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    A Multi Sectional and Ornate Gold Presentation Jewel Gold (14 ct)

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    Posted (edited)

    This unique Presentation Jewel measures approximately 160 mm x 65 mm and weighs 97,63 grams. 


    The surrounding wreath on the lower portion is stamped “C.G. Braxmarco 14K” the marking of Charles George Braxmar of New York who is well known today as “The Badgeman”. 

    Obverse Description: hanging from an ornate gold top suspender broach which boldly sets out his name as “Col F.E. Fillis” the central jewel comprised an inverted horseshoe with his initials elaborately intertwined in the centre the ornate circular lower disc depicting the fine image of a rodeo horseman surrounded by a wreath, the reverse of this “medallion” being engraved as follows:

    NEW YORK U.S.A. 
    AS A token of regard and esteem 
    JULY 13. 1905 


    Francis Edward Fillis was born in Lambeth, 
    London on 13 July 1857. After the death of 
    his first wife he married Eliza Mayol in 1880 and she later became known as Madame Fillis. Having moved to Southern Africa he first established a circus in 1879 and soon became South Africa's greatest and best known circus proprietor of the late 19th and early 20th century, presenting spectacular shows in late Victorian and Edwardian Cape Town, Johannesburg and Kimberley. 

    His circus was generally known as Frank
    Fillis's Circus, or simply Fillis' Circus. 
    Always promoting dramatic real-life shows, 
    he opened a "magnificent new building" in 
    Johannesburg in 1889 which was capable of holding 2,500 patrons for which he spared neither "pains nor money".


    The two Boswell brothers, who later opened their own circus company, were among his top acts. Frank himself became a highly talented horseman and animal trainer and a choreographer of epic spectacles. 
    In addition to entertaining crowds throughout Southern Africa, his 100-member strong company also toured the colonies and settler societies of Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Singapore, Sri Lanka and India, however his greatest 
    shows of all, for which he is especially remembered today as the ultimate showman, were the epic spectacles he produced in London in 1899 and at the St Louis World’s Fair in 1904.


    His “historical”and military reconstruction show in London titled “Savage South Africa” were re-enactments of the Matabele Wars of 1893 and 1896 for which several hundred native African people were imported. He followed this in St Louis in 1904 where his Anglo Boer War Spectacle employed veteran soldiers and officers from both sides to recreate some of the major battles of 1899-1902. Years before he had staged an episode from the Zulu War in Australia in 1893 but there were no greater shows than those which he presented in America in 1904 and 1905. His shows were, understandably, not without 
    considerable political controversy. 


    Frank died while on tour the Far East on 18 November, 1921 and is buried in the Jewish cemetery in Bangkok, Thailand. In 1998 Floris Van der Merwe published a 95 page booklet titled “Die Boere-Sirkus van St Louis (1904)” (The Boer-Circus of St Louis) in which he recorded the full story of Edward Fillis and the various shows of which he was the “Managing Director”. 

    The story and the events which led in the presentation of this unique ornate gold presentation jewel may be briefly summarised as follows: -

    The World’s Fair, held in Forest Park in St Louis in 1904 commemorated the centenary of the Louisiana Territorial purchase from Napoleon which almost doubled the land area of the young American Republic. The Exposition was 
    received by the public with much acclaim and was judged as being the greatest of all shows. It was in this event that a certain Captain Arthur Smith decided to include and stage a special Boer War exhibition and he persuaded Frank Fillis to manage 
    the undertaking. To achieve this an  independent South African Boer War Exhibition Company was formed. Edward Fillis assembled the necessary equipment, collecting batteries of artillery, numerous guns and ox-waggons etc and engaged a 
    company of about 50 Basutos.


    Some 300 Boer veterans, many of whom 
    later received the Anglo Boere Oorlog medalje, signed on as the “actors’, their number including several officers most notably Veg Generaal Ben Viljoen and General Piet Cronjé. Similarly, a theatrical 
    contingent of 250 British, colonial, Australian and Canadian veterans of the recent war in South Africawere also drawn in. The show arena for the “Anglo Boer War Historical Libretto” covered 10 acres. Three 
    distinct scenes were played out - firstly the Battle of Colenso, secondly the Battle of Paardeberg and the surrender of General Cronjé and thirdly General De Wet’s escape. In choreographing the extravaganza,  Edward even trained many of hundreds of horses engaged in the show to fall down during the staged fighting and to remain still until the end of the scene! Vast numbers of spectators watched the show, the popularity of St Louis at that time being enhanced due to the concurrent holding of the Olympic Games in that city. Eric Rosenthal in an article published in the well known South African Afrikaans magazine recorded that some two million people watched the show! 


    Following the displays at St Louis the “Show” now dubbed “The War” moved to Chicago for a period of six weeks whereafter it moved to New York at the end
    of January 1905 where it was held at Coney Island situated in the South Brooklyn Borough of New York City. Brighton Beach as noted in the engraving on this presentation jewel was 
    an amusement resort in the middle of Coney Island. The enactment stage crafted by Edward Fillis is still considered to be one of the greatest, if not the greatest staged 
    spectacle ever at Coney Island having been 
    performed on a patch of swampland between Manhattan Beach and Brighton Beach. To express their appreciation to him the Members of the Boer War Spectacle 
    presented him with this massive 14ct gold 
    jewel memento in July 1905. 

    From the photographs included in a simple 
    booklet titled “Photographic Views of the 
    Boer War Spectacle”  published in St Louis at that time it is clear that the image of the horseman depicted on the obverse of this gold jewel is of Edward Fillis himself, riding his horse named Povero.

    The archive includes a copy of Van der Merwe’s booklet, various contemporary St Louis advertising programmes and published photographs, Eric Rosenthal’s 
    Huisgenoot article, various other maps and photographs and a “One dollar, Ladies Ticket” for the “Grand Military Masquerade” “Reception and Ball” held at the Coliseum in Chicago on Saturday 19 November 1904. 

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    Edited by archie777
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