The Machadodorp Postcard: now we have all the family! by Garth Kruger

During an idle morning I walked through the Ditsong Cultural museum in Pretoria. Imagine my surprise when I saw the printing plate of the Machadodorp postcard hiding in plain sight. The print is intact except for the second T in Staats and the C and R of Courant. The printing plate frame is intact with dogs in place. Directly next to the plate a small, size fit, ink roller with its wooden box. It would probably be too much to imagine the roller was the one Alphonse Leys used to ink the plate in the train at Machadodorp before he printed the postcards? Both images are below par as they were taken through glass with my phone.

Staff were unaware of the significance of this plate and its history (which I duly explained, of course). Surely these artifacts should be in the Postal Museum …..?


  1. Actually it is Tim Bartshe without the C. Anyway as a collector of the Republican issues, particularly the Second Republic, this is an amazing find and item of great importance as the government continued its duties as they fled the oncoming British. This would rank right up there with the forme from the Pietersburg issues. Thanks!!!

  2. The question in my mind is how these artifacts survived at all. After Machadodorp and the Battle of Bergendal/Dalmanutha ( the last set battle of the war with canon duels and where the ZARPs were decimated) , it basically became a run for the border at Komatipoort for the Boer forces. Pres Steyn of the OFS saw Paul Kruger off at Nelspruit before the old man left the ZAR. The Bittereinders headed north through the lowveld and headed for Pietersburg via Agatha (good decription of the journey in Schikkeling’s book). The chaos in general included the destruction of one of the Long Toms at Komatipoort. This marked the end of formal warfare and the guerilla phase of the ABW opened up. So someone knew these were significant atifacts. My money is on Leys the printer in the train at Machadodorp. He bought 2 000 of the postcards as “speculation” according to Joh Groenewald. Leys knew this was something significant, something special. My first guess is Leys packed the plate and inking roll into his baggage and left the ZAR via Mozambique for the Netherlands and that the two items were then sent back to the Transvaal after the war. Is there any way for the Study Circle to make the museum aware of these two items and suggest they go to the Postal Museum ..? Any thoughts to the significance of the missing T, C and R perhaps? They have not been removed intact; they have been gouged out; so of what use could they be to anyone except as a momento perhaps? Tim, I once saw 2 formes of some Pietersburgs at a member’s home some years ago. Very nice items. Judging by the general allround neglect at Ditsong, I would be very sad if these items disappeared and were lost to posterity.

  3. Discoveries such as those by Garth are marvellous. I liked the photographs of his findings from the Ditsong museum. He raises the question of transferring such items to the Postal Museum and the role of the Study Circle. Personally, while agreeing with the spirit behind such a transfer, I ask whether the Postal Museum is open to researchers. There would be little point in a transfer if we did not know how to discover what is in its catalogue. Would a member from South Africa let us know what the situation is with regard to the Museum. Does anyone know where the Transvaal Postal Circulars for 1907-1910 are now?
    Chris Board
    a former user of the Postal Museum

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