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Sammy Marks


Samuel Marks, better known as Sammy Marks (11 July 1844 - 18 February 1920), was a Lithuanian-born South African industrialist and financier.
Shortly after the end of the South African War, W. T. Stead, one of the most renowned English journalists of the day, visited the Transvaal to report on the British Empire’s most recent and painful acquisition. Among those he interviewed was a short, grey-haired and heavily weathered Russian-born Jew of close to 60. ‘One of the most remarkable men in South Africa’, he wrote afterwards, ‘is Mr. Samuel Marks, of Messrs. Lewis and Marks. Sammy Marks, as he is familiarly known, is a Russian Jew, who many years ago came to South Africa with a pedlar’s pack, and who is now many times a millionaire. He has sent his son to Harrow to be educated, but he himself can neither read nor write. But he can read South Africa as a book, and his local reputation is such that he is jocularly known as the uncrowned king of the Transvaal.’ From the preface of the book ‘Uncrowned King of the Transvaal’, by Richard Mendelsohn, 1991.
He landed in Cape Town in the mid-nineteenth century and within a decade had made a fortune on the Kimberly diamond fields. A legendary figure in the history of modern South Africa, Marks went on to make a second fortune in the Transvaal as the founder of the great Highveld coal industry, as the creator of the South African steel industry, as a landowner on a magnificent scale, and as the proprietor of a notorious liquor distillery near Pretoria.