Monday’s ad is for Schlitz, from 1935. Today in 1909, Theodore Roosevelt set sail for Africa for a year-long safari, shortly after leaving office as President. His party arrived in Mombasa, British East Africa (now part of Kenya) and added local guides so that their number were just over 250 people. The hunting party included “legendary hunter-tracker R. J. Cunninghame, scientists from the Smithsonian and, from time to time, Frederick Selous, the famous big game hunter and explorer.” During their time there, they collected 11,400 “specimans” for the Smithsonian Institution and for the American Museum of Natural History in New York. These ranged from local flora and fauna up to big game, including “17 lion, 3 leopard, 7 cheetah, 9 hyena, 11 elephant, 10 buffalo, 11 (now very rare) black rhino and 9 White rhino.” You can read more about his adventures in On Safari With Theodore Roosevelt and the Smithsonian–Roosevelt African Expedition.
But in the beer world, the thing that Teddy Roosevelt’s safari is most know for it this. “President Theodore Roosevelt took more than 500 gallons of beer with him on an African safari. Must have been thirsty work!” You see this all over the place, including in today’s ad, which features the tagline “Said T.R. ‘I Want It in Africa.'” And then the artwork, illustrated by Ralph Frederick, shows Roosevelt in Africa followed by men carrying cases of Schlitz beer. Unfortunately, it’s not true. Here’s one account:
Our 26th president loved his beer to the point of brining 500 gallons back from a safari in Africa. That isn’t actually true – it’s a myth. Reality is that Theodore Roosevelt did not drink beer, or much at all, except an occasional Mint Julep. However Teddy Roosevelt knew that beer was powerful, and while training the Rough Riders in Texas, he bought the men all the beer they could drink as a morale booster.
I’ve also read that it was Bass Ale that he took on the safari, but regardless of which beer, it doesn’t really matter which brand since it never happened in the first place. None of the historical accounts of the safari mention the beer which, given the large and heavy amount of beer, you’d expect to be part of the record of the trip. It’s not, as far as I can tell. But it’s a powerful, and persistent, story, and a good story beats the truth almost any day of the week.