1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Johannesburg

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Johannesburg, a city of the Transvaal and the centre of the Rand gold-mining industry. It is the most populous city and the commercial capital of South Africa. It is built on the southern slopes of the Witwatersrand in 26° 11′ S. 28° 2′ E., at an elevation of 5764 ft. above the sea. The distances by rail from Johannesburg to the following seaports are: Lourenço Marques, 364 m.; Durban, 483 m.; East London, 659 m.; Port Elizabeth, 714 m.; Cape Town, 957 m. Pretoria is, by rail, 46 m. N by E.

The town lies immediately north of the central part of the main gold reef. The streets run in straight lines east and west or north and south. The chief open spaces are Market Square in the west and Government Square in the south of the town. Park railway station lies north of the business quarter, and farther north are the Wanderers' athletic sports ground and Joubert's Park. The chief business streets, such as Commissioner Street, Market Street, President Street and Pritchard Street, run east and West. In these thoroughfares and in several of the streets which intersect them are the offices of the mining companies, the banks, clubs, newspaper offices, hotels and shops, the majority being handsome stone or brick buildings, while the survival of some wooden shanties and corrugated iron buildings recalls the early character of the town.

Chief Buildings, &c. — In the centre of Market Square are the market buildings, and at its east end the post and telegraph offices, a handsome block of buildings with a facade 200 ft. long and a tower 106 ft. high. The square itself, a quarter of a mile long, is the largest in South Africa. The offices of the Witwatersrand chamber of mines face the market buildings. The stock exchange is in Marshall Square. The telephone exchange is in the centre of the city, in Von Brandis Square. The law courts are in the centre of Government Square. The Transvaal university college is in Plein Square, a little south of Park station. In the vicinity is St Mary's (Anglican) parish hall (1905–1907), the first portion of a large building planned to take the place of “Old” St Mary's Church, the “mother” church of the Rand, built in 1887. The chief Jewish synagogue is in the same neighbourhood. In Kerk Street, on the outskirts of central Johannesburg, is the Roman Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception, the headquarters of the vicar apostolic of the Transvaal. North of Joubert's Park is the general hospital, and beyond, near the crest of the hills, commanding the town and the road to Pretoria, is a fort built by the Boer government and now used as a gaol. On the hills, some 3 m. E.N.E. of the town, is the observatory, built in 1903. Johannesburg has several theatres and buildings adapted for public meetings. There is a race-course 2 m. south of the town under the control of the Johannesburg Turf Club.

The Suburbs.–North, east and west of the city proper are suburbs, laid out on the same rectangular plan. The most fashionable are to the east and north — Jeppestown, Belgravia, Doornfontein, the Berea, Hillbrow, Parktown, Yeoville and Bellevue. Braamfontein (with a large cemetery) lies north-west and Fordsburg due west of the city. At Fordsburg are the gas and electric light and power works, and north of Doornfontein there is a large reservoir. There are also on the Rand, and dependent on the gold-mining, three towns possessing separate municipalities — Germiston and Boksburg (q.v.), respectively 9 m. and 15 m. E. of Johannesburg, and Krugersdorp (q.v.), 21 m. W.

The Mines and other Industries. — South, east and west of the city are the gold mines, indicated by tall chimneys, battery houses and the compounds of the labourers. The bare veld is dotted with these unsightly buildings for a distance of over fifty miles. The mines are worked on the most scientific lines. Characteristic of the Rand is the fine white dust arising from the crushing of the ore, and, close to the batteries, the incessant din caused by the stamps employed in that operation. The compounds in general, especially those originally made for Chinese labourers, are well built, comfortable, and fulfil every hygienic requirement. Besides the buildings, the compounds include wide stretches of veld. To enter and remain in the district, Kaffirs require a monthly pass for which the employer pays 2s. (For details of gold-mining, see Gold.) A railway traverses the Rand, going westward past Krugersdorp to Klerksdorp and thence to Kimberley, and eastward past Springs to Delagoa Bay. From Springs, 25 m. E. of Johannesburg, is obtained much of the coal used in the Rand mines.

The mines within the municipal area produce nearly half the total gold output of the Transvaal. The other industries of Johannesburg include brewing, printing and bookbinding, timber sawing, flour milling, iron and brass founding, brick making and the manufacture of tobacco.

Health, Education and Social Conditions. — The elevation of Johannesburg makes it, despite its nearness to the tropics, a healthy place for European habitation. Built on open undulating ground, the town is, however, subject to frequent dust storms and to considerable variations in the temperature. The nights in winter are frosty and snow falls occasionally. The average day temperature in winter is 53° F., in summer 75°; the average annual rainfall is 28 in. The death-rate among white inhabitants averages about 17 per thousand. The principal causes of death, both among the white and coloured inhabitants, are diseases of the lungs — including miners' phthisis and pneumonia — diarrhoea, dysentery and enteric. The death-rate among young children is very high.

Education is provided in primary and secondary schools maintained by the state. In the primary schools education is free but not compulsory. The Transvaal university college, founded in 1904 as the technical institute (the change of title being made in 1906), provides full courses in science, mining, engineering and law. In 1906 Alfred Beit (q.v.) bequeathed £200,000 towards the cost of erecting and equipping university buildings.

