Teddy Roosevelt was like the Dos Equis man of American presidents. He had great facial hair, never lost a fight and did amazing things like leading armies and governments and helped create our national park system. In his spare time, he liked to venture into truly uncharted (for white westerners at least) territory in places like the Amazon for no real reason other than to record what he found and to kill native species.
An article in the August 1908 Wray Rattler details the legendary (and still strangely controversial) 1909-1910 Africa expedition Teddy conducted with the Smithsonian. After ending his final term as president in March, he went off a-huntin’ in the name of science. In addition to the hunting, he and his team dragged the carcasses back to display them in the Smithsonian and American Museum of Natural History in New York where they stand to this day. Reports say the group killed more than 11,000 animals, from ants to elephants.
And while that’s been great for school kids visiting D.C. for more than 100 years who want to see an African gazelle, we can also make the argument that that these efforts helped contribute to the decimation of many African species that we now consider endangered (including the white Rhino). Not only contributed, but Roosevelt's legendary status and mythical masculinity influence rich white men to do the same in Africa to this day.
Even there, though, you may miss this tidbit of knowledge: old TR may have eaten hash with an African tribal king. According to this 1908 account of “Teddy’s hunt trip” planned for east Africa in 1909, that was a likely scenario. Well, so was marrying African tribal princesses under threat of being eaten, being captured by natives and forced to drink “stinking native beer”. So, maybe it didn't happen — but notice how the crazy tribesmen are all hopped up on (gasp) weed!
And that’s where we pick up:
“Then he may be overtaken and captured by a native prince, who will require beads, wire, brass and the like to keep him from devouring his distinguished guest to glutting (?) his appetite. Upon finding that his visitor is the late head of a great government the chief will even become [unclear], send around a few buckets of stinking native beer even some pellets of bhang, that the president may dream the dream of the hashish eater, and as a [unclear] mark of courtesy demand that the president marry a couple or more of his dusky belles. The diplomacy of Mr. Roosevelt will have to be relied upon in this extremity.”
Teddy Roosevelt didn't always eat hash — but we'd like to think that when he did, it was with African tribal princes and their harems of women.
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