On this day in history, January 19

The much-loved “Volksie’”, or VW Beetle, which has a special place in many a South African“s heart.

The much-loved “Volksie’”, or VW Beetle, which has a special place in many a South African“s heart.

Published Jan 19, 2024


Real people, real stories – more than just dates and boring facts.

1363 English King Edward III introduces his Sumptuary Laws, restricting what people ate and wore to preserve social status (largely ignored).

1492 Supplies to build the Portuguese trading post Castelo de São Jorge da Mina (Elmina Castle) arrive on the Gold Coast (now Ghana). It is the first European building south of the Sahara as the colonisation of Africa begins.

1806 The United Kingdom re-occupies the Cape of Good Hope following victory in the Battle of Blaauwberg over French vassal, the Batavian Republic. Establishes British rule in South Africa.

1817 An army of 5 500 men, in a daring march, crosses the Andes from Argentina, to liberate Chile and Peru from Spain.

1825 Using tin cans to store food is patented.

1900 Boer General JP Snyman sends a starving group of Black women, who have been encouraged by the British to attempt a breakout, back to Mafeking under a white flag. However, Colonel Baden-Powell objects and threatens to shoot them if they advance.

1935 The world’s first men’s briefs go on sale in Chicago. They are called ‘Jockey’.

1945 Soviet forces liberate the Łódź Ghetto. Of its 200 000 inhabitants in 1940, fewer than 900 survive the German occupation.

The once ubiquitous “Volksie“ Beetle.

1978 One of the most popular cars ever, the Volkswagen Beetle leaves VW’s plant in Emden, Germany, for the last time. Some 21.5 million were built at various plants.The original VW Beetle is a genuine part of motoring history that was in production continuously from 1938 until 2003. Originally conceived as a “Peoples Car” in Nazi Germany, the Beetle took on a life of its own and after World War II, as it broke away from its fascist beginnings to become the poster child of the “flower power” generation of the 1960’s. The VW Beetle underwent many upgrades during its 65 years of production, but during this time it remained true to its peoples car heritage. Originally launched in South Africa in the 1950’s, the Original VW Beetle soon became a big part of South Africa’s driving culture, and helped shape the memories of many first time drivers.

1981 US and Iranian officials sign an agreement to release 52 Americans held hostage at the US embassy for 14 months.

1984 The notorious Stander gang of bank robbers rob three banks in less than an hour in Johannesburg. The gang’s leader is a bored policeman, who commits the crimes during his lunch hour and then returns as the investigating officer. At one point he was the youngest captain in the police, as well as the son of a respected general. It has been thought he was affected by his time in the army in Angola, or during township duties as a policeman. He is shot dead in Florida, US, during a routine stop for a traffic violation.

1990 Police baton-charge and tear gas a crowd protesting about Mike Gatting’s England rebel cricket team, at Jan Smuts Airport.

1999 A storm at Mount Ayliff, in the Eastern Cape, leaves 22 people dead and 4 000 homeless.

2001 Mexican drug lord El Chapo makes a daring escape from prison in a laundry cart.

2013 Lance Armstrong finally admits to doping in all seven of his Tour de France victories.

2017 A high-rise building collapses in Tehran, killing 20 fire fighters.

2022 A report on antimicrobial resistance shows 4.95m deaths worldwide associated with drug-resistant bacteria, making untreatable infections a leading cause of death.

2023 Cyclone Cheneso makes landfall in northern Madagascar, killing at least 25 people and leaving about 40 000 homeless.