Tuesday 22nd of October 2002 07:04 AM 
Biographies: Randlords and Financiers

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Please note: I have added flags at the head of each biography in order to give visitors a way of seeing, at a glance, where the person was born, where they spent most of their life, and which side they fought for in the Boer War.

1st Flag=birthplace (if known)
2nd flag=main nation of residence (no second flag if birthplace was nation of residence)
3rd flag=side figure fought (or acted) for


EnglandUnited Kingdom
BARNATO, Barnett (Barney) Isaacs (1852-1897)
Barnett Barnato

Mining magnate. Born in 1852 as Barneet Isaacs, son of a publican in the East End of London, he became a part-time vaudeville entertainer and boxer with his brother Henry, for which purpose they assumed the name of Barnato. In 1873 Barney followed Henry to Kimberley, where they worked as diggers, diamond buyers and speculators, acquiring great wealth. Gaining control of several important mines, they came in touch with Cecil Rhodes. The ensuing struggle resulted in a merger of interests in 1888, Barney Barnato becoming an original Life Governor of De Beers Consolidated Mines. From 1889 to 1897 he was member of the Cape Parliament for Kimberley. After the gold discoveries in the Transvaal he moved his headquarters to the Rand, where in 1889 he founded the Johannesburg Consolidated Investment Co., though the firm of Barnato Brothers remained in existence. He was a dominant and colourful figure in the financial, mining, theatrical and sporting worlds, both in South Africa and England. Towards the end of his life 'his nerves gave way' [sic] and in 1897 he jumped overboard travelling between Southampton and the Cape and was drowned. His estate was valued at just under 1 million.

EnglandUnited Kingdom
BARNATO, Henry (1850-1908)

Mining magnate. Born in London in 1850, went to South Africa with his brother, Barney in 1871. Together they attained great wealth in the diamond fields, Henry having by far the larger fortune. He returned to England, became a well-known racehorse owner and died in 1908, leaving almost 6 million.

GermanyUnited Kingdom
BEIT, Alfred (1853-1906)

Alfred Beit Capitalist and co-founder, with Cecil Rhodes, of Southern Rhodesia. Born in Hamburg in the same year as Rhodes, of an old Jewish family. He learnt the diamond trade under Jules Porge in Amsterdam and elsewhere. In 1875 he went to Port Elizabeth on behalf of his cousins, the Lipperts, who sent him to Kimberley as their representative. There he came into touch with Julius Wernher and with Cecil Rhodes. Attaining considerable prosperity as a diamond merchant, he became a member of the firm of Jules Porges and Co., and on the retirement of Porges, he and Wernher converted this firm in 1884 to Wernher, Beit and Co. Returning to England he joined forces with Rhodes in his efforts to amalgamate the diamond mines, which resulted in the foundation of De Beers. A Life Governor of De Beers, he was one of the principle figures in the foundation of the Chartered Company and in the first efforts to open up Rhodesia. Wernher, Beit and Co. presently became leaders in Barberton and then in the Witwatersrand gold industry. Beit visited Rhodesia in the very early days, but kept his headquarters in London. Unlike Rhodes, he did his utmost to keep out of politics, though his friendship with him remained undiminished, and he was one of the main trustees and heirs under his will. Upon Alfred Beit's death the Beit Trust came into existence. He also bequeathed enormous sums for university education and research in South Africa, Rhodesia, Britain and Germany.

GermanyUnited Kingdom
BEIT, Sir Otto John (1865-1930)

Capitalist and philanthropist. Younger brother of Alfred Beit, he was born in Hamburg and came to the Rand in 1890 as a member of the firm of Herman Eckstein and Co. In 1896 he returned to London, but maintained his contact with the gold and diamond industries. After his brother's death in 1906 he retired and devoted his efforts mostly to the development of the Rhodes Trust and other institutions, to which he gave large sums.

TurkeyUnited Kingdom
BETTELHEIM, Major Henri (1860-1933)

Rand mining pioneer and financier. Born of German-Jewish descent in Constantinople, he settled in Kimberley in the 1870s and was active on the diamond market. With the discovery of the Witwatersrand, he moved to Johannesburg where he was connected with many well-known mines, including Croesus, Roodepoort United, Vera Main Reef, Anglo-Tharsis and Middlevlei. As Turkish Consul he built a Turkish-style residence in Doornfontein, in which he held parties that became a byword. After the South African War he settled in England and died in London.

BRAKHAN, Amandus (died 1923)

Financier. Born in Austria, he arrived in the Witwatersrand in 1892 as an associate of Adolf Goerz, with whose group, A. Goerz and Co., he remained. From 1898 to 1907 he was Managing Director, and later Chairman.

GermanyUnited Kingdom
BREITMEYER, Ludwig (1853-1930)

Diamond magnate. Born in Germany, he spent his earlier years in Kimberley, where he worked for the firm of Jules Pam and Co. and later became associated with Sir Julius Wernher. Making his headquarters in London in 1911 he took over the diamond interests of the firm of Wernher, Beit and Co., in which the successors of the original partners, however, retained a large interest, notably Sir Friedrich Eckstein, Sir Friedrich Hirschhorn, Louis Reyersbach and Sir Lionel Phillips.

PAM, Jules (1852-1915)

Diamond fields pioneer. Born in France, he arrived in Kimberley in the 1870s and established a large business as a buyer. He enjoyed the particular confidence of the diggers along the Vaal River, much of whose output he handled.

