This photograph depicts the 26th President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, standing over the corpse of an elephant that he had hunted whilst on an African expedition, sometime between 1909 and 1910. Roosevelt was a passionate hunter, as well as a self-proclaimed naturalist and conservationist – through combining these three interests, Roosevelt organized his grand African expedition, which he started immediately after his final term as President. The expedition was in partnership with the Smithsonian Institution, which funded and outfitted the expedition in order to receive natural specimens for its upcoming Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. Roosevelt also intended to collect scientific, observational data on the various gargantuan animals that inhabited the continent. It was a dream come true for the old President – he was so enamored with the notion of going on an expedition to Africa, that during his final months as the POTUS, he nearly neglected his presidential duties in lieu of planning his big trip.
The expedition party left the United States on March 23, 1909, and would eventually arrive in Mombasa on April 21, after just about a full month of travel time. The expedition moved northwards through Africa for almost a year, eventually disbanding in Khartoum on the 14th of March, 1910. During this time, the expedition party collected an incredible amount of samples – over one thousand large mammal skins, four thousand small mammal skins, and an additional collection of around ten thousand plant samples. The Smithsonian Institute was thrilled with the collections – not only did they have a lot of material to showcase, but they also were able to boast that the material itself was collected by the ex-President Theodore Roosevelt, who was still fresh in the nation’s collective memory as something of a celebrity.