In the years before the devastating Second World War and the Indonesian National Revolution in the 1940s, some previously economically inviable areas of the Indonesian archipelago began to thrive due to Dutch technological innovation in tropical agriculture and forestry. Apart from Java, the other islands (Sumatra, Borneo, Celebes, numerous other small islands and especially the vast area of Dutch Guinea) had previously not been colonized at all.
In the 19th century the Dutch governor-general of the Indies was supported by Dutch ‘residents’ who had to supervise the local native rulers, known as ‘regents’. On Java this system worked quite well most of the times, although there were obviously various uprisings throughout its existence. Dutch rule (i.e. supervision) outside Java was less stringent and to a certain degree less important as the other islands couldn’t sustain an extensive Dutch bureaucratic apparatus yet.
This all changed in the early 20th century when spectacular innovations in technology, infrastructure, agriculture etc. reached the Indies as well. Increasing numbers of students at the Technical University of Delft and the National Agricultural College in Wageningen caused recently graduated engineers and agricultural experts to move to the Indies. The cultivation of large area’s outside Java became priority number one: mining of raw material and the cultivation of rubber figs (ficus elastica) was perceived as extremely lucrative.
The increase of economic activity in the Indies triggered or activated other processes as well: in the Netherlands it was felt that education of children in the Indies should be similar to the Dutch system. Since a lot of Dutch people which moved to the Indies in these years had received some kind of degree back in the Netherlands, they wanted to be sure that their children would receive sufficient education as well. Besides education for European children, the Dutch government accepted an ethical policy in 1901 which had as purpose to stimulate welfare and progress amongst the native people. Education was seen as a key to unlock this process and therefore many schools for Indonesian children opened in subsequent years. I might – unnecessarily – add that the goal of educating every Indonesian child was utopian and thus never reached. In the end only children of the higher ‘regent’ classes received education and then primarily on Java.
Now we should return to this particular picture postcard. Besides that it captures a fabulous view of the Sarangan mountain, a mountain which attracted many Dutch tourists from the 1930s (below you’ll find more information about this place), the sender and especially the address caught my attention when it appeared on my screen online. The card was sent to a certain miss (Mej.: Mejuffrouw) Schaper in Westwoud. This village neighbours Hoogkarspel where I grew up. Apart from this surprise, I was intrigued that before the war and revolt (card was sent in July 1937) someone who was probably related to miss Schaper lived on Java. The people of Westwoud were mainly catholic back then (I know that the Schaper family was for sure) and this collided with my views of the Dutch rule over the Indies. I thought that almost all civil servants, engineers and agricultural experts were of protestant descent. At least I didn’t know anyone from the catholic villages in West Frisia to have moved to the Indies.
So I went online and to little surprise I discovered that the sender Dirk is in all likelihood the brother of A. Schaper. After some more research I found out that Dirk Schaper had been a teacher on Java! This took away all my doubts who the sender could have been.
In 1937 Dirk Schaper (1892-1962) sent this postcard to his sister Aagje Schaper (1889-1965) who then lived in the Halfweg (Halfway) inn. Together with her brother Piet Schaper (1895-1965) and her sister Catharina (Ka) Schaper (1878-1949) she run this inn from 1919 (death of her father) till its closure in the 1950s or ‘60s. The family originally came from the Binnenwijzend (small hamlet south of Westwoud), but their father quit his job as farmer because of his health. As his son Piet Schaper wrote in the Westfrisian chronicle of 1965: “In 1894 kocht mijn vader de herberg. Hoi was boer in Binnenwoizend, maar deur tongblaar, longziekte, varkenspest en houge huur en drougte kon dat niet langer. Nei m’n vaders dôôd in 1919 bin ik kasteloin worren en dat bin ik nou nag…” (Translation: “My father bought the inn in 1894. He was a farmer on the Binnenwijzend, but because of footh-and-mouth disease, lung disease, swine fever, high rent and drought he wasn’t able to continue. After his death in 1919 I became innkeeper and that’s my job still…”).
My father pointed out that Dirk, Aagje and all other Schaper family members are related to me. The grandmother of my great-grandmother Maartje van der Gulik (1897-2000) was called Maartje Schaper (1842-1915). Subsequently her grandfather was called Sijfert Schaper (1779-1829). Sijfert Schaper is our common ancestor. So after all, this philatelicly not so interesting postcard has proved to be an extraordinary postcard history- and familywise!
Dirk Schaper stayed in Sarangan in July 1937 and I think it’s likely he enjoyed his holidays there. From the early 1920s on Dutchmen gradually found there way to this hidden gem, located on the green eastern slope of the Lawu volcano thus basically being isolated from western Java. It took until 1937 before a road was opened from Sarangan to the west. And only 10 years earlier the last kilometers from the town of Magetan to the east were only accessible by horse or foot. No easy place to reach. Which raises a question: why were the Dutchmen and other Europeans so eager to come to this mountain lake? The following Dutch account might give you the answer:
Translation: “When the driver parked the car right on the curb of the hotel, we saw the lake of Sarangan for the first time. We’ve travelled a lot: we’ve been in China and Japan, in America and the Europeans alps, enjoying the very best of nature. We could state of this place though that due to its beauty and sweetness it made such a marvelous impression on us that we promised ourselves to celebrate our holidays here once. [….] Sarangan, with its lake, its islet, its surrounding hills and forests proved to be a revelation for us.”
Besides its stunning location, natural swimming pool and lush forests, one distinct feature lured many Europeans to the resort: its cool climate. At 1500 meters above sea level they could cool down there overheated bodies in the lake and its surrounding rain forests. A truly European refuge.
For the original publication see the Dutch Philately blog by Hugo Brieffies.