Otto Peetoom
Victoria Falls - A Philatelic Presentation

A display by Otto Peetoom was on Saturday 12 November 2016
At the 15th Annual Southern Africa Conference
The display may be viewed in PDF format


Guide to Rhodesia by B. & M. & R. Railways, 1914 & 1924
An Essay on the 1905 Victoria Falls issue of the BSAC (1987) by C. Cordes

The Rhodesian Philatelist - Numerous articles relating to the Victoria Falls
No 2 (Nov 1993) First Day on 1905 Falls
No 4 (May 1994) Southern Rhodesia Sample Specimens
No 5 (Aug 1994) Mkushi Postage Dues, an update in No 6
No 9 (Sep 1995) 1929 Emergency Airmail from Victoria Falls
No 12 (Oct 1996) 1932 3d Imperforate between SG 30b
No 13 (Feb 1997) 1932 3d Imperforated horizontally SG 30a
No 23 (Oct 2003) 1905 1/- Falls Imperforate between varieties and
Victoria Fall B&M&R Railway Letter cards
No 24 (Jan 2005) Mail flown by the AOC during the 1929 strike
No 25 (Jan 2006) S. Rhodesia 1937 Coronation Issue and 3d Imperforate to top margin
No 30 (Jan 2011) Rhodesia & Nyasaland 1955 Aerogrammes
No 32 (April 2013) A Review of the 12 pictorial 1d postal stationery cards (H&G 11a)
plus S. Rhodesia 1935 Silver Jubilee Part I
No 33 (July 2013) S. Rhodesia 1935 Silver Jubilee Part II plus Pictorial & Postal Souvenirs and Labels of the Victoria Falls
No 34 (April 2014) S. Rhodesia 1935 Silver Jubilee Part III plus
1905 Victoria Falls Publicity Poster
No 35 (Aug 2014) Waterlow sample stamps plus S. Rhodesia 1932 3d Large Falls Imperforate between varieties and 1905 perforated Specimen
No 37 (Nov 2015) S. Rhodesia 1931 Definitives (2d & 3d Falls)
No 38 (July 2016) S. Rhodesia 1935 1d Silver Jubilee variety

A Victoria Falls Display Was on Saturday 12 November 2016

This display is not a collection or an exhibit. It is an accumulation of material which has been assembled with the aim to entertain those present and was very well received.

The River and the Falls
The Zambesi is one of the four large rivers of the African continent and has a perennial flow of over 1,700 miles.
The river rises at an altitude of 5,000 feet, in Latitude 11° 21'S Longitude 24° 3'E and from its source to the Victoria Falls, is a distance of 800 miles, it is navigable in reaches of varying lengths, these stretches are determined by rapids and small falls; it enters Northern Rhodesia after flowing 70 miles.

At one time the Zambesi delivered its waters, not eastwards, as at present, but southwards into a depression known as the Kalahari Desert, which afterwards became filled up with sediment and necessitating a change of direction.

The flood time of the Falls occurs after the rainy season is over, and continues well in to the dry season. This phenomenon is due to the existence of swamp and marshes along its own banks and those of its tributary streams west of Kazungula, some sixty miles west of the Falls. These swamps or ‘sponge areas’ take the first four months of the rainy season to become soaked and full and they do not commence to yield their waters until towards and in the dry season.

The Discovery of the Victoria Falls
Although attributed to Dr Livingstone in 1855, the earliest people to depict the Victoria Falls are believed to be the Bushmen. They left at least six paintings in their rock caves and shelters in Southern Rhodesia. These representations are in oxides of red and yellow ochre’s, and are probably a thousand years old, possibly more. They show the line of the falls, or some section of it, and one portrays the columns of white vapour above the Falls uniting in a cloud.

Livingstone’s description of the Falls
Livingstone described them in the following terms...Of these falls we had often heard since we came into this country. It was called by the natives Mosi-oa-tunya (‘Smoke sounder there’) or more evidently ‘Shongwe’, which may mean a seething cauldron or ‘boiling water in a pot.’ Nowadays ‘the smoke that thunders’.

