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Teddy Roosevelt's
Adventures in Africa

by Judith Lile and Jim Sneed

 Schoenhut's Teddy Roosevelt's Adventures in Africa
Schoenhut introduced Teddy Roosevelt's Adventures in Africa in 1909 and continued its production until at least 1912 - a rather short run for that time. A 1916 trade card has recently surfaced that shows and describes both the circus parade wagons and the Teddy Roosevelt Adventures sets.  These pieces are very hard to find, and some examples, such as the Arab Chief, are very rare and desirable. The rhino, zebu, hyena, gazelle, deer, and gorilla were introduced for the first time with this line. Some of the TR character heads were also used as bandsmen. Some collectors think that the Schoenhut characters were modeled after the real safari members while other collectors think that, aside from the Teddy Roosevelt piece, they were just inspired by the real characters. Since we don't have samples of individual pieces in their original boxes, we may never know with certainty which of the pieces are the great guide, the doctor, the naturalist, and the taxidermist.

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Photo by Jim Sneed from the collection of Judith Lile

The Encampment
A complete Teddy Roosevelt set makes an interesting display. The theme of this line of toys was primarily hunting on safari in Africa. All of the figures are shown in this display. This collector is using the Dude with the native face for the African chief.

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Photo by Jim Sneed from the collection of Judith Lile

Teddy Roosevelt with the natives and the Arabian Chief

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Photo by Jim Sneed from the collection of Andy Yaffee

A Teddy Roosevelt camp site

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Photo by Jim Sneed from the collection of Andy Yaffee

Teddy Roosevelt and his companions with the African Chief and a native. Teddy Roosevelt accessories such as the tent are quite rare. The African scene was printed on muslin.

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Photo by Jim Sneed from the collection of Judith Lile

Some of the Teddy Roosevelt Animals

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Photo by Jim Sneed from the collection of Andy Yaffee

Teddy with his companions ready to go hunting

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Photo by Jim Sneed from the collection of Judith Lile

A hunter with Teddy

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Photo by Jim Sneed from the collection of Judith Lile

Teddy Roosevelt

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Photo by Jim Sneed from the collection of Judith Lile

A Hunter with the giraffe, deer, alligator, and hyena

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Photo by Jim Sneed from the collection of Judith Lile
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Photo by Jim Sneed from the collection of Judith Lile
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Photo by Jim Sneed from the collection of Judith Lile

 

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Photo by Jim Sneed from the collection of Judith Lile

 

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Photo by Jim Sneed from the collection of Judith Lile

 

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Photo by Jim Sneed from the collection of Judith Lile

 

A few catalog pages are known for the Teddy Roosevelt toys. See some of them and actual expedition photos at:

  TR Catalogs Safari Photos

Construction of the TR Figures
The Teddy figures were made with a two-part-head construction and ears close to the head. Compare their ears with those of the circus figures. The legs were straight on the natives but hinged at the knees for all others. The boots are brown and the helmets yellow with a white band. 

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Photo by Jim Sneed from the collection of Judith Lile

Teddy Roosevelt

The likeness to Teddy Roosevelt is unmistakable. He carries a rifle and a belt with a pouch and knife. The pith helmet is distinctive. His suit is a heavy light brown cloth. His boots are painted. The elbow and knee joints are hinged like all of the non-native characters. 

 

Teddy pith helmets are painted a yellowish-natural color and have a white band.

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Photo by Jim Sneed from the collection of Susan Turner

 

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Photo by Judith Lile

 

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Photo by Judith Lile

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Great Guide

This is the Great Guide or perhaps the Doctor with a camera around his neck. A native and another guide or doctor are in the background. The Great Guide came with a telescope, a moustache, but no goatee. The guide is thought to be based on R.J. Cunninghame, Teddy Roosevelt's safari guide.

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The caption for this  Schoenhut photo describes the above character as the great guide. He looks nothing like Cunninghame, however.

