed an intimate knowledge of its geography, offered to act as guide. At first, the authorities were inclined to pass over the proposal, but a special conference was called at the Admiralty, and it was decided that a small expedition should be sent. The task of organizing the Naval Africa Expedition, as it was called, was entrusted to Commander Spicer Simson. R. N. He was allowed to select his crew, 28 officers and men, from any branch of the service. J. R. Lee was given the rank of lieutenant and other officers with knowledge of bush life were chosen. A doctor with skill in the treatment of tropical diseases, and navy gunners were also selected. That expedition was the smallest sent against the enemy during the war, and, with the exception of the commander, all its members were volunteers. Two boats were selected, tried, and found suitable. They were 40-foot motorboats, with 8-foot beams, capable of doing 18 knots. While preparations were being made in England, Lt. Lee and the author left for Africa on May 22, 1915, to select a route across the African bush from the point where the boats would be taken off the train. It was important that the route be as free as possible from hills, gorges, etc. Their boats were to be taken over that trail intact, each drawn by a traction engine. It was difficult finding a route, but at last a route was selected, and thousands of natives were recruited from adjacent villages and set to work carving a passage through the bush. Where the slopes were steep, they were settled down. Bridges were thrown across river beds. Giant trees blocking the path were uprooted with dynamite. Rocks and boulders were treated in a similar manner.
Their biggest problem was a dried-up gorge, 40 yards wide and about 20 yards deep. They filled it up completely with tree trunks. Thousands of trees were cleared out of the way. The 146-mile roadway was pushed ahead, making, as it progressed, an unavoidable climb over a plateau 6,000 feet above sea-level. The main party and the motorboats, Mimi and Tou-Tou, left England on the steamship Llanstephan Castle on June 12, 1915, for Cape Town. The motorboats were stowed on deck in specially constructed cradles. At Cape Town, they were transferred to railway trucks, and after a journey of 2,488 miles they arrived at Elizabethville, in the Belgian Congo. They left the Belgian town by train. In the course of a few days, they reached the railhead. The depot was called Fungurume. There, the boats were detrained, still in their cradles, and mounted on specially constructed carriages fitted with rubber-tired wheels. In the meantime, stores were being sent ahead by native carriers. Provision, ammunition, and petrol for the motorboats were all transported in that fashion. About that time, the expedition lost its guide and originator, Lt. Lee. Sunstroke and fever obliged him to go to the hospital. By mid-August, the expedition made its start, with boats and gear, from Fungurume on the 146-mile journey through the bush, escorted by an armed guard of native Belgian soldiers. A detachment with a powerful motor lorry, carrying provisions, tents, and camping gear, went ahead to select a suitable spot for camping each evening. They erected tents and prepared food for the main body following. About an hour into their journey, the lead traction engine became stuck at a ford, which couldn’t handle its weight. It took two days to extract it. Getting on the move again, they reached Mofia, 14 miles distance. From that point to the native village of Wendi Macosi, the roads were fairly good. After leaving Wendi Macosi, they struck some bad spots, but all members of the expedition put their backs into the work, hauling on ropes, bringing in wood, and patching holes in the road.
One of their greatest handicaps was lack of water, both for drinking, and for the engines. One time the engines ran dry. Native women from local villages were commandeered to fetch water. They carried it in gourds and jars on their heads from a water-hole eight miles away, and had to make the journey several times before a sufficient supple was procured. Onward and upward to the top of the plateau the struggle continued day and night. So steep were some of the slopes that both tractors were used to haul one boat up to the top, and then return to retrieve the second one. Another method used, when the road was too soft for traction, was by “cabling”. The engine would leave the load at the bottom, and then pull it up by a wire. That method was fraught with risks of the cable snapping and the loss of the boats. When they neared the top of the plateau, the road became too twisty and too narrow to use either method. Trek oxen and a block and tackle were brought in. Using 42 oxen, the block and tackle was secured to a stout tree 20 yards up the hill. The oxen, facing downhill, pulled one end down the hill while the boat, at the other end, was pulled up about even with the tree. The carriage was then chocked up, the block and tackle were attached to a new tree further up, and the process was repeated until both ships reached the top. The road then became straighter, the block and tackle were dispensed with, and the oxen actually harnessed to the boats. Farther on, the road once more became sufficiently hard for the tractors, and after some heavy work they reached the top of the plateau, 6,400 feet above sea level, on September 8, 1915. The downward trek from the plateau provided plenty of hard work and many thrills, a great deal of cabling being done in easing the boats down steep slopes. One tractor got out of control, fortunately hitting a tree before it would have gone off a cliff. One of the boats slewed across a bridge, and almost fell off into the river. Bush fires were a problem. Progress became painfully slow.
A part of their route laid through the areas infested by the tsetse-fly, the carrier of sleeping sickness. From time to time, they passed by deserted villages, the inhabitants of which had long been wiped out by that ravaging disease. Although all of the party were bitten by the flies, none suffered any ill consequences. As far as possible, every precaution was taken to ensure a good bill of health. Water was boiled and filtered, each of them took a dose of quinine each evening, and light-colored clothes were worn. The doctor had a far busier time treating the natives and their children than attending to members of the expedition. After days of toil and many qualms as to whether their destination would ever be attained, they eventually reached Sankisia, a railway depot about 18 miles from the river Lualaba, on September 28, 1915, having taken six weeks to cover the bush journey of 146 miles. They transferred the boats to a train for the 18-mile run to the river at Bukama. At Bukama, a camp was established while the work of launching the Mimi and Tou-Tou went ahead. Iron rails were laid from the trucks to the riverside, down which the boats were lowered broadside in their cradles into the river. The cradles were then knocked away and the boats floated clear. The intense heat of the journey had warped the wood and seams had opened up. After repairs, the boats were in their normal seaworthy condition. Their stores were transferred to a fleet of large native canoes. Since the river was too shallow, the boats did not go down it on their own power, but large iron petrol drums were fixed to their keels to increase buoyancy. All being ready, they started off on their 350-mile voyage down the river. Both boats were towed by flat-bottomed barge paddled by natives. The boats repeatedly got stuck on sand banks and had to be worked free. This happened until they struck deeper water. The voyage was grueling; they were baked alive by day, and tormented at night by mosquitoes and other flying pests.
Farther down river they encountered deeper water and managed to cover 20 miles in a day. They proceeded under the power of native crews. Stretches of the river were simply alive with crocodiles. They were difficult to shoot, but they accounted for a good number; in fact, they got tired of shooting them. They came across hippopotami, too, in large numbers. On October 11, they reached Lake Kisali, the home of thousands of birds. Kadja, a Belgian post was reached the following day. The river ahead was rocky, so the boats were placed on a flat-bottomed river steamer. That task took several days, and they left Kadji on October 16. On October 22, they came to the end of their cruise at Kabalo. The river journey required 17 days. Here, they lost another officer, Lt. Hope, who suffered from sunstroke and had to return to a healthier climate. All that remained was a railway journey of 200 miles to Lake Tanganyika. The boats and all gear were entrained without mishap, and a few days later they arrived at Albertville, on Lake Tanganyika. They were greeted heartily by the Belgians, and a camp was formed and grass hut erected for their accommodation. By that time, the rains had commenced, and on their first night they encountered a tropical storm. The lake became rough, and they were glad they hadn’t launched the boats yet. Since there was no shelter for boats, a harbor was devised. The fresh water lake was 420 miles long and varied in width from 20 to 50 miles. It was situated 2,800 feet above sea-level, and, in some places, more than 400 fathoms deep. The east coast, from one end to the other, was German territory, and the west coast was Belgian Congo. Their depot on the Belgian side was about half-way up, at almost a place opposite the German base known as Kigoma. The lake at that point was about 40 miles across. On a clear day, the high hills on the German coast could be distinctly seen from their depot.
