Larry Lam's Guide Notes


In the early 1800s tin was already mined in Selangor and the tax on tin export was an important source of revenue for the Sultan of Selangor. The control and administration of this tax was delegated to his Malay chiefs (members of the Selangor aristocracy). The main mining centre then was Lukut. Tin was also mined on a small scale in the valley of the Klang river.

Miners came up the rivers as far as their boats could go and then struck overland for the last few miles to the chosen mining site. Produce from the interior came down the rivers by boat. The location of Klang at the river mouth was the point of entry and exit and therefore was also the point of control for the whole Klang valley.

In 1857, Raja Abdullah (Malay chief of Klang) and his brother Raja Juma'at (Malay chief of Lukut) sent 87 Chinese miners upriver from Klang to prospect for tin. They travelled up the Klang river by boat as far as the confluence of the Klang and Gombak rivers and then walked overland to the foothills of our Main Range. They mined for tin at an area called Ampang. Only 18 miners from this expedition survived. The rest died of malaria. Additional miners had to be further recruited from Lukut. The first tin was exported in 1859.

The success of the tin mines in Ampang (and later Pudu and Batu) led to the development of a trading settlement at Kuala Lumpur. The original point of settlement at KL was the landing stage and trading post on the east bank of the Klang River, at its confluence with the Gombak River. As the river was a main source of transportation in those days, human settlement along the route to the tin field was common. It is very probable that a village (kampung) existed at the confluence of the Klang and Gombak rivers prior to the establishment of KL as a trading settlement.

This trading post was an unhealthy and dangerous place to live in - plagued by floods, fires, disease and civil war (1867 - 73). During this period, Kapitan Cina Yap Ah Loy emerged as a leader. He became the third Kapitan Cina of KL (after Hiew Siew and Liu Ngim Kong) in 1868 and was credited for being responsible for the survival and growth of KL. Yap Ah Loy died in 1885.

Selangor came under British protection in February 1874. In 1880 the Selangor state capital was moved from Klang to Kuala Lumpur. Control over KL was transferred to the British.

The multiracial community settled in various sections of KL. Market Square, east of the Klang river, became the commercial centre. The Chinese congregated here and south into Chinatown. To the north, across Java Street (now Jalan Tun Perak), were the Malays. Nearby, a number of Indian Chettiars (money-lenders), and in later years Indian Muslim traders, set up business. The west bank of the river, the Padang (now Merdeka Square) was the focal point of the British administration.

The houses and buildings in the early days were of mudwall, plank and attap (thatch of palm fronds), built along narrow streets. These were destroyed in the fires and subsequent flood of 1881.

Frank Swettenham, the British Resident of Selangor (1882 - 89) took charge of the rebuilding of KL. Property owners were required to rebuilt with bricks and tiled roofs. This made KL healthier, safer and more attractive. He also introduced the use of railway which spurred economic development. The Sanitary Board was formed in 1890 to look into municipal administration and improvement. Kuala Lumpur was chosen as the capital of the newly formed Federated Malay States in 1896.

In 1957, the Federation of Malaya gained independence from British rule. KL remained the capital through the formation of Malaysia in 1963. It achieved city status in 1972 and was established as the Federal Territory in 1974.

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Last updated: 23rd January, 2003.
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