Marks, Samuel

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MARKS, SAMUEL (1845–1920), South African industrialist and financier. Marks, who was born in Neustadt-Sugrind, Lithuania, emigrated to the Cape in 1868. With the Lewis brothers, he founded the firm of Lewis and Marks, which eventually controlled large industrial and mining undertakings in the Transvaal. The partners began as traveling traders ("tochers"). When diamonds were discovered they moved to Kimberley, where they opened the first general store in a prefabricated wooden building brought from the Cape by wagon. Lewis and Marks established themselves in the Transvaal in the 1880s, first on the Barberton gold workings and later on the Rand and in Pretoria. Marks, who was popularly known as Sammy, was noted for his salty humor and his fondness for biblical quotations. He understood the Boer outlook, particularly that of his friend President Kruger. He assisted the Transvaal government financially, obtained industrial concessions, and acquired land on the Vaal River on which he founded the town of Vereeniging. He developed rich coal deposits in the area, established fruit farms, and planted extensive forests. He also started the manufacture of bricks, glass, and leather goods and pioneered the steel industry. In 1897 Marks accompanied a deputation to Kruger asking, with indifferent results, for the repeal of laws which placed disabilities upon Jews in common with other non-Protestants and uitlanders ("foreigners"). In the conflict between the Boers and the British he commanded the respect of leaders on both sides and was a mediator in the negotiations which ended the South African War in 1902. He served as a senator in the first Union Parliament in 1910. Marks donated £10,000 for the statue of President Kruger which now stands in the center of Pretoria. In 1896 he helped endow the first chair in Hebrew studies at the South African College, later the University of Cape Town, and in 1905 founded a Hebrew school in Pretoria.


L. Herrman, History of the Jews in South Africa (1935); P.H. Emden, Randlords (1935), index; G. Saron and L. Hotz (eds.), Jews in South Africa (1955). add. bibliography: G. Wheatcroft, The Randlords (1985), index.