From time to time during the military operations in the vicinity of the lake, efforts were made by British forces to advance from either end along the German coast, aiming to join up at Kigoma, and drive the enemy from the lake and back to the coast. All such attempts failed due to the troops being subjected to bombardment from the German vessels on the lake. It was the expedition’s job to destroy the German fleet, thus allowing a land assault. But first, the harbor needed to be built. Tons of rock were blasted locally, and then taken down to the lake in trucks and dumped into the water. Gradually, the rock pile extended out into the water until a breakwater and harbor were formed. Time after time the breakwater was washed away by waves, and it wasn’t until December 23 that the boats were actually launched. The launching of the boats was accomplished by lowering them down an inclined track into the water by means of a hawser attached to a railway engine. A three-pounder gun was then fixed forward on each boat and a machine-gun aft. Provisions and ammunition were stowed aboard, and on Christmas Eve, they were ready for the attack. They kept Christmas and waited for the enemy to leave their harbor. On Sunday, December 26, 1915, they received word from Toa, about 20 miles up the coast, that an enemy vessel was sighted coming south. At 11 A. M. the boats left the harbor, accompanied by two Belgian boats which were ordered to stand by to pick up the crews of the Mimi and the Tou-Tou should either of them be sunk. At 11:40, the German gunboat Kingani was sighted in Tembwe Bay. Having spied the gunboats, the Kingani turned eastward and made off at full speed. The British boats gave chase, and at 11:47, within 2,000 yards, opened fire. The enemy returned fire, but couldn’t hit the Mimi, which drew astern until enemy guns could no longer bear.
The enemy then opened fire on the Tou-Tou, but missed. Again, the Mimi maneuvered into position, and after an engagement that lasted ten minutes, during which her gunner scored 25 hits with high-explosive shells, the enemy surrendered. Through information gleaned from the survivors of the German crew, it appeared that, early in the engagement, a shell pierced the armor around the Kingani’s gun, killing the commanding officer and a petty officer. A second shell pierced the armor and killed a warrant officer. A third hit the engine-room skylight and two native seamen and a native stoker were blown overboard. There remained but one European seaman, who was at the wheel. An engine-room artificer took command, hauled down the flag, and stopped the engines. As the Kingani had been holed near the water-line on the port side and was in danger of sinking, Commander Spicer Simson ordered her to steer for the British harbor. On arrival, the prize was gently grounded, but sank with a heavy list to starboard shortly afterwards. There were no casualties on the British side, but the boats were much shaken by their own gunfire. The Belgian naval and military personnel, along with thousands of natives witness the engagement, and celebrated the capture of a German warship. The prisoners were brought ashore and the remains of the Germans killed were buried with military honors. Shortly after the news had been to the Admiralty in London, they received a congratulatory message from the King. The Kingami was quite an asset, being much larger than either of the British boats, and therefore capable of carrying a larger gun. No time was lost in raising her and getting her overhauled and repaired. A 12-pounder gun was dismounted from one of the shore forts and mounted aboard the captured German vessel. To their knowledge, the Germans still had two vessels to be accounted for – the Hedwig von Wissmann and Graf von Gotson. Both were larger than the Kingani and carried more guns of a larger type. In addition, they had a number of small armed dhows.
Up to the time of the arrival of the motorboats and tractors, the only method of propulsion known to the natives was the paddling of their canoes. Imagine, then, the effect on those people of seaplanes soaring in the air above their villages! It was simply amazing. Four “Short” seaplanes had been sent out and arrived immediately after the capture of the Kingani. They came packed in crates and were assembled at a Belgian post some 25 miles down the coast from the depot. At about the same time, two portable wireless field sets, carried on stout wagons, arrived at the base. The wireless sets, with their tall steel masts, were erected in the camp for experimental testing. It so happened that when the radios were being tested, the Belgian airmen down the coast, having fixed up one of the seaplanes, decided to make a trial flight. A droning gradually grew louder. Suddenly, the seaplane shot out of the clouds, describing circles over the camp. The natives stood spellbound, gazing upward with arms extended, eyes bulging, and mouths agape. The plane dove, and the natives scattered. Hours later, after the seaplane had settled on the lake, the natives returned but were visibly agitated. The Kingani was now in fighting trim and rechristened the Fifi. She and the two gunboats were ready for more action. At daylight on the 9th of February, a message was received that a boat was in sight, steaming slowly southward. All being ready, the British flotilla started off to meet the enemy vessel. She was sighted at 8:35 a. m. heading south-southwest at about six knots. The enemy vessel turned immediately and attempted to escape, speeding up by putting oil on the fires. The British flotilla went in pursuit at full speed. The Mimi first opened fire at 3,800 yards, making several hits in the first few minutes. The Fifi opened fire from 7,500 yards, but was unable to register a hit. The range was reduced, and firing from about 5,600 yards, she scored about 40 hits out of 60 shots.
One high-explosive shell burst in the engine room, killing an engineer and a native stoker, and also burst an oil tank. A second shell burst between the engine and boiler, killing a native stoker and wrecking the engine. A third blew a large hole in the ships bottom and set fire to the oil, with which the engine room was drenched. The whole ship then appeared to be enveloped in flames, and Lt. Odebrecht, commander of the German vessel, realizing that his ship was sinking, gave orders to abandon it. Two of his three small boats were still seaworthy and were dropped astern; but just at that moment a shell passed through one boat and blew the other to pieces, killing a warrant officer and some natives, and wounding a European stoke and a native seaman. The order was then given to jump overboard, and the survivors – 12 Europeans, including their commander, and eight natives – were picked up by the British boats. The Mimi took the wounded on board and made for the harbor, so that they could have medical treatment. The enemy vessel was well alight by that time, and shortly afterward she suddenly upended and went down by the head. The British ships then made for harbor, where another celebration took place. The prisoners were handed over to the Belgians, with the exception of the German commander, who was put on parole and was accommodated in the British mess. Due respect was paid to his rank, and they were sorry to see him go when the time came for his transfer to a prison camp. A good deal of information was gleaned from the native prisoners concerning the number of boats, guns, etc., in the German harbor. As far as they could ascertain, there were still two German boats to be brought to book, the Wami and Graf von Gotson, the latter carrying a gun far superior to any of the Brits’ in size and range. They also learned that there were some big guns mounted on German forts ashore; but those were later found to be dummies.