Doctor

The doctor was inspired by expedition member Edgar Alexander Mearns. Although Mearns joined the safari as a naturalist, he was also an Army surgeon. This character is shown in one catalog dressed like the others and with a moustache - not really distinctive.

 

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Photo by Jim Sneed from the collection of Susan Turner

Taxidermist

The character with the goatee is probably what Schoenhut called the taxidermist but we aren't sure. 

 

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African Chief

The African chief was dressed in white shorts and a cloth waist band with red cherries or playing card designs - like the natives. He was given a red (ringmaster) or brown (hobo) coat and a white (ringmaster's) hat. Notice that the ears are glued flat against his head - a design characteristic of all Teddy Roosevelt figures.

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Photo by Jim Sneed from the collection of Andy Yaffee

The African Chief looks like he was made by using a native and adding a ringmaster's or Hobo's coat and a ringmaster's hat.

 

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Photo by Jim Sneed from the collection of Judith Lile

Photographer

This example is missing his camera. Kermit, TR's son, was probably the inspiration for this character as he was the official safari photographer. Some photos of Kermit at that time shows him clean shaven but during his lifetime, he was photographed with both a full beard and a mustache. 

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A Schoenhut ad describes this piece as the photographer. Notice that he is clean shaven.

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Photo by Jim Sneed from the collection of Susan Turner

 

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Photo by Jim Sneed from the collection of Judith Lile

Naturalist

The Naturalist may have been inspired by Edmund Heller or J. Alden Loring, two of the three safari naturalists. He has a Franz Josef beard and a straw hat. No expedition member was photographed with  a Franz Josef beard  so this character probability represented no one in particular. The hat is probably the same as the farmer's hat. He is shown with a collection bag in a Schoenhut photo preproduction photograph. 
Some collectors call this character the guide.

The telescope more properly went with the Guide but naturalists used telescopes and binoculars too.

 

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Photo by Jim Sneed from the collection of Andy Yaffee

Arab Chief

The Arab Chief was made from a brown- painted clown's head with an applied beard. He carries an Arabian-styled rifle and a knife.

 

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Photo by Jim Sneed from the collection of Andy Yaffee

 

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Photo by Jim Sneed from the collection of Judith Lile

 

 

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Photo by Jim Sneed from the collection of Susan Turner

Native with top-knot

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Photo by Jim Sneed from the collection of Susan Turner

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Photo by Jim Sneed from the collection of Judith Lile

Native Group

 

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Natives

Shown here are various versions of the natives. The natives were dressed in a variety of cloth patterns. Most common are those with white shorts and cloth waist bands with the playing cards design.  Some heads have a cloth head dress (left). Top knots are occasionally seen (upper left). The native above has a hat that looks like a rimless ringmaster's hat but no rim was ever there.

 
Photo by Keith Kaonis from the collection of Donna and Keith Kaonis.

Native in straw dress - very rare.
This dress style is not shown in any catalog so its authenticity cannot be verified.

 

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Native

This style native is dressed in the cards clown-suit material. His headdress looks to be the same material used sometimes for the Dude's shirt.

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Happy Native

Facial expressions of the natives can vary. This one seems to be smiling. The eyes can be simple black dots illustrated in the sample at the top or brown irises with black pupils that this one has.

Photo by Andy Ourant, courtesy of Noel Barrett Auctions

 

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Drummer

The drummer is a native whose hands have been drilled to accept drum sticks.

 

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Teddy Roosevelt's safari  members were:

Theodore Roosevelt, bwana, age 50
R.J. Cunninghame, leader or guide
Kermit Roosevelt, photographer, age 21
Edmund Heller, zoologist, age 34
J. Alden Loring, zoologist, age 38
Edgar A. Mearns, physician, age 52
Leslie J. Tarlton, adjutant guide

To see more photos of Teddy Roosevelt's African safari members, click here.

 

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Teddy Roosevelt Accessories

From top clockwise - barrel, half barrel, bowl, pith helmet, jug, bowl.

Photos by Andy Ourant, courtesy of Noel Barrett Auctions

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Jug and Bag

 

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Photo by Jim Sneed from a private collection