This article describes the fate of Californian engineering and technology in South Africa during the years around the Jameson Raid. In theory, progress promised many things: commercial development, scientific and social enlightenment, free markets and rule of law. But in South Africa, these tools of progress came together in ways that differed from Californian engineers’ own frontier experience. While mining flourished agriculture remained undeveloped. And both, far from producing the society imagined by Californians, furthered imperial goals.