Eighty years ago, Charlie Chaplin visited Java and Bali. Did the visit change his western view of the world? Or is it a romantics.

March 30, 1932, Charlie Chaplin and his crew arrived in Tanjung Priok. The Dutch were excited and expecting the Chaplin with a bowler hat and oversized shoes and walking stick. Charlie arrived with a pith helmet and grey hair.

Onboard the Van Lansberge, Charlie travelled with his elder brother Sydney and an entourage. They were welcomed by members of the association of film importers of Dutch Indies. Children crawled under the table to see Charlie’s feet…

A new and fertilising stream of trade set in with the utilisation of the shortened ocean route, giving prosperity to trade and strengthening the finances of the possessions. — Wright and Breakspear (1909).

The Suez canal in Egypt caught the world’s attention recently. A huge cargo ship got stuck diagonally across the canal, causing a major disruption in the world’s shipping operations. This canal that connects the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea is the shortest route from Europe to Asia and about 12 percent of the world’s sea cargoes passed through this canal.

When the canal opened in 1869…

The East Coast of Sumatra owes everything to tobacco and the enterprise and energy of those who have been and still are engaged in its cultivation. In Deli, the planters take first place, and it may be said that they have ruled and developed the country. — Twentieth century impressions of Netherlands India, 1909.

The east coast of Sumatra was a significant economy of the Netherland East Indies in the 1900s. The area called Deli started to be developed in the 1860s by Dutch merchants. Jacob Nienhuys found the soil of Deli was suitable for producing high-quality tobacco leaf that…

The harsh reality described in obscure booklets and pamphlets, and unpublished documents such as the Rhemrev Report, was for years simply denied, ridiculed in the second room, and avoided in historiography as not spoken of in civilized society. And this polarization actually still exists. (Rudy Kousbroek, NRC Handelsblad, October 16, 1992)

Following De Millioenen uit Deli’s explosive release by van den Brand in 1902, the Dutch Indies government had to respond and ordered an investigation.

The investigation was commissioned by a Government Decree of May 24, 1903. J.L.T. Rhemrev, a senior public prosecutor from Batavia, was instructed to go to…

The Deli society can safely be called the founder of Medan; all life, all strength, and prosperity emanated from it. However, it understood in its own interest that of the workmen, and set up a hospital and an immigrant asylum, where the Chinese coolies, who commit themselves to it by contract, find good nursing care in case of illness or accident, even a permanent home, when they become entirely unfit for work. Justus van Maurik (Indrukken van een ‘Tòtòk’, 1897)

The romance of tobacco plantation at Bandar Klippa of the Deli Company.

That was the romantic picture of the Deli society, which has transformed virgin jungles of Sumatra into luscious and productive…

“When Satan wants to deceive, he carefully hides his horns and masks his hooves and tail. … And now there is a really sophisticated system in Deli. It is generally the custom for any inspector who is going to be transferred to another department in the region to hold a vendutie.” Van den Brand (1902).

Vendutie in Het Kamerlid Van Berkenstein in Nederlandsch-Indië.

Vendutie is a public auction. In the Netherland Indies, when a civil servant or officer or someone had to leave or move to another place, they would sell their furniture and household items as it would be too expensive to move them. …

Saat Tahun Baru Imlek, Major dan Kapitan Tionghoa Tjong Yong Hian dan Tjong A Fie menggelar Resepsi Open House. Jam 6.30 di rumah Mayor and Jam 7.30 di Rumah Kapiten.

Rumah yang besar dibuka untuk umum, anda dapat mengagumi kemewahan dan kekayaan mereka. Di dalam terdapat perabotan yang antik, hiasan dinding bersulam asli, papan taburan emas yang indah, perabotan berpernis halus, dll. Rumahnya diterangi oleh listrik dan seluruh jalan saat malam dihiasi kembang api yang melimpah.

Cinema scenes in Medan, 1920–1930

A 1931 report Small Island Markets for American Motion Pictures, written by the US Bureau of Commerce, wrote:

Motion pictures are fairly popular in North Sumatra among both the white and oriental elements of the population. There is at least one motion -picture house in practically every town of importance in the district . All these theatres are comparatively small, being generally equipped to seat from 300 to 500 persons. Shows are given twice daily, at 7 and 9 pm, Sundays included.

In Medan, certain theatres are patronized only by Orientals, and there are others…

The city of Medan, in the colonial time, has attracted many famous Dutch authors. Most of them were impressed:

Medan, the main town of Deli, immediately makes a most pleasant impression. You can see from everything that you are in a still young city, in a prosperous place, full of powerfully cheerful life. Justus van Maurik (1897)

What especially strikes the European coming from Java, is the more modern Western character in the laying out of the grounds and buildings, the greater variety in architecture, adapted to the mixed population. Johan Frans van Bemmelen (1897)

The white, fresh city of…

The first motion film show in Medan was by Louis Talbot with his Scenimatographe in 1897, after he had completed his tour of Java and the Straits. He showed his motion pictures at the Witte Sociëteit.

The Deli Courant of November 17, 1897:
“Mr. L. Talbot, one who has made a name for himself in the field of photochemical printing and the use of chromic acid salts, travels to our archipelago with a device called a scènimatograaf that renders images, just like a mirror would. These images are reproduced by artificial light and thus exhibit what photography has been able to…

Budiman BM

Soil Scientist, interest in Colonial history.

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