Lost Footsteps
Lost Footsteps

British Burma (1826-1942)

1600s - 19th century
Origin of the Kokang

Kokang (now a ""Self-Administered Zone"") has a particularly interesting history. In the mid-1600s, the Ming dynasty in China was falling fast to the invading Manchus. The last Ming emperor (the Yongli Emperor, better remembered as the Prince of Gui) fled first to Yunnan and eventually across the border to Ava (Inwa). The new Manchu ""Qing"" dynasty would rule until 1912.In the train of the last emperor were tens of thousands (perhaps more) of Ming loyalists. One of these was a...

1890s
Myanmar’s first modern migrant workers - Cheroot Ladies

This is a photograph of some of the country's first modern migrant workers - the "cheroot ladies" who were brought to Penang in the 1890s to work at a Chinese-owned cigar factory. Many ethnic Burmese in Penang are descended from these ladies.

1900
Mandalay circa 1900: 26th Street towards the clock tower.

1940s - 1970s
Silver Grill Jazz Club of Barr Street

Once Rangoon's top night spot: the Silver Grill at 82 Barr Street (now Mahabandula Garden Street), a black-tie restaurant and jazz club that was popular with foreigners and Burmese alike both before and after WW2 (and with Japanese officers during the war). Originally owned and managed by the Armenian Peter Aratoon, it later became the State Commerical Bank. The building was demolished, I think in the 1970s (please correct me if anyone knows). This painting was painted by Mr Godley...


Before there was Naypyitaw: the market at Pyinmana circa 1900

1900s
Mahatma Gandhi visited Rangoon 3 times.

Mahatma Gandhi visited Rangoon in 1902, 1915 and 1929. He had a big impact on Myanmar politics and Myanmar had an important impact on him. The photograph is from the last meeting between U Nu and Mahatma Gandhi, taken at Birla House in Delhi on 4 December 1947. U Nu gave Gandhiji the hkamauk.

20th Cen.
The origin of today’s Myanmar men’s outfit

There's sometimes a misconception that today's Myanmar men's outfit is a very old one, when it's only less than a hundred years old. It was only in the early 20th century when the traditional paso began to be replaced with the much simpler India-derived longyi and men began to wear English collarless shirts together with a Manchu "Ma Gua" or 馬褂 riding jacket. In this photograph the unidentified men are wearing their paso with variations of the Ma Gua jacket...

1910s
A New Year's greeting card from around 1910

A New Year's greeting card from around 1910, from a portrait of an unknown Burmese lady by the Mandalay-based Venetian photographer Felice Beato.


Never on Sunday

A famous tourist attraction at 6 Barr Street (now Maha Bandoola Garden St). The owner was an old Yorkshireman, Mr J. Whitfield Hirst, who had settled in Rangoon in the 1880s. He was well known for never bargaining and never compromising. When the Prince of Wales (on an official visit in 1906) sent word on a Sunday that he wanted to come by, Mr Whitfield Hirst refused, sending this message back: "My compliments to the Prince of Wales, but tell...


A Rangoon municipal tax receipt c. 1930s

An interesting piece of fiscal history from 1930s: A Rangoon municipal tax receipt. A total of 10 rupees and 14 annas, divided into "general", "conservancy" (ie sanitation), "water", and "lighting" taxes, was paid by the owner of 122 Evanson Street (now Myayagon Street). An assessment and a payment was made on a quarterly basis. (A rupee or kyat was almost equal to a US dollar at the time).

1842 - 1920
the Rev. Theodore Thanbya (1842-1920)

A photograph of the Rev. Theodore Thanbya (1842-1920) one of the very first students from anywhere in Asia to study in America. He attended Rochester University from 1868-1871, mastering Greek and Latin, and even delivered his class's senior oration at graduation ("The Contest for Commercial Supremacy in Asia"). He would go on to live a long and fruitful life in Kemmendine, Rangoon as a leader of the Karen community and the Baptist church in Burma.

1858 - 1929
The first Burmese student in America

The first Burmese student to come to America (and perhaps the first Burmese ever in America) was Maung Shaw Loo, who traveled from his native Moulmein to Lewisburg, Pennsylvania in 1858, just before the Civil War. During his ten years in the US, he would join a fraternity, work as a gardener, earn degrees at Bucknell and at a medical school in Cleveland, and meet President Andrew Johnson at the White House (who wrote him a letter of recommendation to...

7 November 1862
The death of Shah Zafar

On 7 November 1862, the last Emperor of India, the last of the Great Mughals, Bahadur Shah Zafar, direct descendent of Timurlane and Genghis Khan, died aged 87, heart-broken and a British prisoner in Rangoon, and was buried at an unmarked grave just south of the Shwedagon Pagoda.

1867 - 1923
The Lim Chin Tsong Palace

The Lim Chin Tsong Palace c. 1920 at the corner of Kokine and Victoria Roads (now Kaba Aye Pagoda Road and University Avenue). Lim Chin Tsong (1867-1923) was a very successful Sino-Burmese businessman, born in Amoy, educated at St Paul's, owner of the Rangoon Turf Club, and Member of the Burma Legislative Council. In 1918 he built this lavish residence in a peculiar mix of Western and Chinese styles for a whopping 22 lakh kyats (rupees). The murals inside were...

1868
Portrait of a group of Burmese men on a porch c. 1868

Portrait of a group of Burmese men on a porch by J. Jackson c. 1868 probably in Mandalay. J. Jackson worked as a photographer in Burma from 1865-1915 and had a studio on Merchant Street in Rangoon.

1870 - 1946
Dr San C. Po, the leading Karen political leader of his time

Dr San C. Po, the leading Karen political leader of his time was born near Bassein (Pathein) on 4 October 1870. He travelled to the US at age 14, eventually studying medicine at Albany (and becoming, I think the first "Burmese-American", before returning to Burma and later renoucing his US citizenship to enter Burmese politics).He was a medical doctor and writer, as well as a politician and Karen nationalist, serving for many years in the Legislative Council. He was knighted...

1870
A Rangoon office c.1870

1875
"Frau mit Zigarre" c. 1875. Portrait by the German ethnologist and explorer Fedor Jagor who was in Rangoon collecting for Berlin museums.

20 March 1879
President Grant’s visit to Rangoon

On 20 March 1879, Ulysses Grant, former US President and commander of Union armies during the Civil War arrived in Rangoon for a short visit. He was on a round-the-world tour following his retirement as president in 1877. President Grant and his family were entertained at Government House (now destroyed), where he and then Chief Commissioner HT White discussed the possibility of a future "Anglo-Saxon League" to "impose peace on the world". President Grant found Burma to be a much...

1879 - 1951
The life of U Chit Hlaing

U Chit Hlaing (1879-1951), barrister and national leader, was once the towering figure in Burmese politics, attracting enormous crowds, known as the "Uncrowned King of Burma", before losing influence to a younger generation of politicians in the 1930s. This is a portrait of him taken in 1931 in London where he was attending the Burma Roundtable Conference chaired by Lord Peel.