Then came another period of waiting, but nothing happened for some months. Their watchfulness was finally rewarded, early one morning, when they surprised the German boat Wami transporting native troops down the coast. Though well out of range of the British guns, the German commander realized they would overtake him before he could reach the safety of his harbor, so he beached on the German coast, landed his troops, and set fire to his ship. It must have been apparent by that time to the German command at Kigoma that the game was up, and shortly afterwards they blew up the Graf von Gotson in the German harbor and destroyed all the small craft, in addition. That was the end of German naval prestige on Lake Tanganyika – in fact, in Central Africa. The efforts of the Naval Africa Expedition had been entirely successful in destroying the enemy’s power on the water, and therefore the military forces ashore were enabled to carry on their operations without hindrance. Their little job being finished, they returned to England, having covered approximately 20,000 miles in their travels to Africa and back. That constituted a record distance for any individual expedition during the war. With the exception of aerial transport, every known method of transportation was utilized in conveying the boats from England to Lake Tanganyika. Commander Spicer Simson, R. N., received the Distinguished Service Order, three other officers were decorated with the Distinguished Service Cross, and the remainder were promoted. Six Distinguish Service Medals were awarded to gunners, etc. – in all, not a bad record for a party of Twenty-eight. One Belgian decoration was awarded by the Belgian authorities, and that to the commander. The expedition suffered no casualties, and all the members, after some well-earned leave, were attached to other units.
The second item listed on the cover of this month’s issue is entitled “Peoples and Places of Northern Africa” and has no byline. It is not an article, but a set of “Sixteen Full-page Engravings” as described on the cover. These black-and-white images, formerly known as photogravures, were created using acid-etched plates to transfer a special ink to a special paper. The deeper the etch, the darker the transfer. The ink in these transfers had a very slight brownish tinge.
A list of the caption titles is as follows:
Note: The longtime artist for the cartoon character "Donald Duck" was a National Geographic subscriber for over 60 years. He routinely used the magazine as a source of information. He is quoted as saying: "I used to rob from the Geographic. It was my best reference." It is easy to guess which photo he robbed for the following:
The third item (second article) in this month’s issue is entitled “Along the Nile, Through Egypt and the Sudan” and was written by Frederick Simpich, author of ‘The Story of the Ruhr”, “The Geography of Our Foreign Trade”, “Along Our Side of the Mexican Border”, “Every-Day Life in Afghanistan”, “The Rise of the New Arab Nation”, etc., in the National Geographic Magazine. The article contains twenty-nine black-and-white photographs, of which fifteen are full-page in size. The article references the supplement map that accompanies this issue, and discussed later in this post.
Ever since the plague of frogs, since Pharaoh’s hosts were swallowed by the sea, since Cleopatra’s romance and snake-bite, Egypt had been in the eyes of the world. For sixty centuries she had been invaded and occupied, ruled and misruled, and ruined and rebuilt by assorted enemies of alien race, religion, and speech. In 1922, under a brand-new king of her very own, she began a new era in her eventful, tumultuous history. No land was older in sin and civilization than was Egypt [See: National Geographic Magazine, September 1913]; few men were more mixed in race and religion than the modern dwellers along the Nile; and no region offered more puzzling problems or curious contrast in politics, economics, and national ambitions than did modern Egypt. She was civilized and knew the culture of fine arts and science when hairy cavemen were yet clubbing their prey and eating it raw on that island where classic Oxford now stood [in 1922]. Yet today [in 1922], nine-tenths of her people were illiterate, many were blind from disease, and probably half of the real Egyptians were mere day laborers, for the wealth of Egypt was mostly in alien hands. Half of the native farmers, or a million and a half families, owned no land at all. Still, in that “Proverbial Land of Paradox” the people along the Nile, thanks to British aid, were better off than they had been in generations. The fact that the population doubled in the 42 years of British rule was significant. A wonderfully developed irrigation system and a vast network of communications, both so necessary to agriculture in a rainless land, were hers. In the last seven years land had trebled in value; rich farmers had grown richer; Nile traffic had increased fourfold; into the dusty desert horizon new tracks of steel had penetrated; and away up on the Blue Nile another great dam was being built to impound water for irrigating a yet vaster cotton-growing area.
Egypt, more than any other land then under British protection, waxed fat off the World War. It was said that England paid out over a billion dollars in Egypt for foodstuffs, camels, mules, and supplies for use by her armies in the Middle East. With that access of wealth and the breakup of the Moslem East that followed the war, independent Egypt had gained enormously in political and religious importance. Gone forever was the “changeless, dreamy East of a decade prior. Growling motor-trucks had crowded camels from historic caravan trails. A through train, “The Milk and Honey Express”, ran from Cairo to Jerusalem, save for a break at the Suez Canal, when the passengers walked across a floating bridge at Kantara. And the Cape-to-Cairo line was nearly finished, as well. How easy, in 1922, to visualize a Cape-Cairo-Calcutta route, with through trains via Mecca, the Persian littoral, and northern India, tying up at Basra with a Bagdad-Antwerp Road, and at Bushire with a future Persian-Russian truck line. The old Arab prophecy was fulfilled when Allenby’s advancing army laid a pipeline as it marched, bringing fresh Nile water with it across the Arabian Desert to Palestine [See: National Geographic Magazine, October 1918]. In that far-reaching economic upheaval, men of various creeds were swarming in to rejuvenate those long-abandoned Biblical regions. Geographically, Egypt comprised of all the land between the Red Sea and the Sahara, and ran from the Mediterranean south to the Nubian border, including the Sinai Peninsula. It was about the size of Texas and Arizona combined. The country was desert except for about 12,000 square miles along the Nile banks, and in the Delta, a region the size of Massachusetts and Connecticut combined. Its people included fellaheen (native peasants), Copts, Arabs, Greeks, Syrians, Turks, Persians, and Europeans, and numbered over twelve million.
The story of modern Egypt began with Napoleon’s invasion in 1798. That was followed by the Albanian adventurer, Mehemet Ali. His successors held mastery until it went bankrupt in 1879. To protect creditors, France and England intervened, deposed Khedive Ismail, and set up “dual control”. Against that rule, Arabi Pasha led a rebellion, which the British crushed at the battle of Tel-el-Kebir. For the next 35 years, khedives of the Mehemet Ali dynasty governed, being advised by the British Consul-General at Cairo. From 1883 to 1907, Lord Cromer held that post, and raised Egypt from bankruptcy to prosperity. When the World War broke out, the reigning khedive, Abbas Hilmi, threw his lot with the Turks, and a Turkish army moved down to Gaza to drive the English out. England regarded the Suez Canal as the jugular vein of her empire, and she could not then risk losing her foothold on the Nile. So, on December 18, 1914, Egypt was declared a British Protectorate. Hardly were the guns of Europe silent before Egypt began her daring drive for independence. In 1922, the British relinquished their protectorate, and acknowledged Ahmed Fuad as King of Egypt. On April 25, 1922, the U. S. officially recognized the new nation on the Nile. That rise of Egypt to independence and the separation of Syria, Palestine, Mesopotamia, and Arabia from the old Ottoman Empire threw open the whole of that rich, long dormant land to barter and free contact with the Christian world. Many important channels of trade and travel were being opened in those newly freed regions of the Middle East. It was hard to say whether immigrant Jews could make a success at farming in Palestine in competition with settled Arabs. With King Feisal on the throne in Bagdad, and the British at his elbow, great things were expected from Mesopotamian irrigation and oil development. And the trade of Syria under Greek and French stimulus was bound to grow enormously.
