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Number: 3955
Continent: Africa
Region: North
Place Names: Algeria, Mali,
Year of Origin: 1924
Language: French
Publish Origin:
Height: 75.0
Width: 100.0
Units: centimeters
Size Class.: Medium
Scale: 1 : 8,000,000
Color Type: Outline Color
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Cartographer: W. H. Webb
Henri Bettembourg
Other Contributors: Leon Poirier
Louis Audouin Dubreuil
Alexandre Iacovleff
Georges Marie Haardt
Charles Brull
Andre Citroen
Northernmost Latitude:
Southernmost Latitude:
Westernmost Longitude:
Easternmost Longitude:
Notes: [see # 2595 published version; Original manuscript version d, Jan. 1924--? completed 1925 imaged here#3955 is NOT in Afriterra collection] Dasa Pahor, Alex Johnson source, original manuscript, drawn during or after completion of the first and second automobile trip across the Sahare] Henri BETTEMBOURG (1882 - 1926); Photographic reproduction and manuscript in colours, skeletal map on thick paper, with extensive manuscript additions in coloured crayon, black pen and pencil (Very Good, overall clean and bright, just some light wear along old folds), 100 x 75 cm (39.4 x 29.5 inches). A fascinating and unique artefact from the period of Citroen's 'Raid transsaharien' and the 'Croisiere Noire' two of the most legendary early international automobile expeditions, crossing the Sahara Desert and Africa, great cause celebres that buttressed France's imperialist designs and promoted Citroen's cutting-edge technology, being a large ephemerally printed map template of Northern Africa upon which Commandant Henri Bettembourg, a lead driver and the 'pathfinder' of the 'Croisiere Noire', contemporarily added extensive manuscript information, including racing routes, the itineraries of recent explorers and the locations of French outposts. This unique map is an artefact of two powerful undercurrents in political and economic history. In the first decades of the 20th century, the Sahara Desert remained one of the last great frontiers of European exploration, as well as being at the heart of rivalries between the great powers. While France was well established in its coastal colonies and protectorates (ex. Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Senegal and C?e d'Ivoire, etc.), and had staked claim to most of the western half of the Sahara in the 1880s, most of the region was still almost entirely unknown to outsiders beyond the main caravan routes, and even then, only very few legionnaires and adventurers dared to chance the deep desert. In the immediate wake of the carnage of World War I, France was eager to re-establish itself as a great global power, and this design rested heavily upon shoring up its positions in Africa, in good part by controlling the Sahara. Meanwhile, while the automotive industry had already existed for some time, it was only recently that autos had had improved from being fragile and rare curiosities into capable and tough mass-produced machines. France, as one of the great industrial powers, along with the U.S., Britain, Italy and Germany, was determined to compete for position in the global automotive race. Key to this was the highly innovative industrialist Andr?Citro?, who founded the eponymous auto company in 1919, that would rise to become the world?s fourth largest car maker by the early 1930s. In the early 1920s, France's imperial ambitions and Andre Citroen's desire to promote his new firm and its ground-breaking technology coincided. With the active support of the French government, Citroen had the 'audacity' to outfit a great expedition across the Sahara, the most ambitious long-distance automotive endeavour to date. Citroen's Legendary African Expeditions and Henri Bettembourg To accomplish that became known as the 'Raid Citroen transsaharien' (1922-3), Citroen recruited a team of intrepid experts, led the Belgian industrialist and explorer Georges-Marie Haardt, to cross the world's greatest desert. The mission was to travel by five special autochenilles Citroen Kegresse, amazing custom half-track vehicles (with 'caterpillar' tracks on the back and conventional pneumatic tires on the front) invented by the engineer Adolphe Kegresse. Even though several non-automotive expeditions and had already traversed the Sahara from several directions, the region was still only fitfully mapped, and was considered incredibly dangerous, as it was home to sometimes hostile tribesmen, while the scarcity of water and extreme weather (sandstorms) could doom even the most well provisioned travellers. Even though the expedition would have the enthusiastic and active backing of the French military, the endeavour would stress automotive technology almost to the breaking point. Yet, in only 21 days, from mid-December 1922 to January 1923, Haardt and his team travelled from Touggourt, in north-eastern Algeria, to the famed city of Timbuktu, on the Niger River, so crossing the Sahara. While the original plan was to abandon the autochenilles in Timbuktu, the vehicles proved so amazingly durable that the team were able to drive them back to Touggourt; the full tour traversed 1,970 miles. The mission was a stellar success, well beyond anyone's expectations. The 'Raid Citroen transsaharien' was a major cause celebre in the global press, bringing prestige to France and underpinning its claim to the western Sahara, while helping to establish Citroen as a star of the automotive world. It was not long before Andre Citroen decided to sponsor an even more audacious automotive expedition ? this time one that would cross the entirety of Africa. In what would become known was the 'Croisiere Noire' (1924-25), a convoy of autochenille vehicles would once again cross from northern Algeria to the Niger River, before turning east towards East Africa, whereupon the team would separate into four individual parties to cover different territories in East and Southern Africa. However, in addition to its political