VIDEO: Theodore Roosevelt in Africa

Theodore Roosevelt wanted to kill a lion. The 26th President of the United States had grown up on adventure stories of Africa. As a boy he collected biological specimens in his New York apartment. As a young man he moved out West to ranch, hunt and write about the natural world. He had seen war, raised a family, rose to the highest elected office in the land and hunted nearly every kind of game North America could offer.

Still, he had not pursued what he affectionately called, “the great tawny, maned cat.” From his desk in the White House, TR planned what would become the largest safari ever to work its way through Africa. And he relied heavily on his old friend, the English hunter Frederick Selous.

Researching TRs great African adventure, I was taken–more than anything–by Selous. A worldwide celebrity in his day, an early advocate of licensing and bag limits, a naturalist and writer, Selous was the beau ideal of the Victorian Great White Hunter. Roosevelt looked up to Selous immensely, as did Selous to TR. Selous would put the President in contact with many of the men who made his safari possible, and he accompanied him on steamer and train into the heart of Africa.

Researching their story, it became clear just how similar both men really were with TR excelling in the world of men and politics, and Selous excelling in the natural world of plants and animals.

In this 40-slide gallery I’ve tried to tell the story of two great outdoorsmen. In my research I found four film clips of TR in Africa, taken in 1909, all of which are included. Portraits, old photographs, maps and manuscript pages make up the bulk of the gallery, most of which come from TR and Selous’ published work, as well as the Smithsonian and Library of Congress. I hope you enjoy.