ROOSEVELT, Theodore. Three typed letters signed ("Theodore Roosevelt"), 1 as President, with numerous autograph corrections and additions, to Major General Sir Reginald Wingate and Colonel J.J. Asser, Adjutant General of the Sudan, Washington, Juja Farm, Nairobi and Saigo Soi Camp, Lake Naivasha [Africa], 29 July 1908, 16 and 26 July 1909. Together 9¼ pages, 4to, 1 on White House stationery, 1 on Juja Farm decorative stationery, minor browning to some pages, otherwise in fine condition. [With:] Printed menu and printed welcome message from a dinner reception held in Roosevelt's honor at the Sudan Club.
ROOSEVELT ON SAFARI: "I HAVE NOW OBTAINED A NUMBER OF SPECIMENS OF EACH OF THE KINDS OF BIG GAME"
An evocative group of letters relating to Roosevelt's big game safari in Africa. Roosevelt was an avid outdoorsman who had enjoyed hunting throughout his life. As his Presidency drew to a close, he looked forward to a year-long hunting expedition in Africa. He enthusiastically planned the safari to begin shortly after he left office, noting it might be "my last chance at something in the nature of a great adventure" (Miller, Theodore Roosevelt: A Life, p. 490).
On July 29, 1908, Roosevelt writes to General Wingate in response to his offer of any assistance in preparing the safari: "I am rather overwhelmed by the kindness of my English friends...I shall try to be as little of a bother as possible...[as] I have the very keenest and liveliest sympathy with the unfortunate Governors of far-away provinces who are continually threatened with visitations from globe-trotters and amateur sportsmen who expect all kinds of impossible favors...I shall do my best not to come in this objectionable class." Roosevelt notes that an American in Africa has offered to take him up the Nile, but "he is not a sportsman, and any man who is not himself a big game hunter has usually very vague ideas as to where & how big game can be obtained," so Roosevelt asks Wingate to recommend a guide. Roosevelt thanks the General for allowing him to go into reserves "forbidden to the ordinary tourist-hunter," and reassured him that "I am no game butcher, and would not only strictly live up to my license, but probably keep well within it...the trophies I secure will be for the National Museum and this will represent almost all of my shooting, excepting what is shot for meat...Outside of these two categories...I should probably not care to get more than a dozen trophies all told for my son Kermit and myself, for my house is small and already pretty well filled with trophies." He notes: "I should particularly dislike making a big bag in numbers, tho I should naturally like to secure as wide a variety of game as possible." Roosevelt states that he would like to bag a white rhino, elephant and buffalo and add, "I suppose the chances are against my getting a lion anywhere." After the safari, he intend to "meet Mrs. Roosevelt and my daughter Ethel at Khartoum in the end of March...and we would go down to Cairo together." By the end of the letter, Roosevelt jokingly admits that he is sounding like one of those "globe-trotters" he dislikes, since he has "asked as many questions as the canonical Yankee is always supposed to ask." Aside from hunting, he expresses interest in seeing how the people live in the English colonies of Africa, to draw lessons to be applied in the U.S. where politicians and philantropists "demand that the Filipinos be given the fullest democratic self-government" and will "denounce us if any disorder follows."
On July 16th, Roosevelt writes Colonel Asser from Africa: "If we get no elephant in British East Africa, I shall try for them in Uganda or the Enclave, and the white rhino I ought to get in the Enclave...We are keeping the skins of the big animals I shoot for the National Museum, and if I get duplicates I shall hope to give some to the British Museum. This means a great amount of labor." He informs Asser that they "ought to be about two months in Uganda and the Enclave...." He asks him to thank the Sirdar for "the big double-barrelled Holland of which he was one of the donors. I have found it by all odds the best gun for rhino and buffalo, and I intend to use it on elephant and white rhino." Ten days later, on the 26th, Roosevelt writes to Wingate: "I have had very good luck in [British East Africa] so far, and the double-barrelled Holland...has proved all that I hoped. I have now obtained a number of specimens of each of the kinds of big game, with the exception of Elephant, that I could hope for in East Africa--that is, I and my son have killed twelve Lions and about half a dozen, each, of Rhino, Hippo, Buffalo, Giraffe and Eland. The Skins of all of them have been preserved and given to the National Museum." His goal now, he writes, is to bag an elephant and a white rhino, and, if they do, all he would want to shoot on the way down the Nile are "the Roan Antelope, Mrs. Grey's Waterbuck, and the White-eared Cob." He notes that if he does not get a White Rhino, "Captain Dickinson says, I ought to land at Kiro, and strike South." Noting that he needs transport across Lake Albert, Roosevelt observes that "if I can get the animals near the boat it will greatly help the taxidermists in preserving and transporting the skins."
Roosevelt's safari to Africa, on which 512 animals were bagged, was one of the highlights of an already eventful life; the expedition formed the basis for his popular book, African Game Trails (1910), still a classic safari narrative. As Roosevelt had promised, a large number of trophies were donated to different American museums. (3)