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Teddy Roosevelt Departs for African Safari 

Teddy Roosevelt Departs for African Safari 

US #1039 from the Liberty Series.

On March 23, 1909, former president Teddy Roosevelt set sail from New York City for a joint expedition with the Smithsonian Institution.

Roosevelt’s term as president ended on March 4, 1909. At 50 years old, he was America’s youngest former president. Roosevelt was anxious to take a break from politics and get out of Washington, DC. At the time, the Smithsonian was building what would become the Museum of Natural History and would need exhibits. Roosevelt, ever a fan of natural history, decided to go on an African safari sponsored by the museum to collect specimens.

US #602 paid the rate to foreign countries.

Roosevelt began his journey on March 23, 1909, accompanied by his son Kermit and three representatives from the Smithsonian. They steamed from New York to Italy, arriving in Mombasa on April 21. The expedition then boarded a train for a 581-mile train ride to Port Florence. Roosevelt described it as “the most interesting railway journey in the world.” Roosevelt then met up with the rest of his party. It would include about 250 local guides by the time it was finished.

Over the next ten months, Roosevelt’s expedition visited Kenya, the Congo, Uganda, and southern Sudan, traveling by train, horse, camel, and steamboat. During this time, they collected 23,151 natural history specimens, including about 11,397 animals. Several animals were brought back alive for the National Zoo, including a leopard, lions, cheetahs, gazelles, an eagle, a vulture, and a buteo (a broad-winged bird of prey).

US #943 was issued for the Smithsonian’s 100th anniversary.

In response to critics over the large number of animals captured, Roosevelt argued, “I can be condemned only if the existence of the National Museum, the American Museum of Natural History, and all similar zoological institutions are to be condemned.” Roosevelt saw the trip as a scientific endeavor, as opposed to the mass killing by other hunters there to clear land for plantations.

US #3059 was issued for the Smithsonian’s 150th anniversary.

The expedition ended on March 14, 1910. On the way home, Roosevelt stopped in Oslo, Norway, to pick up the Nobel Peace Prize he had been awarded five years earlier. Roosevelt’s trip was covered extensively in the American press. Additionally, Scribner’s Magazine paid him to write about the expedition. Roosevelt’s stories appeared as monthly articles in the magazine and were later complied into a book, African Game Trails.

Item #M3012 – 500 assorted Africa stamps.

Because of the sheer number of specimens collected, it took the museum eight years to catalog them all. Several of the animals were also given to other museums. Those collected during this trip remained on display for decades, until the early 2000s. Today, only one specimen from Roosevelt’s expedition remains on display at the Smithsonian, the square-lipped rhinoceros.

Click here to read Roosevelt’s articles and here for video from the trip.

Click here to see what else happened on This Day in History.

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22 responses to "Teddy Roosevelt Departs for African Safari "

22 thoughts on “Teddy Roosevelt Departs for African Safari ”

  1. A definite no PC he. Could you imagine Theodore Roosevelt apologizing for being a white male? Apparently it’s the in thing to do for many Dim presidential candidates these days. It’s got to be indicative of something… hmm… now what could that be?

    • What are you apologizing for, other than being an obnoxious bore? Your mommy gave you a cell phone for your sixth birthday so now you spend your time pestering adults with childish babbling. Roosevelt was a Republican so it’s clear you need to go back to elementary school. You’re beyond stupid

      • What exactly did I say that was wrong or stupid? I’m 62 and hold a doctorate in philosophy from what was then a respected university. I just can’t stand Political Correctness and the party it has found a home in. I take it you don’t follow current events?

        • I do, I’m older than you and can’t stand immature morons and their childish dialogue. THIS IS A STAMP BLOG/FORUM. You might consider giving that degree back. You’re a disgrace.

          • Mike can be a little irritating (ok, a little more than irritating), but your comments are a little bit over the line.

          • Your comments are insulting, and totally inappropriate. Please exercise some self-control and restraint.

        • Hi Mike, no I’m not going to conduct the famous internet ambush and name calling that degenerates into Godwin’s Law.

          What I will point out, is mentioning one’s level of education that is not related to the topic, as if that makes someone an expert on the topic at hand in the discussion. I too am a Professor in a well-known School of Business, but I do not know, nor claim to know much about Roosevelt except he was a rather active hunter and collector. The PC in the article would be about his hunting – not that he was a white male. Suggestion, do not toss the level of your education around unless it is pertinent to the topic. Just a suggestion.

    • Just imagine…Theodore Roosevelt was a naturalist, a conservationist, he favored social programs such as a living wage, health care, and he was a Republican. I wish we had more Republicans like him.

  2. I agree. Let’s keep the topic on stamps and stamp collecting. That is the beauty of what Mystic offers. If you feel you must have politically based comments please find another platform.

  3. This is history in the making, let it be. The people God uses to create it are just vehicles of His Will.
    Carol, teacher

  4. I agree with Carolyn–keep our discussions on stamps and stamp collecting. Sometimes the comments make me wonder what kind of people are out there!

    • Stamp collecting allows us think of all kinds of things. I like to read the comments of some of the regressive thinkers out there.

  5. I think we can leave our personal beliefs in God out of this. This is history to enjoy and study. Not a religious platform.

  6. Thomas Daniel, et al, I sincerely apologize for my troll-like behavior. This is a stamp forum. I collect stamps. I don’t know what gets into me sometimes. I could blame the anonymity of the internet, but it’s not that. It’s just me, something inside me that I don’t like. Again, I apologize. I have learned a lesson.

    • Mike Sheffield, I can certainly understand where you are coming from when it comes to politics. For me it was the Bush v. Gore election results. I thought Gore should concede defeat, drop the lawsuits, and move on. I argued it with anyone who would listen, and many who would not 🙂 I am thankful that Mystic’s TDIH didn’t exist at that time; I would have worked it into every stamp topic that was honored each day.

  7. Mystic provides a wonderful service both on stories of history and stamp collection. I enjoy both. Sad to see the pitiful political comments showing up. Let’s keep the amazing work on our history going. We can all learn from the history. Thank you Mystic.

  8. Sad to see all these derogatory comments and attacks on others. In my opinion Mystic should have deleted some of these comments unrelated to this history.
    History is what it was and these interesting briefs are good entertainment and kick offs for further investigation. Good show Mystic.

  9. Wow! What came after the the African Safari with his son Kermit, was the Amazon exploration, again with his son Kermit. In this one Teddy almost died in an adventure through the River of Doubt basin.


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