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N.O. Ruffel Corn Salve - This is the only blue lid recorded from a South African Company - N.O. Ruffel was a thriving chemist at the turn of the century and a wide range of bottles / flasks bear his name - Diameter 65 mm - This lid has a matching blue base.


30 DECEMBER 1909, Mrs NO Ruffel, wife of well-known Kimberley pharmacist, dies in Durban, 1909


Every now and again a brick wall is hit when researching an individual or an event, and the Ruffel family of Kimberley is the current brick wall.

What is known is that Mrs NO Ruffel is Lillie Lawton Ruffel (nee Wilkins) and that she died in Durban on 30 December 1909. She was 39 years of age and is buried in the Stellawood cemetery.

Mr NO Ruffel is Nelson Otto Ruffel who arrived in South Africa from Sweden in 1882 and opened the first of his pharmacies in Kimberley during 1883. The business was officially titled NO Ruffel Ltd, Wholesale and Retail Chemist and Druggist, and the main pharmacy (or Head Office) was in Jones Street (now Phakamile Mabija Road). Branches were definitely in Beaconsfield and Kenilworth although some sources state he had six establishments.

Nelson Ruffel lived at 1 Knight Street initially but at the time of his believed death at some time in 1915 was living at 42 Carrington Road, the well-known Kumo House. Kumo House was turned into a fortified position during the siege of Kimberley and re-named Fort Kumo.

More is known about his business. This from the 1 November 1902 issue of “The Chemist and Druggist”, a weekly journal of the pharmacy and drug trade.

The writer preferred to remain anonymous.

“Turning into Jones Street, and thereafter into “Ruffel’s”, I had the pleasure of again meeting the gentleman of that name. When we last met it was on the S.S. Scot, outward bound, two years ago. Since we talked “shop” on that occasion great changes have taken place in his business. It is now a limited liability company, with six establishments in the town and vicinity. Well away down the Du Toit’s Pan Road is the firm’s latest addition — a pharmacy in the true sense of the word. Of course it is not finished yet — nothing is in South Africa, but it compared favourably with those on the coast, and I have no doubt when it receives the finishing touches it will be the finest in the district. The shop itself measures 16 feet by 24 feet. The fittings were turned out locally, except the show-cases, which came from England, as did the shelf-bottles, although to my mind they were undoubtedly of continental make. The ceiling is of steel, and the light is electric. No fewer than five doctor’s offices (they are so called in Kimberley, just as in America) are being furnished at the back of the shop and a qualified optician is at the beck and call of the public, as are also the telephones, darkrooms, &c.

Mr. Ruffel thought an American soda-fountain would be an innovation. He promptly consulted his C. D. and ordered one through the agents of his firm in London. It is to be the finest thing of its kind in South Africa — that goes without saying. The money it will cost when fixed should make it so, only it is not there yet to supply me with an ice-cream soda. Viewing the show-cases hurriedly, I noticed quite a few Coronation lines in the shape of perfumes, tooth-brushes, and holiday goods generally; also several of the firm’s own preparations, nicely gotten up, and among them mention must be made of the “Cutine” articles — consisting of soaps, shaving and toilet, perfumed or plain, ointment, &c. The assistant told me that most of the firm’s special lines were produced in England, or, in the absence of the goods themselves, their wrappers.”

Pictured is the headstone of Lillie Ruffel in Durban, as well as a lid of a medical bottle made especially for NO Ruffel.

From Kimberley Calls and Recalls on Facebook By Steve Lunderstedt


Geraldine Auerbach – “Noel Kretzmar and family lived at Kumo 42 Carrington Road from 1945 to about 1980. This is where I grew up. Below is a picture of what we used to call the ‘Air Raid Shelter’ though I guess if was an ammunition store or something. During the Boer War it was the headquarters for the Roay Lancaster Fusiliers I believe. Steve, can you tell me anything more about the history of the house and who named it Kumo – and what does it mean etc.”Kumo 42 Carrington Road via Geraldine Auerbach

Steve Lunderstedt Kumo House was built with a South African Permanent Building Society loan. Hipped roof surmounted by louvred ventilator, small decorated gable above door. Bullnose verandah. House designed by D.W Greatbatch, built in 1898 for the chemist NO Ruffel and was then on the outskirts of the town. Turned into a redoubt during the siege of 1899-1900 and named Fort Kumo. There is an ammunition bunker in the back garden. I believe the Kimberley Regiment were stationed there during the siege. Over the (Dalham) Road a cricket field was established for the soldiers. As the original owner, Nelson Otto Ruffel, was Swedish, it is presumed that it is named after the Kumo municipality in Sweden.

Mervyn-Minnie Beukes Mark “From my 1914 Kimberley Directory”


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