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Gardner F Williams


4 July 1953, Cecil Rhodes Museum opens at the cottage where he died in Muizenberg.


Today, the 4th of July, is Independence Day for the United States of America.PT-Independence_Day-USA

A brief look at a few USA citizens who played an historic role in the diamond industry and Kimberley.

In Kimberley during the late 1880s and through to the early 1900s this day was celebrated in style at the home of the first General Manager of De Beers Consolidated Mines, Gardner F Williams.

Williams was from California, USA, and stayed at 1 Park Road (now demolished and addressed as Park Lane). The “Stars and Stripes” always flew from the garden flagpole and he was the locally based American consul. Upon his retirement in 1905 his son, Alpheus Williams, also an American, became the 2nd General Manager of the De Beers Company.

Alpheus remained as the GM until his retirement in 1931. The assistant GM of De Beers before Alpheus Williams was Anthony Robeson from Pennsylvania, USA. Robeson designed the pulsator.

Employed by Gardner Williams as the mechanical engineer for De Beers was American Louis Seymour, who was killed during the Anglo Boer War when building bridges for the British Army. He invented the self-winding engine and the crushing plant. Seymour resigned in 1893 and headed to the gold fields of Johannesburg and was replaced by the locally famous George Labram, also from the USA. Labram, who did so much for Kimberley during the siege before he was killed on 9 February 1900, was the inventor of the grease table.


Louis Seymour

William Quinan from Maryland USA directed the manufacture of explosives for De Beers, this at their factory in Somerset West. Upon his retirement in 1909, his nephew Kenneth Quinan became the General Manager.

Yet another American who set world records for speed and depth in digging mine shafts was Leslie Simpson, a graduate of the University of California.

Another citizen from the USA was Ikey Sonnenberg. His name crops up time and time again in books relating to the early diamond fields. His descendants – some of them – are still involved in the diamond industry.

Yet another American inventor in early Kimberley was Jerome L Babe who designed the dry sorting pan in the late 1860s/early 1870s, the device appropriately nicknamed the “Yankee Baby”.

Rees Davids from California was hired by Cecil Rhodes for the fruit farms in the Cape – he was a specialist in that field. John Hays Hammond was also employed by Rhodes for his gold mines in Johannesburg.

The Pacific Rural Express wrote in June 1871:
“There are about twenty Americans on the fields at present; their Post office is Klip Drift, South African Diamond Field. The names are as follows: Isaac Sonnenburg who has a store at Jacobsdal and Du Toit’s Pan, Dr. Blake and wife, Win. C. Mills, F. B. Kickers, J. B. Hopkins, J. L. Babe, C. C. Campbell (who has brought in a five-eight carat diamond just found); Mr. Lindley, Charles Tinimis, Major Bedeo, Mr. Smith, Mr. King, Win. Burns, Mr. Walker, Mr. Parrish, Mr. Marshall, Dr. Winn, Mr. Sinclair and Mr. Baker — the three latter are near hero with a steam engine and a sugar dyer, to be used in diamond sifting.”

There were, naturally, many more American citizens on the diamond fields, suffice to mention that the involvement of American engineers, most of whom worked for De Beers, revolutionized diamond mining and in a very short period of time too. The industry today can only but thank them.

Those from the USA, have a great Independence Day!

From Kimberley Calls and Recalls on Facebook By Steve Lunderstedt

Aeon Computer Kimberley

About Steve Lunderstedt


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