...After twenty minutes’ sail in a canoe from Kalai we came in sight, for the first time, of the columns of vapour, appropriately called ‘smoke,’ rising, at a distance of five or six miles, exactly as when large tracts of grass are burned in Africa...It had never been seen before by European eyes; but scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight. The only want felt is that of mountains in the background. The Falls are bounded on three sides by ridges 300 or 400 feet in height, which are covered with forest, with the red soil appearing among the trees...

Early Paintings of the Victoria Falls
The first modern painter (circa 1862) was Thomas Baines, the well-known African explorer and he showed his pictures to Queen Victoria and the Prince Consort. Some of these paintings are in the Port Elizabeth Library and others in the Cape Town Library, while some are housed in Durban.

Dimensions - The Victoria Falls are nearly two-and-a-half times as high as the Niagara Falls and approximately twice as wide.
The measurements of the two are - Height of the Victoria Falls 420 feet and Niagara Falls
158 feet. Width of Victoria Falls, approximately one mile and Niagara, half a mile.

How and when to see the Victoria Falls
The best months for visiting the Falls is July and August. The Falls change their appearances and moods according to season and each season possesses a special attractiveness. From January to May the river is in flood; it is lowest from October to December. The greatest volume of water is falling in April, and the water level in the gorge is then some 50 feet higher than in November; but at this season the spray is densest and consequently the beauties of the cataracts are apt to be hidden from view. On the other hand, when the spray clouds are comparatively light, say in November, the volume of falling water is not nearly so great as in the flood season, with the result that the waters appear to hug the cliffs in their descent, instead of leaping boldly forward and plunging into the abyss clear of the precipice, as at flood times. At any season, however, they constitute one of the wonders of the world. Light effects are always of the most gorgeous description. Rainbows are to be seen along the chasm and over it at any hour of daylight, and lunar rainbows can be observed at full moon, when the general view is both charming and romantic. Sunrise effects are also magnificent.

A Map of the Victoria Falls
Printed by Waterlow & Sons and a copy of it is included in both Editions of Guide to Rhodesia by B. & M. & R. Railways, 1914 & 1924

The Map includes details of the bridge, its weight is 1664 tons - Note the trolley line from Livingstone to the ferry

To The Victoria Falls on the ZAMBESI EXPRESS TRAIN
The Mail and Tourists arriving in Cape Town went North via Bulawayo and onto the Victoria Falls

The Rail journey from the Cape to Bulawayo is 1362 miles and 1642 to the Victoria Falls

The original route North from Bulawayo was intended to cross the Zambesi in the Mafungabusi District (about Longitude 29° East) but
after the discovery of extensive coal deposits in the Wankie area the route North was to be via Wankie to the Victoria Falls
The Railway reached Wankie in September 1903 and was completed to the Victoria Falls on 25 April 1904

The Rail Journey (circa 1914) Cape Town to Bulawayo 58 hours and to the Victoria Falls another 16 hours

A Postcard depicting a map indicating the
Steamer and Rail routes into
Southern Rhodesia and
onward to the Victoria Falls
By Rail to the
Victoria Falls

From the early days the journey to the Falls could be made from various Ports in the South by rail

At Right
A H&G 11a
1d Stationery card

25 JUL 06
to Germany
20.8.06 arrival

No 11 in a series of
12 cards depicting


The other cards are illustrated further down this page

Bulawayo to the Victoria Falls on the Zambezi Express

A scene depicting the arrival of the Zambesi Express at Bulawayo
Enroute to the Victoria Falls falls

Victoria Falls Railway Station

The Railway passes behind the Victoria Falls Hotel before crossing the bridge into Northern Rhodesia
On the right of the Station and within a hundred yards is the rear of the Hotel
The post office is on the platform - On the left of the station there is the Police and Native Commissioner’s camps - Also Percy Clark’s photographic studio
The Victoria Falls Bridge 1904 - 1905 Construction
The 650 foot bridge was constructed in England by the Cleveland Bridge & Engineering Company in Darlington
Shipped to Beira and transported by rail to its location - Construction began in April 1904 and took 14 months to complete

