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Boer War ‘Absent-Minded Beggar’ Handkerchief Map

SKU: 9458

Boer War ‘Absent-Minded Beggar’ Handkerchief Map

Date of publication:

Printed Measurement:
48 x 48 cm



  • Arthur Sullivan
  • Daily Mail
  • Rudyard Kipling
  • Pass The Hat For Your Credit’s Sake and Pay – Pay – Pay!

    Set in the borders of a map showing the contested regions of South Africa (chiefly the Orange Free State and Transvaal) is the of text Rudyard Kipling's poem 'The Absent-Minded Beggar', with the music of Arthur Sullivan. The map is further adorned with portraits of Queen Victoria and Field Marshal Lord Roberts, who was commander of British forces in the field between December 1899 and December 1900.

    The map was published by the Daily Mail, then a relatively new but highly successful British newspaper: established in 1896, its circulation had soared to over a million – the largest in the world – by the war's end in 1902. Kipling presented his poem to the Mail, which established a charitable fund (soon known as the Absent Minded Beggar Fund) to provide comforts for British troops on campaign and support for their families at home. Sullivan was prevailed upon to set it to music, and it was first sung in public in November 1899. The song caught the public imagination and was reproduced in many forms.

    The handkerchiefs were in circulation by March 1900. Local newspapers carry advertisements from wholesalers and retailers around the country, all promising to donate a portion of the profits to the fund. Advertising in the Bradford Daily Telegraph (8 March 1900) one vendor described them as ‘the latest novelty, a work of art’, further suggesting that they could make ‘a useful present, everybody pleased with them’. An Exeter draper excitedly advertised ‘another delivery’ in the March 28 issue of the Western Echo. They seem to have sold for between twopence and threepence each.

    Condition & Materials

    Second Anglo-Boer War souvenir handkerchief, 48 x 48 cm, printed in blue ink on fine linen, laundry mark stitched top left, a couple of trivial spots, blank verso.