Sunday, May 20, 2012

Of Course, There’s a Back Story

Having already found mentions in old documents regarding William H. Crago’s professional forays into remote locations of Africa and Asia, I wasn’t surprised, a day or so ago, to run across an announcement, in a professional journal, of his pending journey to Manchuria. The Google search pulled up the lead to the report, naming Will Crago and a number of his colleagues, as they prepared to head west from their office to their next step in the journey—a Pacific coast port.

Unfortunately, I didn’t save the link. Silly me. Google didn’t recapture that citation the next time I searched.

All is not lost, however, when there is access to collections like those at (And no, I didn’t get paid—nor swayed—to say that; I just use a number of services to achieve my research goals.) I managed to find a number of travel references linked to this William H. Crago.

Keeping in mind that there are a number of other William H. Cragos out there—including one from Australia, born at about the same time—I had to tread lightly through the search results.

I was pleased, however, to uncover this urgent petition in the form of a letter attached to Will Crago’s passport application preceding his trip to Africa. While it does seem to employ an unusually pleading tone, the letter provides some useful background information on the reason for Will’s participation in this particular venture in what was then the Belgian Congo.

                                                                        Chicago, Illinois,
                                                                        November 13, 1917.

Honorable Secretary of State,
            Of The
United States of America,
Washington, D. C.

            This is to certify that Union Miniere du Haut Katanga, desires to send Mr. W. H. Crago, an American citizen of Duluth, Minnesota, to its mines in the Katanga province of the Congo Belge, Africa, as mining engineer in charge of the Special Exploration Work being done by the Company with diamond drills furnished by the Sullivan Machinery Company, an American firm, in Chicago, Illinois.
            The Union Miniere du Haut Katanga is an Anglo-Belgian Mining & Smelting Company, at present supplying copper to Ministry of Munitions of the British Government. The services of an American mining engineer familiar with the Sullivan equipment is necessary to the Company in order to maintain and to increase its production.
            The address of the Union Miniere du Haut Katanga is Room 1227 – 42 Broadway, New York City
            and Friars House, New Broad Street, London, England and the African address is, Elisabethville, Katanga, Congo Belge, via Cape Town.


                                                [signed] Robert M. Johnson
                                                General Supt. Of Mines
                                                Union Miniere du Haut Katanga

References:      Bucyrus Company, South Milwaukee, Wis.
                      Sullivan Machinery Co., Chicago, Illinois


  1. And there on his passport application is the picture of handsome young William Crago! It is so nice to have a face to put with the name. Excellent research!

  2. I wonder how he got to Africa. With "the war" on (WWI) a steamship ride there was dangerous business - the Germans sank boats in the south Atlantic and around Africa when they could.


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