All those changes in the map, in trade routes and economic relations had a marked effect on the new nation of Egypt. South of Egypt lied the great Sudan, destined to add a vast area to the world’s cotton-growing territories. Up to 1922, Egypt had always been singularly aloof and isolated in her economic life. Most of her trade had been with the nations of western Europe. The new railway from Cairo to Jerusalem tied Egypt and the rest of Africa with the most important parts of the old Turkish Empire, and indirectly with Europe itself. Much of the sea trade that formerly belonged to Smyrna and Stamboul would now reach its destination through Alexandria and Port Said. With the near completion of the Cape-to-Cairo line, it was easy to see what close trade connections Egypt must develop with the vast domains to the south. During the war, Kantara, a city of 120,000 people, sprang up along the Suez Canal, about half way between Ishmailia and Port Said. Kantara was the Suez terminus of the desert railway built north to Jerusalem. That remarkable railway, starting north from Kantara, was laid on the sand, mile after mile, as Allenby’s troops advanced. Along with the tract was laid the famous pipe line, carrying fresh water from the Nile, for hundreds of miles. That road penetrated Palestine and traversed the fertile plains of Gaza. From Ludd, a branch climbed the mountains to the Holy City, 200 miles from the Suez Canal. The main line, running through the level area between the mountains and the Mediterranean, had its terminus at the seaport of Haifa. The rail systems distances in Egypt were short, 130 miles from Cairo to Alexandria and 236 miles to Assiut. The important commercial towns, such as Tanta, Benha, Zagzig, and Damanhur, were all in the Nile Delta.
Egypt profited greatly from the war. The British army poured out vast sums for camels, mules, grain, and supplies; and thousands of Egyptian laborers and artisans were paid war-time wages. As a half-way station between East and West, Egypt became the clearing-house for troop-ships from the seven seas. After the evacuation of Gallipoli, a whole army came to Egypt to rest and reequip. Vast hordes also came from Australia, New Zealand, and India, to organize and train. The dry, clear desert air and open spaces made of Egypt an ideal training ground for pilots, and for months the planes of the daring students split the sky above the Pyramids and the Sphinx. Fugitives of all races fed to Egypt. In Egypt, also, were housed thousands of prisoners captured during Allenby’s two campaigns. In 1922, Alexandria was rich. During the war she was the base where all supplies for the Saloniki, Mesopotamian, and Egyptian expeditions, as well as operations against German East Africa, were stored. For his Jerusalem campaign, in 1917, Allenby had a force of 260,000 British and Indian troops. In 1918, when the invasion of Syria began, he had half a million men and 260,000 animals. It cost $200,000 a day to feed that army and much of the supplies came from Egypt. Large sums were paid in wages to Egyptian tradesmen, carpenters, blacksmiths, and the like. Cash was paid for the 30,000 camels which were used. Thus, wealth poured into Egypt, which seemed to have suffered less from the shock of war than any other country under British control.
The author switched topics and began to write about the Egyptian people themselves. Those strange people, isolated there for ages, had developed certain distinct physical and racial characteristics. Since prehistoric days this race, a vast farming colony, had lived along the Nile and in the great delta which ages of flooding had built out into the Mediterranean. The Persian conquest, about 521 B. C., ended the period of native rule; but the mental and physical aspects of the Egyptian did not change since the time of the Pharaohs – and that notwithstanding centuries of submission to Persian, Macedonian, Roman, Arab, Mameluke, Turk, and Briton. Four-fifths of all Egypt’s population, or about nine million, belonged to that ancient race. Culturally, the native had been Arabized. He spoke a form of Arabic and turned to Mecca in his prayers. Otherwise, he was the same as those who dragged granite blocks for hundreds of miles to build the pyramids. His people even conceive, and began to dig, the Suez Canal centuries before de Lesseps was born. Hard work was his lot from the cradle to the grave. The children helped it plowing, goat herding, and picking cotton. And although “Egypt was the gift of the Nile”, it was a gift with a string to it, whose name was mud. Keeping the canals free of silt and keeping the water going, had, figuratively, broken the backs of millions. Many power pumps were used, especially on the larger estates, but, in 1922, gasoline was scarce and expensive. The small farmer watered his patch using a shaduf, a lone pole with a rock weight on one end and a pail on the other. Two other ancient irrigation machines were used – the “water snake”, or Archimedean screw, and the tabut, a type of water wheel. The thousands of miles of canals served not only for irrigation, but also to distribute drinking water and as channels of traffic. The Mahmudiyeh Canal connected Alexandria to the Nile, and the Ishmael Canal took off from the Nile near Cairo and carried water to Suez.
Nile mud alone was no longer adequate to enrich the fields, and farmers in 1922 had to buy much high-priced imported fertilizer. The renter usually leased a piece of land for two or three years; the owner furnished seed and work animals, and took his share of the crop. Cotton, sugarcane, corn wheat, and rice were staples. Egypt grew corn for export to feed Rome in ancient times. Water-buffalo, oxen, and camels were the chief work animals on the farms; most of the horses and donkeys in Egypt were owned by the townspeople. While the milk of goats, cows, and camels was used, the farmer relied mostly on the water-buffalo for his milk supply. Few animals were raised for slaughter, probably due to the unfavorable climate. Turkeys and chickens were numerous, but domestic ducks and geese were rare. Around the margins of the lagoons and in the Nile Delta, waterfowl, snipe, and other shorebirds were abundant. Numerous flamingos were seen rising and flying about over the Bitter Lakes. Nile fish were fat and unsavory, but along the seacoast, Arabs caught enough fish for the hotels in large Egyptian cities. In the daily homelife the influence of Arab culture was uppermost. Polygamy existed, but was too expensive for most peasants. Every village had its coffee-shop, where water-pipes were for rent. There, too, were the ever-present professional story-teller, the letter-writer, the snake-charmer, the fakir, and the dancing girl. Amusements were more varied in the larger towns. There, American moving pictures were shown, shabby one-ring traveling circuses were met, and the rising generation was beginning to go in for games and sports. Plainly, a new era was dawning in Egypt, and through all the East, that far-reaching economic and cultural changes were sweeping over the country. But it would take many years to filter down to the rural farmer. He would rather carry dirt in a basket than use a wheelbarrow because his ancestors had no wheelbarrows.
The rural peasant felt that vaccination and other hygienic measures were sinful. Four children of every one hundred were blind in one eye simply because fatalistic parents sought no timely remedies. Infant mortality reached 27%. The official Egyptian census take had divided the Egyptians into, first, natives; second, Syrians and Armenians; third, semi-sedentary Bedouins; and fourth, nomad Bedouins. There were many foreign elements in Egypt besides the English. Alexandria, for example, was said to be as cosmopolitan in 1922 as it was 2,000 years ago. Greeks permeated every branch of commerce. Italians were encountered in all walks of life. More than a hundred years prior, and French civilization was implanted along the Nile. The Turks, who had lived in the country for six centuries, constituted the aristocracy of Egyptian society. Syrians, as money-lenders, pawn-brokers, and merchants, swarmed in all the towns and trading centers. Of the three Christian groups – Armenians, Syrians, and Copts – the last named were far the most numerous, nearly 700,000, according to the last census. Though Christian in name, they were more like Moslems in manners, language, and ceremonies. The Syrian was to Egypt what the international Jew was to Europe – a power in finance, a silent partner in politics. Though certain Armenians of distinction had held high offices in Egypt, they were represented along the Nile mostly by shopkeepers and were comparatively few in numbers.
