1953. Folio (ca. 30x24 cm). 32 card stock leaves with tissue guards. With 34 mounted gelatin silver photographs, each ca. 17,5x24 cm (7 x 9 ½ in) or slightly smaller. All photos with period ink captions, numbers or names of the photographers in French on the mounts (“Phot. Goldstein,” “Phot. Sladden” or “Phot. Inform”). First leaf with a piece of tissue paper ca. 17,5x27,5 cm (7 x 10 ¾ in) with a manuscript ink-drawn plan of the facility (mounted on verso). With nineteen pieces of paper with typewritten notes and comments on the photos, mounted on verso of the leaves, the size is from ca. 16x14,5 cm (6 ¼ x 5 ¾ in) to ca. 3x14,5 cm (1 x 5 ¾ in). With a loosely inserted period magazine clipping ca. 21,5x27,5 cm (8 ½ x 10 ¾ in). Period red quarter morocco with card papered covers; manuscript ink title “O.C.R. 53” on the front board and faded ink title “O.C.R.” on the spine. Binding slightly rubbed on extremities, the back cover with a mild water stain, the tissue paper to the first leaf with a small tear, one mount slightly soiled and with a minor tear on the lower margin, but overall a very good album with strong interesting photos.
Historically significant, extensively annotated collection of large original photos, illustrating the latest technologies of processing of coffee beans in Belgian Congo (the modern-day Democratic Republic of the Congo) in the early 1950s. The beginning of the coffee industry in the country dates back to the late 1890s when Belgian colonists discovered a native variety of Coffea canephora or “Robusta” plants. Before Congo's independence in 1960, the industry rapidly developed, mainly on Belgian-owned plantations, which grew Robusta and Arabica varieties. Formed in 1948 and controlled by the Belgians, “Office du Café Robusta” (OCR), centered in Leopoldville (Kinshasa), controlled the processing, grading, certification and export of Congolese green robusta coffee. The agency continued its operations into the 1960s, but with a significant decline in the volume of processed coffee. In 1972, OCR and several other agencies controlling the industry were replaced with the “Office National du Café.” Coffee production in the Democratic Republic of Congo was heavily hit during the military conflicts and the civil war in the late 1990s-early 2000s and is now slowly recovering.
Prepared with the participation of George Sladden, a specialist on coffee growing and tropical agriculture and director of Belgian Congo’s Department of Agriculture (in office: 1946-1953), the album illustrates the main operations at the OCR’s recently completed main facility in Leopoldville’s neighbourhood Limite. The photos include two birds-eye views of the complex, accompanied with a hand-drawn map identifying the buildings, and pictures of the main operations, including unloading, weighing green coffee on arrival, sampling, roasting, analyzing, degustation, calibrating beans, bulking, bagging, sewing sacks for coffee and printing signs on them, storing, washing, drying, handpicking, &c. Very interesting are the close-up photos of special machinery, including calibrators, weighers, stackers, washers and dryers and especially electric coffee sorters. The latter was the innovation of the time and just started replacing native coffee hand pickers, with only two machines being used in Africa – at the OCR facility in Limite and in Ivory Coast. A special article titled “Electronic sorting of coffee” by R. Wilbaux, Director of Technical Studies, Ministry of Belgian Congo, was published in the Costa Rican magazine “Coffee and Cacao Technical Services” (Turrialba, Costa Rica, July-September 1959, Vol. 1, No. 2, pp. 31-35; https://books.google.ca/books?id=p94OAQAAIAAJ&pg=PA31&lpg=PA31&dq=office+du+cafe+robusta+leopoldville&source=bl&ots=vd6YTqkYek&sig=ACfU3U25TdKsQn6o7wnxumMeeuYm6z9_Uw&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjKo5LGyoz2AhVFLX0KHQmkAEUQ6AF6BAgWEAM#v=onepage&q=office%20du%20cafe%20robusta%20leopoldville&f=false).
The album shows most operations at the facility as mechanized. At the same time, the laborious process of “bulking” or turning coffee beans “three or four times” was still done by native workers. A photo of a large room full of “hand pickers,” many of whom look underaged, creates a contrast with the work of the electric sorter. The photos are well-annotated on verso of the leaves. The loosely inserted clipping from a contemporary American magazine shows and describes the mechanism of a “photoelectric color sorting machine.” While over twenty photos are signed “Phot. Sladden” on the mounts, eight photos are signed “Phot. Goldstein.” Henry Goldstein was a Belgian professional photographer employed by the government-operated “Congopress” news agency in ca. 1947-1960. Goldstein’s photos of a theatrical performance by the “Cercle d’Etudes et d’Agréments” in Leopoldville in September 1947 are now in the collections of the University of Cambridge (https://archivesearch.lib.cam.ac.uk/agents/people/3491). His photos of cotton and cassava fields illustrated “The Agricultural Economy of the Belgian Congo and Ruanda-Urundi/ U.S. Department of Agriculture” (March 1962, pp. 7, 21; file:///C:/Users/wayfarers/Downloads/ERSforeign22%20(2).pdf). Goldstein also took photos of Leopoldville/Kinshasa after the riots in 1959.
A large collection of almost 400 images taken by the “Congopress” photographers is deposited in the Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives, the Smithsonian Institution (https://sova.si.edu/record/EEPA.1993-016?s=0&n=10&t=C&q=*%3A*&i=0).
Overall an interesting visual source on the history of the coffee industry in the Democratic Republic of Congo during the years leading to the country’s independence.
Price: $2,500.00 USD