Port Elizabeth of Yore: Financial Engines of the Early Economy

A frequently alluded to fallacy when discussing the state of the economy is the primacy of physical items whether it is a precious metal such as gold or agricultural products such as cotton or wool. Logistics constraints are considered especially when they are an impediment to the smooth flow of these physical items. However, seldom mentioned is the centrality of banks and banking practices which oils that process.

As previous blogs have focussed upon the both the hazards, horrors and cost of wagon transport from the hinterland and the stupendous surge in wool production over two decades, neither will feature as the dramatis personae but rather they will be assigned a cameo role in this article.

Main picture:  1866 painting of Port Elizabeth by Thomas Bowler

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Location of Mosenthal’s Clothing Factory

My brother, Blaine, who is technical director of this blog, has again earned his salary which is R0 per month. In providing the answer, he has stretched the original picture to compact the gables in order to make them look more like the postcard.  He contends that there are 3 significant features that correspond.  There are also the 3 skylights and ventilators per roof. Perhaps it was originally a store needing no windows and later a factory and they added windows in front and back (see last pic)

Main picture: This is the photo which initially created the commotion

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: Reflections on the Flood of 1st September 1968

The Weather Guru, Garth Sampson, has recently emailed me some interesting articles on this flood. Even though I have previously written a blog on it, it was based upon my personal experiences and as well as that of my family instead of being a generic article about rainfall and general human interest elements. Amongst these articles was one written by JP Viviers of the SA Weather Bureau on which this blog is largely based. Instead of a wholly human-interest story, it is largely explains the meteorological aspects as well as some statistics combined with some unusual interesting consequences.

Main picture: Water flowing over Beach Road at Happy Valley

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Looking Back: Hougham Hudson-PE’s First Magistrate

This blog was originally published in LOOKING BACK – The Journal of the Historical Society of Port Elizabeth, Volume 55, 2016 as “Hougham Hudson and his Family.” Apart from minor punctuation and grammatical changes, this blog is the same as the original article.

Main picture: Hougham Hudson’s house opposite the Town Hall which later was used as the Post Office under Mrs. Biggar. Market Square and Castle Hill circa 1860 painted by Mrs J Clark

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: Disappearance of Seven-year-old on Christmas Day 1859

Instead of Christmas Day 1859 being a day of wonder and joy, presents and over-stuffed bellies, in the Haywood household, it would be a day of tragedy, heart break, sorrow and despair, a day that would be indelibly etched in their minds. They would forever recount every minute of their movements that day for that was the day when the innocent seven-year-old Augusta Ann Hayward would inexplicably disappear.

Most of the records have vanished along with Augusta. What has survived, highlights both grief-stricken parents contrasted with an indifferent uncaring officialdom. This blog has been based upon the excellent blog of Mansell George Upham entitled, “Whatever happened to Augusta Anne…?

Main picture: Watercolour entitled ‘View of Port Elizabeth from upper Russell Road’ by Lester Oliver in 1854 [NMM AM]

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: George Pemba and his Art

George Milwa Mnyaluza Pemba [1912-2001] is amongst the best-known artists produced by Port Elizabeth. Born at Hill’s Kraal in Korsten in 1912, like aspirant artists of his era, his hobby could not be converted into a full-time occupation especially due to his race as his target market was indigent at best. His style is referred to Urban or Social Realism of which he was a pioneer as he specialised in painting gatherings of people in everyday settings. In the 1940s after encouragement by fellow black painter Sekoto, Pemba took the courageous and plucky step of resigning from his day job to concentrate on painting.

Main picture: The achievement of Pemba is celebrated by a series of ten stamps posthumously produce by the Post Office on 2nd April 2012. Mother’s child, 1972, Oil; Township granny, 1950, Watercolour; The Minister’s new convert, 1945, Watercolour; Portrait of Mr Gluck, 1947, Oil; Xhosa woman, 1947, Watercolour; Portrait, 1948, Oil; Ting-Ting, 1945, Watercolour; Mr Pemba’s mother, 1993, Watercolour; Family life, 1977, Oil; Portrait of Xolile Ndongeni, 1987, Oil

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Fire of 1903 which Almost Immolated Pyott’s Ambitions

To a younger generation of Port Elizabethans, the name Pyotts Biscuits is largely unknown but to a century of residents it resonated as the biscuit of choice. Personally, the Pyotts business has a stronger connection. As an articled clerk with Price Waterhouse in the 1970s, I was allocated to the Pyott’s audit. By then the business had been sold to a competitor and later on the name of the business severed its link with the Pyott’s name.   

The details of this fire are wholly derived from a report in the subsequent edition of the Eastern Province Herald.

Main picture: Pyott’s original factory in Port Elizabeth

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Leper Institute in the Baakens Valley

Prior to 1839 there was no proper accommodation in the Eastern Cape for lepers or destitute persons. Lepers were confined, often in jails in appalling conditions, pending their transfer by ox wagon to the leper institution at “Hemel en Aarde” which was some distance away in the Caledon district.

This blog covers the creation, operation and closure of the Leper Institute over the period 1839 to 1846.

Main picture:  Map of the Leper Institute, Gubb’s farm and the Baakens River

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: The First Toll in Queen Street

By its very nature, charging toll fees for the use of a facility, or in fact the “user pays principle” is an elegant method for authorities to recover the cost of maintaining roads and bridges yet worldwide it sometimes invokes the worst of human nature. In Port Elizabeth’s case, it was just over four years after its founding in 1820, that the first toll was installed.

To ensure that only out-of-town traffic would be tolled, the toll was setup outside the limits of the town which in 1824 was Donkin Street. The position selected was about 500 metres from Russell Road as it was in the country.  

Main picture: The Baptist Church in Queen Street

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