The Berbers, strung along the Nile from Aswan to the Fourth Cataract, were known also as Nubians. The small, sandy farm of the Berber, with its meager fruit crop, was hardly enough to support him, so he and his older sons usually went to work as farm laborers for part of the year in Lower Egypt. In Alexandria and Cairo, the Berbers were in demand as Servants, grooms, and coachmen. No longer the Nubian slaves of Pharaoh’s time, in 1922 they were organized into a labor union. Another phase of the national idea was the part Egyptian women were playing. Sharing their husbands’ ambitions, they helped put the Egyptian nation on the map. Like the modern Turkish women of Stamboul, many of those Egyptian women, Moslem and Copt alike, were versed in the literature and politics of Europe. The famous University of el-Azhar, the chief seat of Learning and center of political thought of the whole Moslem world, was located in Cairo. Though pupils came from all over the Moslem world, Egypt sent most of them. The Egyptian native press, too, was influential; one paper printed at Cairo had a circulation of 20,000 copies. Egyptians who could not read gathered in the bazaars in the evening to hear the papers read aloud by students. In all towns, the mosques were sources of propaganda and political teaching, and the Copts, though Christian, were allowed to speak on political subjects at the mosques.
The economic and political future of the Sudan was closely linked up with that of Egypt. Since 1885, when the mad men of the Mahdi killed General Gordan, many a stirring scene in the drama of civilization had been staged in the Sudan. Like Bagdad, Afghanistan, and the Forbidden City, the Sudan was one of those picturesque places whence adventure and romance seem always to have sprung. Because of the shortage of growing cotton, the Sudan held new interest in the West. It was the greatest potential cotton land in the British Empire. In area, it covered about a million square miles. No count had been made of its people, but they were estimated at three and a half million. A few British officials, with Sudanese and Egyptian assistants, administered the government. A sort of Arab mixture inhabited the north of the Sudan, and in the south were the blacks. On the whole, it was a thinly peopled land of amazing distances. You could go south from the Egyptian frontier six hundred miles by rail before you got to Khartum. From there, you could go another thousand miles on a flat-bottomed, paddle-wheel Nile steamer before you reached the southern boundary of the Sudan, which was almost on the edge of the great lakes, and a third of the way to the Cape of Good Hope. Some travelers entered from the Red Sea (700 miles south of Suez), Proceeding west by the new railway. The White Nile split the Sudan for nearly 2,000 miles north to south, and was navigable the year round above Khartum. The Blue Nile ran down from the Abyssinian hills and joined the main river at Khartum, forming an apex called the Gezireh, or “Island”. That vast, flat island was the granary of the Sudan. It was in the northern part of the Gezireh that the new (in 1922) irrigation projects were being undertaken. Engineers said that land was the cheapest thing in the Sudan. Water was abundant, but labor was scarce.
British authorities regulated the trade and hunting of wild animals in the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. Egypt depended mainly on the Sudan for its meat supply, and thousands of acres had been put under irrigation to provide food crops for Egypt. Slavery, once so common along the Upper Nile, had been largely put down, except, perhaps, in the remoter areas. The county was almost treeless, especially north of Khartum; the few trees found were mostly species of acacia. South of Khartum, to about 12 degrees north, narrow belts of another sort of acacia lined the river banks. Farther south on the White Nile, where there was more rain, forest growth increased, and over in the Blue Nile country the giant baobabs and the Sudan ebony were found. Another Sudan tree known to commerce was the African mahogany of the Bahr-el-Ghazal province. The Nile saved that region from becoming an empty waste. Historic and important as the river was, its sources were for centuries shrouded in mystery. It was not until 1862 that Speke and Grant located the main source of the White Nile in Lake Victoria. On its course through the Sudan, the Nile was joined by the Bahr-el-Ghazal, the Sobat, the Blue Nile, and the Atbara. The Bahr-el-Ghazal flowed out of the vast sudd swamps of the west; the other three streams ran down from the east, bringing the drainage from the Abyssinian hills. In all of Africa there was, perhaps, no greater natural curiosity than the famous sudd (Arabic for block), a sort of vast floating island of reed papyrus, and small plants in the marshes formed by the lower reaches of the Bahr-el-Jebel and Bahr-el-Ghazal. The estimated area of the sudd was 35,000 square miles. Lately, spurred on by the world’s paper shortage, scientist had been giving attention to the vast papyrus accumulation in the sudd, with the hope of evolving some practical method of paper manufacture.
The Nubians, geographically and physically, were the real link between Egypt and negro-land. Though Moslems for centuries, they had kept their own dialects. The richness of the Nile Valley had, for centuries, lured so many invaders into it that today, a veritable babel of races and tongues was found there. The Moslem religion appealed to the wild tribes of north Africa, and millions had adopted it. Many were call Arabs because they were Moslems, or because they dressed in Arab and Bedouin garments. The natives of the Sudan were great travelers who trafficked in slavery. The native changed his abode without hesitation, and his love of strange women was passed Solomon’s. The Sudan, said the Egyptians, was an integral part of Egypt. For years, it was exploited by Egypt for ivory, gold, and slaves. Both socially and ethnologically, it differed from Egypt. The Sudanese did not like the Egyptians; their only common tie was that they both lived on the waters of the Nile. A dam being built in the Sudan was concerning to many Egyptians because they needed the water for irrigation. By virtue of an agreement made back in 1899, Great Britain shared the protectorate over the Sudan with Egypt; but Englishmen actually governed the country. It was a region of vast agricultural possibilities. If the planned projects were carried out, the Sudan might one day grow as much cotton as Egypt itself.
Rejoicing in her new freedom, and with the increase of agriculture and the growth of irrigation works and railways along the Nile, Egypt was gradually assuming a more prominent place in the affairs of the world. Her new government, steered by Europeanized Egyptians, added another non-Christian unit to the family of nations. Her long French and British tutelage left her better equipped for self-rule than either Persia or Turkey. In education, as well as in railways, irrigation works, newspapers, and law courts, Egypt was and will be far in advance of Turkey. In Cairo and London, men thought mainly of politics and agriculture when Egypt’s affairs were mentioned. To most Americans, however, the name Egypt still [in 1922] meant the home of the Sphinx and the whirling dervish, the land of the mummy and the scarab, a desert realm of camels and white-robed sheiks, where long ago the troubles of the Children of Israel first began. And yet – you who knew Egypt, you who had come under the spell of the Nile – you could forgive that Frenchman who wept when he saw the Pyramids.
The third article (fourth item) in this month’s issue is entitled “The Land of the Free in Africa” and was written by Harry A. McBride, author of “The Land of the Basques” in the National Geographic Magazine. The article contains twenty-two black-and-white photographs, of which three are full-page in size. As with the first two articles, this one references the supplement map of Africa which came with the issue and will be discussed later in this writing.
