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Robert Peet Skinner

Journey to Abyssinia: The Hidden Empire, page 3

Part 2: Land of the Lion of the Tribe of Judah

Skinner knew that he had to gain support from those in positions of power. A friendly trade agreement with the King of Abyssinia, Menelik would launch a new era of American trade and would put Abyssinia on the map. This treaty for trade would be the main goal of the mission. In 1903, Skinner’s Abyssinian proposal was of interest to President Theodore Roosevelt, who ordered Skinner to prepare immediately for departure to Africa. Saddened by the fact that he could not experience this, “Hidden Empire” first hand, Roosevelt gave Skinner a “to do list” on top of the missions primary objectives. This list requested Skinner to take note of the ancient Christian culture, bring back as many exotic animals as possible, along with as many seeds and plants that could be grown in the U.S.

In October of 1903, Consul Skinner, along with fellow Massillonians Horatio Wales and Dr. Abraham Pease, accompanied by a complement of thirty U.S. Marines, set sail from Naples, Italy, to Djibouti, Africa. Upon arrival at port, Marine officers set about preparing camels and mules for the journey to the Abyssinian capital of Addis Ababa. As Skinner and the rest of the American delegation made the 22- day trek, they encountered what Skinner called, “biblical civilization.” Many of the people he met along the way insisted that the world was flat and accepted bars of salt as currency.

Upon arrival at Addis Ababa, the delegation was escorted by “5,000 troops and a band” to their audience with the King. They entered what was described as a churchlike structure which was Menelik’s palace. Entering the building, they saw King Menelik, sitting on a throne with two chiefs at his side. For Skinner, this was the culmination of almost a decades work in France and countless hours spent drafting proposals. He finally had his audience with Menelik.

U.S.S. Machias
Part of Roosevelt’s “Great White Fleet,” the U.S.S. Machias
transported Skinner and Company from Naples, Italy,
to Djibouti, Africa.

Collection of the Massillon Museum
Gift of Mrs. Horatio W. Wales (

The American delegation makes its way to Addis Ababa,
the Abyssinian capital (modern day Ethiopia).

Collection of the Massillon Museum
Gift of Mrs. Horatio W. Wales (63.156.46)

Page 4: Photos

Page 5: Making a Treaty with Menelik

Page 6: Photos

Page 7: Conclusion

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