Gustave Boël – engineer and philatelist

When I saw this card on eBay I remembered hearing the name Boël in connection with the Zangezur provisionals and, on impulse, bought it.

After receiving the card I started examining the card in more detail. A Mister Gustave Boël writes on the 16 of August 1908 from Allaverdi to a Mister E. Landgraf in Jessnitz in the county of Anhalt (Germany) where the card arrived on the 24 of August. Allaverdi is a town situated in the north of Armenia not far from the border to Georgia. The town is one of the two major copper mining sites in Armenia – the other one being Kapan (Ghapan, Zangezur or Madan) deep in the south of Armenia. In the 18th century the mines in Allaverdi produced almost a quarter of the copper used in the Russian empire. At the end of the 19th century the concession to exploit the mine was sold to the French. That much can be learned by browsing the Wikipedia articles. More about the background can be found in the book “Pioneers for Profit: Foreign Entrepreneurship and Russian industrialization 1885-1913” by John P. McKay; The University of Chicago Press 1970.

From 1880 to 1917 Russia experienced a rapid industrial development. Foreign investment increased form 17 percent to 47 percent. In 1897 the Bonnardel Group (as the Caucasian Industrial and Metallurgical Company) entered the copper industry in the Allaverdi region by subleasing undeveloped properties from a French company. Besting all obstacles including strikes, assassinations, insufficient transport infrastructure and technical difficulties they successfully implemented their business. Production of refined copper rose from almost nothing in 1897 to 750 tons in 1900 and 4,100 tons in 1912. In 1907 they started examining mineral deposits near the Persian border looking to expand their business even further. After a positive feedback from the engineer and legal studies a property at Zangezur was purchased. This region is a well know source of copper since ancient times. Kapan (Also Ghapan or Zangezur), was the site of one of the most famous Caucasian copper mines, known since the earliest times of the prehistoric Bronze Age, and which had supplied to Assyria, Babylonia and other gone-by empires the then valuable metal from which they had forged the weapons of their incessant wars. Smelting works were built in Kapan and the Factories of the Kartar valley (Katarskie-Zavody) developed. The mining business was so important that both locations (Allaverdi and Katarskie-Zavody) had their own post office. The company (Caucasian Industrial and Metallurgical Company) employed several foreign engineers and technicians. One of them was a Belgian engineer with the name Gustave Boël. It is not a way of guess that the card I purchased was written by exactly that engineer which worked then for this company. And it gets even more interesting. In the card Mr. Boël writes that he separately sent some Georgian stamps to Mr. Landgraf. Also, that he did not receive the Senf catalog yet. This clearly exposes Mr. Boël as a philatelist. This is the connection to the Zangezur provisionals. The known covers were sent in 1920 by Gustave Boël who was visiting the Katarskie-Zavody from January till June.

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