On November 15, 1921, at the Navy Yard at Charlestown, Massachusetts, the commanding officer and his staff, in full dress uniforms, stood at the left of the main gate of the yard. At the right, a company of marines stood at attention. An arrived and discharged its passengers, who greeted the commanding officer. The marines came to “present arms”, while the Navy band played a national anthem, beautiful yet unfamiliar. Its title was “Hail Liberia”. Half an hour later, with the distinguished guests aboard, the U. S. cruiser Denver set sail for Africa. Its duty was to carry back to his country, the chief executive of the Liberian Republic, and to bring messages of good will to “Liberia”. President Charles Dunbar Burgess King had been in this country for several months to request financial assistance. He did not come to beg, but to secure a loan of $5,000,000, with the country’s revenues as collateral. The loan was granted due to Liberia’s participation in the World War. The Liberian plan was to use that money to open up what was considered potentially one of the richest corners of Africa. No one knew what hidden natural wealth would be found when motor roads were blazed through its jungles and palm forests. In 1922, there were no civilized settlements more than twenty-five miles inland from the coast; the vast interior was blank, both to the Liberians and to the outside world. Immense pine forests were known to exist, and if no other object was attained that access to them, Liberia’s prosperity would be doubled. Liberia’s neighbors, colonies of European powers, had been found to be rich in gold, tin, coal, etc. Perhaps they were in Liberia as well. President Kings visit, among other things, was for the purpose of have an American expert mineralogist sent to Liberia to make explorations for the government. When making that request, he pull a gold nugget out of his pocket and placed it on an American official’s desk. Back in Liberia, he wore a beautiful diamond scarfpin. The stone was a perfect “blue-white” specimen found in Liberia’s hinterland.
That the Republic first came to America for aid was not unnatural. Nowhere in the world could there be found a foreign country so like the U. S. in history, language, customs, and form of government. After traveling up the West African coast, touching ports in British, French, Belgian, and Portuguese colonies, all of which were decidedly foreign, distinctly West African, altogether “far away”, and different in character, most Americans experienced a feeling of being much nearer to home when the West Coast steamer sailed into Monrovia Bay. The steamer cautiously approached the shore, dropped anchor, and awaited a little surfboat to take the passengers ashore. The flag at the stern of the surfboat resembled the Stars and Stripes, but had only eleven stripes and one lone star. The customs official spoke English with a decidedly American accent. He demanded each passenger prove he had $100, a requirement for entry. It was another link to home; Liberia was the only place in Africa where the currency was the same as ours. Monrovia, the capital, name for an illustrious American President, was the largest town in the Republic. The author noted that few cities in the world had a harbor so picturesque. Monrovia Bay was about seven miles wide, and vessels entered the harbor in the center, with Cape Mount far off toward the left, and Monrovia Point, high and rocky, on the right. Between the Cape and the Point was the oval background of sandy beaches and majestic palms. Some two miles from the Point, Mesurado River emptied into the Bay with a turn around a sandbar. Just back of the bar, the town itself nestled peacefully on the hill rising from the river bank, with its white roofs emerging from the tropical verdure. Because of the bar, steamers were forced to anchor a mile from the shore, while passengers and freight were landed in surfboats. Often that landing was exciting; the native “headman” choosing the right wave to ride to shore.
Up and across the Mesurado River, they went past pretty little Providence Island, with its one immense baobab tree towering over a cluster of mud huts, to Monrovia lending, half a mile from the bar. The landing was disappointing. The wharf was small and untidy, and the main business street along the waterfront – Water Street – was none too wide, none too straight, none too well paved, and none too clean. The business premises were poor, with first floor usually built of cement and the roof of corrugated iron. Water Street easily could have been made to compare more favorably with the main business centers of Freetown and Dakar. Climbing the hill, two or three blocks, one came to Ashman Street, the chief residential thoroughfare, which was very pleasing in aspect. The Executive Mansion, the foreign legations and consulates, the War Department Building, and the Representatives Hall lent to its importance. On that street were also several of the best residences, well-constructed of brick, in the fashion of American houses of the colonial days, with columns along the front. The Executive Mansion was a large, white, three-story structure – and it had its own “East Room”. In the reception room were portraits of some Liberian presidents and the framed photograph of one foreigner. That foreigner – a hero in Liberian history – was Captain Frank H. Schofield, of the U. S. Navy, who, while in command of an American cruiser, quelled a native uprising on the coast a few years prior [to 1922]. He also landed a supply of rifles to enable the Liberian Frontier Force, a well-trained, tiny army of native soldiers, to keep the peace thereafter. In Liberia, army rifles had ever since been called “Schofield” rifles.
Liberia occupied that corner of West Africa which jutted out into the Atlantic as if in an endeavor to reach across to the Brazilian shore. Only a few years prior [to 1922], the maps showed it to comprise a large area, extending northward almost to the Sahara; but geographers themselves were unable to place definite heavy lines for Liberia’s interior frontiers. Then came the dream of African empires by European nations, and little by little the area accredited by the map-makers to the weak little Republic had dwindled until, in 1922, its coastline was only 360 miles in length and its frontier farthest in the interior was only 200 miles from the seacoast. Its area, about the same size as that of the State of Ohio was about one-third what the Liberians originally claimed. Here and there along the coast the original settlers – negro freedmen from the U. S. – founded little towns and settlements. They were sent from America back to the lands of their ancestors by the American Colonization Society, in which such men as President Monroe, Henry Clay, and others were interested. That movement began in 1816, and the first vessels, sailing schooners chartered by the American Government, set forth from New York in 1820-23. Many of the first settlers succumbed to African fevers; others were killed by hostile natives. Finally, they acquired rights to certain lands by purchase from native chiefs. The chiefs charged quite a price – six muskets, one small barrel of power, six iron bars, ten iron pots, one barrel of beads, two casks of tobacco, twelve knives, twelve forks, and twelve spoons, one small barrel of nails, one box of tobacco pipes, three looking glasses, four umbrellas, three walking sticks, one box of soap, one barrel of rum, four hats, three pairs of shoes, six pieces of blue baft, and three pieces of white calico. All the above was “cash down” in part payment. They were given credit for additional payments due – Six iron bars, twelve guns, three barrels of powder, twelve plates, twelve barrels of ships’ biscuit, twelve glass decanters, twelve wineglasses, and forty pairs of boots.
