Scope and Contents
The Hamburg-based trading house of William O’Swald & Co. established an agency in Zanzibar in June 1849, having made earlier enquiries about East Africa’s commercial possibilities in 1844 and again in 1847. At the time, there was a very profitable trade in transporting cowrie shells from Zanzibar to West Africa where they were used as currency. By the mid-1850s, O’Swald together with the other German trading houses, Hertz and Hansing & Co., were despatching over twenty ships a year to Zanzibar. By the 1880s, and until the outbreak of the First World War, O’Swald & Co. was one of the principal trading houses in Zanzibar, where William O’Swald also served for a time as the Austro-Hungarian Consul and was on close personal terms with Sultan Bargash. In 1887, when the German imperialist Karl Peters was attempting to secure Zanzibar under the German sphere of influence (rather than British) through the German East Africa Company, William O’Swald was able to help Peters by providing him with direct access to the Sultan. It would seem that the O’Swald album was compiled to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Company in Zanzibar, celebrated in June 1899. The album brings together photographs, watercolors and other material assembled over the preceding fifty years.
Language of Materials
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1 album (1 album, 34 p., 27 x 37 cm.) : Oblong quarto (27 x 37 cm.), containing 44 albumen prints and 4 watercolors and drawings, with a manuscript title-page; original cloth boards, rebacked; corners of boards worn. Various photographers, 1850s to 1890s.