Recalled by more coins and medals than any other African, Stephanus
Johannes Paulus Kruger was born in 1825 on the frontier of European
settlement in Cape Colony, South Africa. Familiarly called “Oom Paul,”
he became a major player on the world stage before his death in 1904,
though some collectors know him only from the South African gold
bullion coin bearing his bust, the Krugerrand.
At his birth, his Dutch-speaking Boers were beginning their ox wagon
trek across territories that became Natal, the Orange Free State and
the Transvaal. Virtually all Boers belonged to the Dutch Reformed
Church or its branches, including the fundamentalist Christlijke
Gereformeerde Kerk, known as the Doppers for their determination to
snuff out (dop) new ideas. The Bible was essentially their only book,
which Kruger found ample, believing that it taught that the earth was flat.
Kruger ultimately served as leader in the first Anglo-Boer war that
restored the independence of the Transvaal (officially the
Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek, South African Republic) after British
annexation in 1877. The republic was soon transformed by vast
Witwatersrand gold discoveries and the arrival of British and other
newcomers (called Uitlanders, or Outlanders) who threatened to swamp
The Second Anglo-Boer War followed (1898 to 1902) and the heroic
resistance of the vastly outmanned Boers attracted the admiration of
Europe and America. The aged Kruger was sent abroad and was feted
across Europe, made the subject of many medals cataloged in 1973 by
Matthy Esterhuysen in Commemorative Medals in Honour of President
S.J.P. Kruger in the Possession of the National Cultural History and
Open-air Museum, Pretoria.
Many of these medals were inexpensive souvenir pieces, but one of
the most imposing was the 68-millimeter tribute of the French
Republic, created by artist Henri Dubois (born 1859, died 1930). Its
obverse presents a frock-coated bust facing left with bushy beard
without mustache, with legend LE PRESIDENT KRUGER – UTRECHT JUIN 1902.
This was one month after the last Boer resistance ended with the
Treaty of Vereeniging on May 31, 1902.
The allegorical reverse shows a Boer maiden walking into a brilliant
sky over dark clouds of war obscuring South Africa, where British
concentration camps still held thousands of Boer women and children.
The edge bears the Cornucopia-BRONZE edge mark of the Paris Mint. The
exiled president died in Switzerland July 14, 1904, and was later
buried in Pretoria, soon to be the capital of united South Africa.