The Diamond Magnate Who Had A Country And A Scholarship Named After
When I think of a larger than life character…I always think of
Howard Hughes. He created a movie industry, he discovered Jane
Russell, he founded TWA, and he tried to buy Nevada. Some of us
want to own a car; some of us want to own a house; he wanted to own
a state. But that’s where it stopped for him. Not so for our
diamond magnate, for our hero had a country and a scholarship named
after him. How does Tylerville sound to you folks? Or Benjaminavia?
Oh well…dreams aside…let’s get going.
While his name may well be obscure to many, the name of the
country and the scholarship which took their name from his, is
familiar to us all. He was born in 1853. And he was one of the
great empire builders of the 19th century. He and his brother were
cotton farmers in South Africa in 1871. In 1872 they quit cotton
farming. They had discovered diamond fields in Griqueland West,
South Africa. Our hero was no dummy. He was an Oxford undergraduate
and eventually got a BA there. But he had much control over the
Kimberly mines in South Africa. By 1887 his company was the sole
owner of the De Beers mines. By 1888 he also owned the Kimberly
mines outright. By 1891 he had control of all of South Africa’s
diamond production…90 percent of world total production.
Oppenheimer and the Consolidated Mines as we know them today, came
after our hero.
Now then, there may well be a few out there who might think,
misguidedly may I add, that the diamond merchants of that day were
nothing more than carpetbaggers, and adventurers, and
opportunists, and were not, in any way, shape, or form,
intellectuals. And while many of them were all the above, our hero
was an intellectual of the first class. Definitely! He became a
member of the Cape Parliament. He was the force behind the creation
of the prospecting monopoly in Mashonaland, which was rich in gold.
He rose to position of prime minister of the Cape in 1890. By 1895
he was in full control of the De Beers and the Consolidated Gold
In his will, he provided for a scholarship at Oxford
University…his alma mater. Our hero’s name…Cecil Rhodes…from
whence cometh Rhodes scholars…and from whence is named the
country of Rhodesia.
And there ya have it.
That’s it for this week folks.
Catch you all next week.
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