In 1847, the little settlements along the coast united to form the Republic of Liberia. They published their Declaration of Independence and Constitution, both based on those of the U. S. Joseph Jenkins Roberts was elected the first president of the Republic. At the time, there were two political parties in Liberia – the Whigs and Republicans. Roberts’ successor, Stephen A. Benson was elected in 1856. The first president was mulatto, so light in color as to readily mistaken for a white man. Benson, however, was quite black. There were, in 1922, less than fifteen thousand of the descendants of the original colonizers. These were the Americo-Liberians, who carried on the affairs of the Republic, controlled much of the commerce, and attended to industries. They had, in turn, civilized and educated about 100,000 of the coastal natives. In addition to those, Liberia’s population was composed of some 1,500,000 uncivilized native who inhabited the interior regions. Never had the Americo-Liberians penetrated far inland. Their towns were along the seacoast, and for 15 or 25 miles up the principal rivers, their settlements and farms were found. Monrovia, the capital, had a population of about 4,000. Grand Bassa and Cape Palmas ranked next in order. Then came the smaller villages with such American names as: New York, Philadelphia, Virginia, New Georgia, Marshall, Bunker Hill, and Hartford. Some 20 miles up the St. Paul River from Monrovia, the one motor-boat turned sharply to the left toward the landing place of New York. Unlike the American cosmopolis of skyscrapers and six million people, there were three cottages in view, built on supports of brick. Its skyscrapers were two immense cottonwood trees. The Liberian farmers devoted themselves to the growing of coffee, mainly for Germany and Scandinavia. Palm oil, indispensable in Europe for soap making and Glycerin production, had demand rapidly growing in the U. S. Piassaba was the third product of importance – a strong palm fiber.
None of those exports could be increased appreciably until the interior regions were tapped. There was only one way to accomplish that – the vital need was roads. In 1922, the only way of sending a bundle of palm nuts from Kolahun, on the northern boundary of Liberia, to the coast was on the head of a naked native. What was needed was a straight road, with motor-trucks to deliver produce from the northern boundary to the Monrovian piers in 24 hours. That was why the Liberians were so desirous of borrowing money. Work actually started to years prior to 1922. Extending for some 15 miles along the Atlantic was a strip of land densely covered with jungle growth and paralleled by a river which degenerated here and there into mangrove swamps. At the end of the river was a town called Paynesville. The problem was to get a road to that town, because, once there, a good motor road could be readily constructed into the interior. Forty prisoners were handed axes and told to cut a straight path 21 feet wide through the jungle. The only way to tackle the problem of the road’s direction was by guesswork, the jungle was so thick. One could not see what was ahead, until the great trees and undergrowth were chopped away. Huge boulders would come to light, often in the exact center of the roadway. No tackle, chains, or tractor were available; so great fires were built in trenches dug around the rock, heating the stone until it cracked and, piece by piece, could be removed. A four-mile stretch of soft sand was encountered, which had to be given a covering of gravel and clay. No wheeled vehicles were available to haul in the gravel and clay, so 40 natives carried it in heavy boxes on their heads. At the end of three months, the roadway, over which an automobile could comfortably pass, was 12 miles long and only three miles from Paynesville. But there, they hit a deep chasm carved by a swift, little river. It looked like the roadway would end there.
But the Liberians were determined that the road should reach Paynesville. A search was made and under an old customs building were found six twenty-foot I-beams. The beams were carried the twelve miles, each on the heads of 10 natives. A barrel of cement was found and an automobile carried it to the scene of operations. Rocks were cut, and in a few days a solid little bridge spanned the stream. Another month and Paynesville turned out en masse to welcome its first automobile. The road has coast $75 for rice for the laborers, plus $15 for the services of a mason for bridge-work. A half dozen motor-trucks employed thereon for a few weeks made it a fine motor-road. The natives in the interior had also come to understand the need for roads, and native chiefs had constructed little bits of roadway, here and there, between their towns, having no other tools than sharpened sticks. Liberia had entered the World War on the side of the Allies. She expelled all German traders, hurting her commerce. Submarine warfare further hurt her economy. In 1913, 1,322 vessels, with a tonnage of 2,690,178 tons cleared her ports, and they collected almost a half million dollars in customs revenue. In 1918, she had only 127 vessels, with 333,926 tons, and $165,999 in customs revenue. Not only in trade did she suffer. Monrovia was bombed, Liberia’s only seagoing vessel was sunk, lives lost, and property destroyed. If not for the war, Liberia would not currently [in 1922] have needed to borrow money.
Although the Americo-Liberians barely held their own in the matter of increased population, the million and more natives were flourishing and gaining in numbers. The natives of Liberia were roughly divided into three principal races – the Mandingos, the Krus, and the Kpwesis. The foremost tribe of the Mandingo race was the Vai, inhabiting the eastern part of Liberia. The Vais were lighter in color than other natives. They were practically independent of their neighbors. Their religion was brought down indirectly from the Arabs in the north; their boys were taught to read Arabic and the Koran. The Vai villages were clean, and their homes so pretentious that the word “hut” was scarcely applicable to them. The Vai weaved a very heavy cotton cloth, beautifully dyed, usually in stripes and geometrical designs. From that cloth, they made long, loose robes of dark blue, which constituted the principal article of attire of the Vai men. From the cloth, they also made hammocks in which they slept. Most other natives slept on reed mats spread on the ground. The Vai had one of the few written languages in native Africa. The Krus inhabited the coastal regions from Monrovia as far east as Cape Palmas. They were different from the Vai, being darker and shorter in stature. They were willing workers, which was an asset to Liberia, as she needs so much labor for development. For ages, the Kru had been the laborer of the coast, but his chief occupation had been that of sailor and fisherman. He was the most traveled of all the Africans. Every steamer plying the West Coast touched first at a Liberian port to take on a hundred or so Kru. Those sturdy fellows took charge of loading and unloading all the cargo at the little ports down the coast as far as Loanda, and then brought back to Liberia, paid off, and sent ashore to await the next southbound vessel.
One of the largest Kru villages was Krutown, on the riverside near Monrovia, where some three thousand of those sailor folks lived. Due to their industrious nature, they had more money than other natives, and their huts often boasted phonographs and sewing machines, and they wore articles of European dress. The village was always gay and happy with native dancing going on to the thumping of tom-toms in the rear of the huts. Another trait of the Krus was patriotism. It was almost fruitless to induce them to settle in neighboring British and French colonies. The third element, the Kpwesis, and kindred pagan tribes of the interior, of which the most important branches were the Zawquellis and Buzis, were still primitive “bushmen”. They were slender, wiry, and very black in color. They lived in small villages, usually only fifteen to thirty huts. They raised rice, sweet potatoes, and cassava for food. Each man had as many wives as he was able to buy, and the wives did most of the work. Yet those were the tribes that inhabited the regions where lied Liberia’s natural wealth; they were the ones who had to be brought into contact with the coastal tribes, and who needed to be taught to produce and to supply the palm nuts, palm kernels, palm oil, ivory, piassaba, rubber, and other articles of trade. They were not entirely unwilling to assist the government. During the last year of the war, the government could not afford the price of rice. A certain Kpwesis chief, hearing of this, sent a caravan of 200 of his tribesmen to Monrovia – a distance of 100 miles – on foot, each man carrying 56 pounds of packaged rice on his head. Each carrier was given a Liberian dime and a piece of cotton print for his labor, and they returned highly content to their villages. That caravan was the forerunner of others. Liberia possessed the natural resources and the will to develop them. Those factors should create a new era in that African country, especially if Liberia’s appeal for financial aid was successful.
The fifth item listed on this month’s cover is entitled “African Scenes from the Equator to the Cape” and has no byline. It is not an article, but another set of “Sixteen Full-page Engravings”. The ink used in these transfers has an ever-slight greenish tinge to it.
A list of the caption titles is as follows:
The Sixth and final item on this month’s issue is entitled Our New Map of Africa” and has no byline. It is a two-page editorial, all text, no photographs, introducing and describing the “Special Map Supplement – Africa (Size, 32 x 28)” highlighted on the cover.