The above photograph shows an early stage of preparation with a
series of cables stretched across the Gorge
with a Bosun’s chair attached to convey personnel across

Thicker Cables were added by installing a travelling Crane
as the construction took place from both sides,
a system used for a cantilever bridge

Georges Imbault, a French engineer working with The Cleveland Bridge Company, was appointed Chief Construction Engineer
Along with Stephen Townsend, the Resident Engineer for Rhodesia Railways and Charles Beresford Fox, representing the bridge designers,
they visited the site to survey the proposed location for the bridge

On 2 September 1903 the final location of the bridge was chosen over the second gorge close to the boiling pot
The choice of the site was governed by the natural formation of the rock walls of the gorge, advantage being
taken of the minimum distance to be spanned, combined with the soundest foundations obtainable

Materials and support services came by rail from Bulawayo
A Construction yard with a large ‘A’ frame was established ‘On-site’

Tower’s camp was erected for the work force and may have been
specifically for more senior personnel

The Victoria Falls Bridge 1904 - 1905 Construction
Work on the concrete foundations for the bridge was started in May and complete in October 1904 - At the same time the anchorages for the main span
during its cantilever stage were prepared and the assembly of the main bridge structure started on 21 October
The two side spans of the bridge, supported on the abutments and anchored to the rock behind by steel cables was completed in late December 1904

Below ‘Blondin’ crossing the river at the start of the project

The cable system allowed the transportation of girders and rail to be transported across the gorge - The cableway across the gorge was nicknamed ‘Blondin’
after the famous French tightrope walker - Born Jean-François Gravelet (1824 - 1897) and known as ‘The Great Blondin’
Cantilevered sides of the bridge progressing from both sides of the gorge - Note the safety net

The building of the bridge progressed smoothly and on Saturday 1 April 1905 the main arch was linked
The closing was a triumphant event and took place without a hitch and Sir Douglas Fox and Partners announced to the world that the great bridge
over the gorge at the Victoria Falls was linked up at 6AM on Saturday

Final stages of construction with the engine ‘Jack Tar’ on the bridge

The Railway bridge spans the gorge below the falls
The First Zambezi Regatta - 12 June 1905
The British South Africa Company arranged a Regatta to celebrate the completion of the Bridge and also the fiftieth anniversary of the discovery of the Falls.
The course was below the Falls between Long Island and the North Bank. Teams from South Africa came from Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and East London.

The one day event attracted some one thousand people that completely overwhelmed the available facilities at the location and at the hotel
East London won their race - Other races were contested by the local people
Food, beer and whisky ran out much to the disgust of the locals who
frequented the hotel’s ‘outside bar’ known as the ‘Iron & Timber’

The Natives staged their own race in traditional dugout canoes and the
Paramount Chief Lewanika told his crew ...should they fail to win...
he would leave them on an island for the benefit of the crocodiles!

1905 - 1908 Victoria Falls 1d Pictorial Stationery Cards H&G 11a
A set of twelve Postcards with views on the reverse, eleven of the Falls plus one with the interior of a passenger compartment
These cards were sold in packs of a dozen at a premium over face value
An extensive article (Review) on the subject was published in The Rhodesian Philatelist No 32 (April 2013) - Extracts are quoted
Title of view
Photo By
Profile Point from South Bank  
F.W. Sykes
The earliest recorded date is
11 MAY 1905 and only for sale in Bulawayo, the Victoria Falls and Livingstone
A second delivery of cards was made,
in two stages - each of 250 packs of 12, during August and September 1908