PAPENFUS, Herbert Boshof (1865-1937)
Early Rand lawyer and municipal legislator. Born in Bloemfontein, he was educated there at Grey College and in Cape Town. having qualified as a solicitor in 1886, he was called to the Bar in 1896 and practised in Johannesburg, where his strong views brought him into conflict with the Kruger administration, notably on the rights of Coloured British subjects from the Cape. As a Free Stater, he led an agitation against that country's closer alliance with the Transvaal. He also led the support of the Johannesburg Bar and Side Bar for the Chief-Justice John Kotze in his dispute with President Kruger. Though a member of the Reform Committee, he was not involved in the Jameson Raid 'trouble.' During the South African War he served on the Uitlanders Refugee Committee in Cape Town and in 1901 took charge of the burgher's refugee camps. He also presided over a Special Criminal Court in Pretoria and became a member of the first Johannesburg Municipal Council after peace. In later years he established the Alexandra Native Township north of Johannesburg.

PORGES, Jules (1838-1921)

Mining magnate. Born in Prague, he settled in Paris in the 1860s and became a leading diamond merchant. Both Alfred Beit and Sir Julius Wernher worked for him and were sent by him to Kimberley. He himself arrived there in 1875 and became a successful operator in shares, claims and stones, later extending operations to the Witwatersrand. In 1880 he returned to Europe. He retired from business in 1889, but long outlived both Beit and Wernher.

Germany United Kingdom
REYERSBACH, Louis Julius (1869-1927)

Mining magnate and pioneer of early South African motoring. Born in Germany, he joined the London office of Wernher, Beit and Co. and in 1891, was sent to Kimberley in 1894 and to Johannesburg in 1901. There he became a senior executive of the Rand Mines group, and was largely responsible for the Crown Mines amalgamation. He retired in 1914 and died in England.

United Kingdom
RHODES, Cecil John (1853-1902)
Cecil J. Rhodes
British colonial statesman and Prime Minister of Cape Colony, South Africa (1890-1896), born in Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire, England. Suffering from a lung weakness, he was sent for his health to his brother's cotton farm in South Africa; he subsequently made a fortune at the Kimberley diamond diggings, and amalgamated several diamond companies to form the De Beers Consolidated Mines Co. (1888). Dividing his time between Kimberley and England, he studied at Oxford, and entered the Cape House of Assembly, securing Bechuanaland (modern-day Botswana) as a protectorate (1884) and the charter for the British South Africa Company (1889), whose territory was later to be named Rhodesia after him. He became prime-minister of Cape Colony, but was forced to resign in 1896 because of complications arising from the Jameson Raid. He was a conspicuous figure during the Boer War (1899-1902), when he 'organized' the defences of Kimberley (contemporary accounts relate that he almost drove Kekewich mad, interfering with the chain of command and organising citizens in a military fashion). His will founded scholarships at Oxford for Americans, Germans, and colonials (Rhodes scholars).

RUBE, Charles Ernest (1852-1914)

Diamond and gold mining magnate. Born in France, he reached Kimberley in 1876 and became manager of the French Diamond Mining Co. He later joined the firm of Wernher, Beit and Co., of which he became a partner.

SACKE, Simon (1859-1921)

South African mining financier. Born in Courland, on the Baltic, he went to Kimberley in the 1870s and in 1887 reached the Rand. On the fields he was associated with the Geldenhuis, Wemmer, Ferreira, Worcester and other Deep Levels. In November 1895 he formed the Sacke Estates and Mining Company, concerned especially with opening the West Rand. He died in Johannesburg.

GermanyUnited Kingdom
WERNHER, Sir Julius Charles (1850-1912)
Julius Wernher
Mining magnate. Born in Darmstadt, Germany, where his father was attached to the Grand-Ducal court, he entered a London bank as a learner, served in the Prussian cavalry in the Franco-German War of 1870-1871, and, like Alfred Beit, took a post in Paris with Jules Porges. Porges sent him to Kimberley, where he was elected to the Mining Board and soon gained wealth and prominence. After the discovery of the Rand he extended his operations to the Transvaal. In 1888 he became one of the four original 'Life Governers' of De Beers Consolidated Mines. He settled in London as Porges' partner and, when the latter retired in 1889, continued operations under the name of Wernher, Beit and Co., the largest mining house in South Africa, if not in the world, controlling the Rand Mines group and other huge interests. Apart from occasional visits to South Africa, he spent the rest of his life in England. A noted art collector, he died leaving the largest South African fortune on record - over 11 000 000.

EnglandUnited Kingdom
WOOLLAN, Benjamin Minors (1857-1909)

First Chairman of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. Born in England, he emigrated to Kimberley in 1882 and in 1887 moved to Johannesburg, where, in the same year, he helped to found the Stock Exchange. As a member of the Transvaal National Union he was involved in the Reform Movement before the Jameson Raid, but returned to England in 1895 and retired soon after.

Belfield, Eversley. The Boer War. Hamden: Archon, 1975.
1 C.F.J.Muller, 500 Years: A History of South Africa (Cape Town: H & R Academia, 1981), p. 366.
Rosenthal. Eric [comp.] Southern African Dictionary of National Biography. London: Frederick Warne, 1966.


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Further Reading

Camack, D. 'The Politics of Discontent: the Grievances of the Uitlander Refugees, 1899-1902.' JSAS 8, 1982, pp. 243-270.

Camack, D. 'Class, Politics and War: a Socio-Economic Study of the Uitlanders of the Witwatersrand, 1897 - 1902'. Ph.D thesis, University of California, Irvine, 1983.

Camack, D. 'The Johannesburg Republic: the Re-Shaping of Rand Society, 1900-1901'. SAHJ 18, 1986, pp. 47-72.

Emden, P.H. Randlords. 1935. [other details unavailable]