Map courtesy of Philip Riviere
This map was the fourth in a series of continental maps published since the end of the World War. This map superseded the smaller map issued by the Society several years prior. The areas on that continent affected by the Treaty of Versailles were even more extensive than those so affected in Europe. More than a million square miles of territory in Africa – one-eleventh of the entire continent – belonged to Germany in 1914. In 1922, those vast area were being administered under mandates exercised by Great Britain, France, and Belgium. The map showed that, as a result of the war, the French had added to their control mandated areas considerable larger than all of France in Europe. France ruled over more land in Africa than any other nation, exceeding the area of the U. S., including Alaska, by nearly 80,000 square miles. The map showed more than 735,000 square miles of territory transferred from Germany to British mandates (413,000 to Great Britain and 322,000 to South Africa). Britain did, however, cede 350,000 square miles of territory when Egypt was granted independence. It was interesting to note that only three countries in Africa – Liberia, Egypt, and Abyssinia, with barely 741.000 square miles of territory – were independent. The remaining millions of square miles of the second largest continent, more than one-fifth of the earth’s land surface, were ruled by European nations. The acquisition of colonial territory in Africa took place, mainly, during the last quarter of the nineteenth century. At the beginning of that century, France had a foothold on the west coast near the Senegal River; Portugal was established in lower Guinea, on the west coast, and in small districts opposite the island of Madagascar, on the east; while Great Britain’s chief interest laid in Cape Colony, which they had taken from the Dutch during the Napoleonic wars. The explorations of Livingstone and Stanley, Rohlfs and Du Chaillu brought about the awakening of public interest in the Dark Continent and the scramble for colonies between 1875 and 1900.
Germany did not embark upon a colonial acquisition policy until 1882. Bismarck was won over to the scheme and German traders began establishing stations along the west coast of Africa. The first was a small area around Angra Pequena on the west coast, north of Cape Colony. Next came acquisitions in Togoland the Cameroons. In 1885, Germans were active on the east coast, making treaties with tribal chiefs for an enormous tract of land embracing 200,000 square miles, known subsequently as German East Africa. To the Union of South Africa has been entrusted the mandate over German Southwest Africa; Great Britain acquires German East Africa, known as Tanganyika; a strip of Togoland, and a portion of the Cameroons. France had assumed the mandate over the major portion of Togoland and the Cameroons. Belgium’s mandate was for the territory between Lake Tanganyika and Lake Victoria, Rwanda and Urundi. The European territories after the war were as follows: France, 4,474,000 square miles (20 times the size of the home country); Great Britain, 3,854,600 (30 times); Belgium, 928,900 (80 times); Portugal, 927,200 (26 times); Italy, 591,200 (4 times); and Spain, 128,100 (2/3 times). One of the most interesting features of the map compared to earlier one published by the Society was the remarkable development of the continent’s railways. The lines under construction were being completed so rapidly that, on two occasions during the publication of the map, which required three months, it was necessary to stop the presses and change the lines from “proposed” to “finished”. In several instances, the boundaries between colonies had not been fixed definitely. In such cases, the tentative or approximate boundaries were shown by broken lines. In the spelling of native place names, the British trans literation system had been adopted. A key in the lower right corner of the map showed how to translate them to other European languages.
The Map of Africa would be followed by a Map of the World, drawn on a newly-devised projection, which showed the Western Hemisphere practically without distortion. Later, would appear a Map of the United States of convenient size. The maps already published by the Society and issued as supplements with the National Geographic Magazine during 1921 and 1922 – Europe, Asia, South America, the Islands of the Pacific, the Countries of the Caribbean, and Africa – cost more than $200,000 for compiling engraving, and printing. In compiling the data for the Map of Africa, the Society appreciated the valuable advice received from the Map Division of the U. S. State Department, the Graphics Section of the Army War College, and members of the American Consular Service stationed in Africa.
At the bottom of the last page (page 448) there it a notice with the title, “Regarding Additional Copies Map of Africa”. Additional copies of the Map of Africa could be obtained from the National Geographic Society, Washington, D. C., for $1.00 (paper) or $1.50 (linen). Maps of New Europe (30 x 33 inches), Asia (28 x 36), South America (25 x 35), Islands of the Pacific (19 x 25), and Countries of the Caribbean (42 x 23½) were also available at the same price.
This is one of my particularly favorite issues of NGM. Lots of interesting things (not always 'good') going on here . . . even more lurking just beneath the surface.
I love this map of Africa for some reason, perhaps because it captures a unique moment in time for the geo-political status of things, which would not last.
This issue coulda/shoulda been labeled on the cover as "The African Number". I suppose they did not want to use that moniker twice, since the March 1909 issue was in fact titled as such.
This issue comprises 1 of the 6 substantially 'all Africa' issues. We have April 1889, March 1909, October 1922, June 1935, September 1960, and September 2005 (all as front cover billing & imagery, save for April 1889 due to its' plain cover format).
April 1889, June 1935, and September 1960 did have a smidge of non-Africa content, however. March 1909, June 1935, October 1922, and the September(s) 1960 + 2005 issues also included full Africa 'continent' map supplements.
Keep up the great work on your monthly flashbacks Tom, always well-done and thorough! You have 7 more to go and you'll have reached 100 (May 1923).
Thank you for this addendum, Scott. It is appreciated.
By the way, did you notice that the Society states that the presses were stopped twice to update the railway lines on the October 1922 Africa map. This implies that there are three versions of the map. I have two copies of the map myself, and plan to scour both to find any differences and then report my findings to the Maps & Supplements group. I would strongly suggest that anyone with multiple copies of said map to do the same, someone out there might have all three versions and not know it.
Yours in Collecting,
I have three copies of this map; two appear to be exactly the same. The third shows a lighter detail in the "reference" section. Do you have any other hints as to what we should be looking for?
Long time, no speak. The exact quote from the October 1922 issue, page 448, is as follows:
"One of the most interesting features of the New Map of Africa compared with that published by The Society several years ago is the remarkable development of the continent's railways. The lines under construction are being completed so rapidly that on two occasions during publication of the Map, which required three months, it was found necessary to stop the presses and change the lines from "proposed" to "finished" railroads."
The Society makes it a point to say how expensive these productions are, so it is safe to assume that they didn't throw away the earlier batches, but just continued printing maps until they had met their quota.
The railroad lines that are finished are shown as solid black lines, where the proposed lines are dashed black lines, as shown on the "References" in the lower left corner. In the article about Egypt, they made references to a Cape Town to Cairo railway under construction. I plan to first examine the British held territories between those cities to see if any railway lines had been updated. Later, I will search the rest of the map.
BTW, I will be in your neck of the woods this weekend, it's my daughter's 40th birthday on Sunday, and we are going to surprise her.
Yours in collecting,
Thanks for the feedback!
As for being in our neck of the woods - I'm playing catch-up with the yard as I've spent the better part of this past month with my mother in Oklahoma. She's alone since my brother and father passed away last September.
So - give me a call and bring the family over - pool's open and there's fish in the pond - I'll take any excuse I can to get out of yard work!
Also, yours in collecting!