Guest blog: ‘Unfamiliar items’ on maps – Legal drugs

By Heleen Hayes

While georeferencing Indonesian maps of the late 19t till early 20th century, I came across some unfamiliar, but surprisingly interesting buildings and area descriptions. This made me look around the internet to find out more about these subjects.

A striking one is an ‘Opiumverkoopplaats’. Are we looking at an official sales point of opium? Legal drugs? Yes, that’s right.[1] Even though the detrimental effects of opium use had been clear for centuries, the government allowed trade and use of the product. A nice cashflow was apparently more important than ethics and the government monopoly continued. [2] I will not go further into politics and ethics in this blog, but if you google ‘opium’ or ‘amphioen/amfioen’ there are lots of (Dutch) articles to be found for those who are interested in the subject.

Opium was manufactured on Java. In 1894 the first opium factory was built on the Struiswijk estate. In 1901 it had become too small and a larger, new opium factory was built on the surrounding Keramat area. A special railway was built to transport the necessary raw materials from the harbours.

A traveller tells us the following (in Dutch): “Wie het voorrecht heeft, die inrichting te kunnen bezoeken, zal zich niet beklagen over den er doorgebrachten tijd. Die fabriek, waar men het vooral door chineezen zoo geliefde, phantastische droombeelden opwekkende bedwelmingsmiddel vervaardigt, is gelegen aan de fraaie laan, die naar Buitenzorg voert. [3]”,

“Whoever has the privilege to visit these facilities, won’t be complaining about the time spent there. This factory, where one manufactures the intoxicant that is especially loved by the Chinese, lies on the attractive lane leading to Buitenzorg”.

The first opium factory was built on the estate of Landhuis Struiswijk in 1894[4], though we only see the manor (Landhuis Struiswijk) on this 1904 map issued by an Amsterdam book shop:


To enable a higher production, a new factory was built on the surrounding area. At the same time a specially designed railway was built to enable swift transport of the tons of ‘heulsap’, the fluid harvested from the poppy seed bolster, from the harbours to the factory.
This map shows the Batavia Gouvernements Opiumfabriek and the railway on a map by the official tourist bureau of Batavia, dated ca. 1910. The manor house has disappeared.


Click here for the map in the KITLV media library

The local book shop apparently proudly stocked a postcard featuring the factory:


Click here for the image in the KITLV media library

Points of sale (marked ‘opiumverkoopplaats’ on the maps) were to be found all over the islands. One of them is pictured here. Some sources say they were painted light blue and that close to where a person lived they would be situated about 5 km apart, in larger kampongs (villages), near the local passar (market).[4] I have found some of those points of sale on maps, but not as many to verify this observation. Actually I have been searching the database looking for the indication ‘opiumverkoopplaats’ to show in this blog, but I have not been successful yet.



Click here for the image in the KITLV media library


[2] and more pages.

[3] ‘Nou … tabé dan!’: De ‘bootreis’ naar Indië met de Rotterdamsche Lloyd en de ‘Nederland’ tussen 1899 en 1949. Bert L.T. van der Linden


3 gedachten over “Guest blog: ‘Unfamiliar items’ on maps – Legal drugs

Geef een antwoord

Het e-mailadres wordt niet gepubliceerd.

Deze site gebruikt Akismet om spam te verminderen. Bekijk hoe je reactie-gegevens worden verwerkt.