and technical achievements, the 'Croisiere Noire' was also a scientific expedition, making observations on the flora, fauna, geology and medical-health environment of parts of Africa which were little known to modern academia. The expedition was to travel using 8 autochenille vehicles, carrying a team of 17 experts. The venture was to be once again led by Haardt, but this time assisted by the experienced desert warrior Louis AudouinDubreuil. Other members included the painter Alexandre Iacovleff; the cinematographers Leon Poirier and Georges Specht; Eugene Bergognier, a former professor at the West African medical school; and the geologist Charles Brull. Special mention should be given to Commandant Henri Bettembourg (1882 - 1926), the team member who acted as the 'pathfinder' for the group and who would lead one of the expedition's four final legs. Bettembourg was an officer in the Infanterie coloniale, the force of the French army that acted as crack troops and pioneers in frontier regions. Bettembourg already had fourteen years' experience in the Sahara, variously serving in Algeria, Niger, Chad and Sudan. Most importantly, he led the mission to Saoura-Tidikelt (1919), which traced a route across the Sahara that would be suitable for a proposed joint automotive-aerial postal corridor connecting Algeria with Cote d'Ivoire. Bettembourg was a skilled mapmaker in his own right, while often sketching itinerary routes on existing maps or templates. This made him the perfect person to guide the 'Croisiere Noire.' In addition to being one of the lead autochenille drivers, Bettembourg was responsible for determining the 'Croisiere Noire's routes and handling navigation, as well as negotiating with local tribes for safe conduct and provisions. He was thus perhaps the most indispensable member of the team. The entire 'Croisiere Noire' party set out from Colomb-Bechar, in north-western Algeria, on October 28, 1924, and headed south across the Sahara to Bourem (Mali), on the Niger River, just to the east of Timbuktu. From there, the team headed due east to Lake Chad before making a loop into Sudan and then into what is today the Central African Republic, before crossing through the Belgian Congo, to reach Kampala, Uganda. From there, as planned, the 'Croisiere Noire' spilt into four separate parties, each of which would continue to different destinations in East and Southern Africa. Bettembourg's party continued through Tanganyika to Dar Es Salaam, before taking maritime transfer to Madagascar. After crossing the heart of this great French-ruled island, Bettembourg continued by boat to Cape Town, where the mission concluded. Recorded in film, the press and by original artwork, the 'Croisiere Noire' was a tremendous success, bringing fame to the team members, prestige to France and PR of unrivalled quality to Citroen. It inspired the 'Croisiere Jaune' (1931-2), a trans-Asiatic auto expedition led by Haardt, as well as numerous longdistance automotive events over the generations, such as the famous Paris-Dakar Rally (first held in 1979). It is worth noting that recently Citroen announced that, in honour of the centenary of the 'Raid Transsaharien', from December 19, 2022, to January 7, 2023, it will sponsor a 're-creation' of the mission,including the running of a new futuristic concept car, several electric vehicles and replicas of the two of the original autochenilles that made the trip in 1922-3...... The Present Map in Focus: The present map is an impressive and unique artefact from the estate of Henri Bettembourg. It is large format map, embracing all the northern balk of Africa, composed of an ephemerally printed template, with extensive manuscript additions in Bettembourg's own hand, executed during the running of the 'Croisiere Noire', or perhaps shortly thereafter (while the map is not signed, it was found with many other maps and documents signed by Bettembourg, and we have carefully compared the handwriting and style). The underlying map template featuring coastlines, major rivers, international boundaries and key towns and railways, with toponomy in French, was drafted by W.H. Webb, who we gather was a member of the Church Missionary Society for Africa. This map template would have been made in only a very small print run, likely originally intended for missionary use, and is seemingly unrecorded. Upon this template, Bettembourg added the routes of several important French expeditions into the Sahara, traced in different colours of crayon (with the explorer's names and dates, ranging from 1881 to 1920), as well as the additions of numerous French outposts (many with the dates of their establishment), plus the lines of railways in Algeria. Many of the French bases are marked by tricolour flags, while a solitary Union Jack appears at the outpost of El Facher, Sudan. Importantly, Bettembourg shows the entire route of the Transsaharien expedition, labelled as "1er Raid Citroen", and the first leg of the 'Croisiere Noire', labelled "2e Raid Citroen", both traced in green crayon. While the map still has an overall clean appearance, the amount of information added is quite extensive. Bettembourg seemingly created the map as a strategic aid during the period of the 'Croisiere Noire', to show how the first leg of the expedition related to the other great Saharan missions, so placing it within its grander geographic and historical context. The present map recently appeared as part of magnificent collection of maps, documents and objects from Bettembourg's estate that had been retained by his family for generations. References: N / A ? Unrecorded Unique artifact. Cf. Georges-Marie HAARDT and Louis AUDOUINDUBREUIL, La croisiere noire - Expedition Citroen Centre-Afrique (Paris, 1927); Alison MURRAY, 'Le tourisme Citroen au Sahara' (1924-1925)' Vingtieme Siecle. Revue d'histoire (Presses de Sciences Po, 2000); John REYNOLDS, Andre Citroen: ingenieur, explorateur, entrepreneur (2006)
Last updated: Nov 20, 2021