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Deutsches Technikmuseum - August

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Exhibit of the Month August 2015

Sample Case for Colonial Goods, circa 1925

In the current Duden (German dictionary) the words for "colonial territory" and "colonial war" are right next to each other. A colony is defined as the "foreign possession of a country, particularly one overseas". Moreover, the term "colonial goods" is labelled as "obsolete" while "colonial railway" can no longer be found.

Photo: The sample cases with 35 tins with glass tops, inside are rice, cocoa, tea and exotic spices.

Sample case with colonial goods such as rice, cocoa, tea and exotic spices, circa 1925 © SDTB / Photo: C. Kirchner

The exhibition in the museum’s first engine shed has a section entitled "1906: Our Colonial Railways".

A narrow-gauged steam locomotive under artificial palm trees recalls the time when the German Reich still had colonies in Africa and Asia: Togo, Cameroon, German South-West Africa (today, Namibia), German East Africa (today, Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda), a number of "protectorates" in the Pacific Ocean and the Kiautschou Bay concession in East Asia.

They were all lost in World War I but did not gain independence until after 1950.
The effects of the colonial era can still be felt today.

Black and white photo: Group of women with children in front of the shop windows, the store name is written above them.

The "Colonial Store" by Theodor Gitzke in Lauenburg (Pomerania), circa 1914, (Lebork in Polen today) Photo: Uwe and Henrik Naims Collection

The colonial goods, most of which were produced on plantations, made their way to Germany on steam ships.

The 45 x 32 centimetre leather covered sample case on display here was used by the company "Skibbe & Zorn, Kolonialwaren-Großhandlung (Wholesale colonial goods)" which was located in Berlin SO 36, Glogauer Straße 6. It holds 35 tins with glass tops that serve to display small samples of rice, sugar candy, coffee, cocoa, tea and many exotic seasonings.

The colonial stores ordered whole sacks of these goods and sold them by weight to their customers in the paper bags common at that time.

Anyone buying rice or pepper in the supermarket today is completely unaware that these products have a long journey behind them.