In its social life Johannesburg differs widely from Cape Town and Durban. The white population is not only far larger but more cosmopolitan, less stationary and more dependent on a single industry; it has few links with the past, and both city and citizens bear the marks of youth. The cost of living is much higher than in London or New York. House rent, provisions, clothing, are all very dear, and more than counterbalance the lowness of rates. The customary unit of expenditure is the threepenny-bit or “tickey.”

Sanitary and other Services. — There is an ample supply of water to the town and mines, under a water board representing all the Rand municipalities and the mining companies. A waterborne sewerage system began to be introduced in 1906. The general illuminant is electricity, and both electrical and gas services are owned by the municipality. The tramway service, opened in 1891, was taken over by the municipality in 1904. Up to 1906 the trams were horse-drawn; in that year electric cars began running. Rickshaws are also a favourite means of conveyance. The police force is controlled by the government.

Area, Government and Rateable Value. — The city proper covers about 6 sq. m. The municipal boundary extends in every direction some 5 m. from Market Square, encloses about 82 sq. m. and includes several of the largest mines. The local government is carried on by an elected municipal council, the franchise being restricted to white British subjects (men and women) who rent or own property of a certain value. In 1908 the rateable value of the municipality was £36,466,644, the rate 2¼d. in the £, and the town debt £5,500,000.

Population. — In 1887 the population was about 3000. By the beginning of 1890 it had increased to over 25,000. A census taken in July 1896 showed a population within a radius of 3 m. from Market Square of 102,078, of whom 50,907 were whites. At the census of April 1904 the inhabitants of the city proper numbered 99,022, the population within the municipal area being 155,642, of whom 83,363 were whites. Of the white inhabitants, 35% were of British origin, 51,629 were males, and 31,734 females. Of persons aged sixteen or over, the number of males was almost double the number of females. The coloured population included about 7000 British Indians — chiefly small traders. A municipal census taken in August 1908 gave the following result: whites 95,162; natives and coloured 78,781; Asiatics 6780 — total 180,687.

History. — Johannesburg owes its existence to the discovery of gold in the Witwatersrand reefs. The town, named after Johannes Rissik, then surveyor-general of the Transvaal, was founded in September 1886, the first buildings being erected on the part of the reef where are now the Ferreira and Wemmer mines. These buildings were found to cover valuable ore, and in December following the Boer government marked out the site of the city proper, and possession of the plots was given to purchasers on the 1st of January 1887. The exploitation of the mines led to a rapid development of the town during the next three years. The year 1890 was one of great depression following the exhaustion of the surface ore, but the provision of better machinery and cheaper coal led to a revival in 1891. By 1892 the leading mines had proved their dividend-earning capacity, and in 1895 there was a great “boom” in the shares of the mining companies. The linking of the town to the seaports by railways during 1892–1895 gave considerable impetus to the gold mining industry. Material prosperity was accompanied, however, by political, educational and other disadvantages, and the desire of the Johannesburgers — most of whom were foreigners or “Uitlanders” — to remedy the grievances under which they suffered led, in January 1896, to an abortive rising against the Boer government (see Transvaal: History). One result of this movement was a slight advance in municipal self-government. Since 1887 the management of the town had been entrusted to a nominated sanitary board, under the chairmanship of the mining commissioner appointed by the South African Republic. In 1890 elected members had been admitted to this board, but at the end of 1897 an elective stadsraad (town council) was constituted, though its functions were strictly limited. There was a great development in the mining industry during 1897–1898 and 1899, the value of the gold extracted in 1898 exceeding £15,000,000, but the political situation grew worse, and in September 1899, owing to the imminence of war between the Transvaal and Great Britain, the majority of the Uitlanders fled from the city. Between October 1899, when war broke out, and the 31st of May 1900, when the city was taken by the British, the Boer government worked certain mines for their own benefit. After a period of military administration and of government by a nominated town council, an ordinance was passed in June 1903 providing for elective municipal councils, and in December following the first election to the new council took place. In 1905 the town was divided into wards. In that year the number of municipal voters was 23,338. In 1909 the proportional representation system was adopted in the election of town councillors.

During 1901–1903, while the war was still in progress or but recently concluded, the gold output was comparatively slight. The difficulty in obtaining sufficient labour for the mines led to a successful agitation for the importation of coolies from China (see Transvaal: History). During 1904–1906 over 50,000 coolies were brought to the mines, a greatly increased output being the result, the value of the gold extracted in 1905 exceeding £20,000,000. Notwithstanding the increased production of gold, Johannesburg during 1905–1907 passed through a period of severe commercial depression, the result in part of the unsettled political situation. In June 1907 the repatriation of the Chinese coolies began; it was completed in February 1910.

An excellent compilation, entitled Johannesburg Statistics, dealing with almost every phase of the city's life, is issued monthly (since January 1905) by the town council. See also the Post Office Directory, Transvaal (Johannesburg, annually), which contains specially prepared maps, and the annual reports of the Johannesburg chamber of commerce. For the political history of Johannesburg, see the bibliography under Transvaal.