* Robert Coryndon Administrator of North-West Rhodesia from September 1900 to March 1907. During the
official opening of the Bridge he met dignitaries when they alighted from the train after it had stopped on the bridge
Gorge below Falls, showing Spray at Exit  
F.W. Sykes
In Flood, Showing Spray mist, North bank  
F.W. Sykes
View from North Bank  
F.W. Sykes
The Zambesi above the Falls  
F.W. Sykes
Main Fall from Cataract Island
½ size view
F.W. Sykes
Low water from bottom of Gully on N. Bank
½ size view
F.W. Sykes
Western or Devil’s Cataract
½ size view
R.T. Coryndon*
One Mile Wide 400 feet deep
F.W. Sykes
Eastern End
½ size view
C.B. Fox
Rhodesian Railways Train-de-luxe On the Way to the Victoria Falls  
Not known
The Highest Bridge in the World  
Not known
As the cards are not numbered, the sequence of their listing is academic. In the September 1976 Rhodesian Study Circle Journal No 95, Peter Knowles recorded
eight out of the twelve views and commented...To the best of my memory the first two photographs were taken from the gardens of Victoria Falls Hotel, as it now is, or thereabouts. And the bridge is visible from that point. Since neither view shows the bridge I presume that the photographs were taken before 1905...

There was a positive response to Knowles in RSCJ 96, 97, 98 & 99 and the remaining four cards were identified and discussed by G. Clay, N. Heideman,
D. Kerr, D. Swart and C. Wheatley. In June 1982 in RSCJ 118 Ron Benton, a dealer from Pietermaritzburg, trading as Wicks Stamp Agency listed eleven
out of the twelve cards Omitting The Highest Bridge (No 12)

A year later Cliff Wheatley published an article on BSAC Postal Stationery in the June 1983 RSCJ 122, he too omitted the same card as Benton and altered the sequence of their listing by grouping the half-size cards at the end. Wheatley’s article sparked a series of comment in the December 1983 RSCJ 124 that includes Benton taking him to task for changing the order of Knowles’s initial listing in 1976.

In 1987 Chris Cordes published An Essay on the 1905 Victoria Falls issue of the B.S.A.C. - On page 59 in Appendix J he too listed the cards in the Knowles/Benton sequence. The forgoing sequence is generally favoured and adopted above.

Proud in his 1997 book The Postal History of Northern Rhodesia on page 91 wrote...The Department was also selling sets of pictorial postcards; the price was reduced to 2/- per set of 12 cards, but only 44 sets were sold. However 500 sets were sold to the Southern Rhodesia Post Office.

Observations on H&G 11a

In general terms, mint postal stationery is far more common than used,
however with H&G 11a it is the other way around and to
assemble a complete mint set is a formidable task.

Henk de Lange owned a complete mint set and is the only person
I know who is able to divulge such information.

Cards used further North were bought by individuals travelling in that direction
and creates a false impression that they were for sale in the likes of Broken Hill.
Many of the cards from Northern Rhodesia were posted by Missioneries in remote areas and such cards generally entered the postal system at Broken Hill or Kalomo

No 1 - Profile Point from South Bank

No 4 - View from North Bank

No 12 - The Highest Bridge in the World
A comment on No 12The Highest Bridge in the World’ was...It looks more like painting or drawing than a photo...They would probably have to rely on
pre-1905 photos, and the desire to include a picture of the new bridge may have led to a drawing being made for the purpose.
The picture shows a train on the bridge, which to me seems rather out of scale, being too small

No 2 - Gorge below Falls, showing Spray at Exit

No 3 - In Flood, Showing Spray mist, North bank

No 5 - The Zambesi above the Falls

No 6 - Main Fall from Cataract Island

No 7 - Low water from bottom of Gully on N. Bank

No 8 - Western or Devil’s Cataract

No 9 - One Mile Wide 400 feet deep

No 10 - Eastern End
The 1905 British South Africa Company Victoria Falls Commemoratives
The display may be viewed in PDF format and will in due course feature on this page
The above Page is still under Construction and may take sometime to complete - In the meantime you may view the PDF