Bet between Sammy Marks and Mr. Coffey

Scope and Content

Bet between Sammy Marks and Mr. Coffey about the duration of the 'present difficulty' in South Africa.

Administrative / Biographical History

Samuel ('Sammy') Marks was born in Neustadt-Sugind, Lithuania in 1844. In 1861 he emigrated to Sheffield, England where he made his living as a peddlar. In 1868, at the suggestion of Tobias Guttmann, a prominent member of the Sheffield Jewish Community, Marks set sail for Cape Town, South Africa, where he formed a life-long partnership with his brother-in-law Isaac Lewis. Together they launched the firm of Lewis & Marks which proved to be a major business enterprise through its control of the Sheba Mining Company. They also invested in such enterprises as forestry, coal mining, brewing and distilling, agriculture, dynamite, cold storage and flour milling. They founded a colliery at Vereeniging to supply the mines, Schoongezicht (Witbank) Collieries to supply the Johannesburg-Delagoa Bay Railway (1894), and the Union Steel Corporation of South Africa (1911).

During the South African War, 1899-1902, Marks remained neutral in his dealings with the Boers and the British, stressing the importance of a peaceful settlement, and for some time both the British military administration and the Boer leaders kept in close contact with him. From 1904 Marks was a supporter of the Het Volk party and then joined the South African party at the time of Union (1910) and was appointed as a Senator. He played a prominent role in the development of the Republic of South Africa.

Marks was an acquaintance of Cecil John Rhodes and Paul Kruger and was also a philanthropist, being a major contributor to the Jewish community. He sent money for the restoration of the synagogue in his birthplace of Neustadt-Sugind (1892), and provided funds for the establishment of a Hebrew school in Pretoria. He also commissioned the statue of Paul Kruger in Church Square, Pretoria.

In ca.1884 Marks returned to Sheffield to marry Bertha Guttmann. He died in Johannesburg on the 18 February 1920.

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Collection level description created by Marion Lowman, Bodleian Library of Commonwealth and African Studies at Rhodes House.

Administrative/Biographical History compiled with reference to the Dictionary of South African Biography (Volume I), Who Did What In South Africa by Mona de Beer (1995) and Sammy Marks: The Uncrowned King of the Transvaal by Richard Mendelshon (1991).

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