September 25, 1908

President Theodore Roosevelt Plans for Life After the White House: His African Safari

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What Theodore Roosevelt wanted on March 4, 1908, he had never wanted before in his life: to be left alone. That was the decent thing, he thought: to get out of town, and the country, so that the new president, Taft, might occupy the presidential stage by himself. He would go then, as far away as he could - into the interior of Africa, on safari. Responding here to a letter from a Stuyvesant Square rector turned big game hunter, Reverend W.S. Rainsford, Roosevelt lays out his post-presidential plans for Africa:
 
I shall greatly appreciate any information you have to give me as to where I ought to go for game.  I am especially anxious to get lion, elephant, rhino, hippo, buffalo, giraffe, eland, oryx, roan, sable, and koodoo.

But nothing about Roosevelt was ever small scale, and the safari, initially envisioned as a six month hunt with some guides and porters, gave way to a one year scientific expedition under the aegis of the Smithsonian. That expedition, in which he and son Kermit would hunt, trailed by a marksman, a taxidermist, naturalists, guides, cooks, gun-bearers, armed sentries, tent boys, and two hundred and fifty African porters, was in part funded by Oscar S. Strauss and Jacob Schiff – two of Roosevelt’s Jewish friends.

Typed Letter Signed, as President, 1 page, quarto, the White House, Washington, September 25, 1908. To Rev. Dr. W.S. Rainsford in Nairobi, British  East Africa.

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Transcript

The White House
Washington

September 25, 1908.

My dear Dr. Rainsford:
 
I was rejoiced to get your letter, and indeed I much appreciate what you write.   Yes, by the end of April I hope to be in East Africa for six months, and I shall greatly appreciate any information you have to give me as to where I ought to go for game.  I am especially anxious to get lion, elephant, rhino, hippo, buffalo, giraffe, eland, oryx, roan, sable, and koodoo.

I am delighted to hear you are so well.

Faithfully yours,

THEODORE ROOSEVELT
 
Rev. Dr. W.S. Rainsford,
Care of Newland, Tarlton & Co.,
Nairobi, British  East Africa.