Looking Back In History When Life Was Still Good – Johannesburg Is 130 Years Old – This Is What It Looked Like Back Then

Joburg is 130 years old – this is what it looked like back then

South Africa’s biggest city is celebrating its 130th birthday this month and has come a long way from a handful of farms digging for gold back in 1886.

Johannesburg was formally established by the Boer government in 1886 after gold was discovered along the Witwatersrand reef.

By the time the Anglo-Boer war kicked off, the city had already grown significantly, with a working railway system, horse-drawn trams and the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) in full operation.

In its earliest days, Johannesburg was a small grouping of around 9 farms that had acquired claims to dig for gold. The area, known as Ferreirasdorp today, is the oldest suburbs of Johannesburg.

ferreirasdorp-today

Ferreirasdorp today

ferreiras-gold-mine-1886

First digging in Ferreirasdorp in 1886

ferreiras-camp-1886

Ferreira’s Camp 1886

The digging camps were set up by former Boer adventurer, Ignatius Ferreira, who established the region, and his land became the spot for many firsts for the city.

Historians are not certain how Johannesburg got its name beyond knowing that it was named after someone called Johann. Unfortunately, Johann is a common Dutch name, and the records of which Johann, in particular, got the honour, was blown away on a stormy night.

The most likely candidate is Johann Rissik, who served as the first clerk in the office of the surveyor general, who was left to declare the new city’s name in a hurry.

Today, Joburg has grown to cover over 2,300 square kilometres – a space larger than Sydney, London and New York. It is home to over 4.6 million people and is one of the world’s richest heritage sites.

Here are some images of Johannesburg in its earlier days

Joburg Market Square circa 1900

Johannesburg Market Square circa 1900

Joburg City Centre in 1896

Johannesburg City Centre in 1896

Joburg circa 1900

Johannesburg circa 1900

Joburg government buildings circa 1900

Johannesburg government buildings circa 1900

Amazing images of Johannesburg from late 19th century and early 20th century (1880s – 1900s) have surfaced online – this is how the city looked in its early life.

The images were collected and compiled by former SABC TV news anchor, Friedel Hansen, and posted to an album on Facebook.

While Hansen doesn’t explicitly state the sources of the images (“Literally all over,” he said), many can be found in the digital archive of The European Library,and the National Library of the Netherlands.

The photos show that South Africa’s biggest city had humble beginnings, but even 120 years ago was showing its growth potential.

The greater Johannesburg area, including Pretoria, is one of the largest metropolitan areas in Africa, behind Cairo (Egypt) and Lagos (Nigeria).

Johannesburg was formally established by the Boer government in 1886 after gold was discovered along the Witwatersrand reef.

By the time the Anglo-Boer war kicked off, the city had already grown significantly, with a working railway system, horse-drawn trams and the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) in full operation.

In 1900 – around the time shown in the images – the city was captured by British troops and remained under their control until the end of the war in 1902.

Wanderers Cricket Grounds

Wanderers Cricket grounds circa 1900

Wanderers Cricket grounds circa 1900

Bidvest Wanderers Stadium 2015

Bidvest Wanderers Stadium 2015

The Rand Club

Rand Club in 1888

Rand Club in 1888

Rand Club in 1892

Rand Club in 1892

Rand Club in 2015

Rand Club in 2015

Joburg Market Square

Joburg Market Square circa 1900

Johannesburg Market Square circa 1900

Joburg government buildings circa 1900

Johannesburg government buildings circa 1900

Joburg city hall on Rissik street was built on Market Square in 1888

Johannesburg city hall in 2015 – it was built on Market Square in 1888, Rissik street today.

Johannesburg City

Mounts Bay Hotel, Pritchard Street in 1909

Mounts Bay Hotel, Pritchard Street in 1909

Roodepoort circa 1900

Roodepoort circa 1900

Joburg City Centre in 1896

Johannesburg City Centre in 1896

Joburg circa 1900

Johannesburg circa 1900

Modern Joburg

Modern Johannesburg

Commissioner Street

Commissioner Street in the 1890s

Commissioner Street in the 1890s

Commissioner Street 2015

Commissioner Street 2015

Braamfontein

Braamfontein circa 1900

Braamfontein circa 1900

Braamfontein 2015

Braamfontein 2015

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