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Robert Peet Skinner

Journey to Abyssinia: The Hidden Empire, page 5

Part 3: Making a Treaty with Menelik

A feast was given in the Americans’ honor. Friendly exchanges were given and as the King retired so did the delegation. Menelik gave Skinner and his group a palace in the capital in which to stay. After spending weeks in tents, this was a much welcomed surprise.

 In the following days, audiences with the King would be for the purpose of conducting business and discussing the treaty to create trade between the United States and the Abyssinian Empire. Menelik only spoke one language, Amharic, a medieval Semitic language. Due to this cultural barrier, King Menelik was a simple and direct negotiator. In a short time, the agreement was drawn up in English as well as Amharic and signed.

Now that negotiations had been completed, Menelik and Skinner were able to question each other on a friendly basis. Menelik surprised Skinner with his expansive knowledge of world events, despite the geographic isolation of his nation. This was a feat made possible by a network of newspapers, letters, and an army of translators. Menelik was interested in the American  Presidency. Skinner told him the stories of Lincoln and his freeing of the slaves. Moved to tears by this story, Menelik ordered all his slaves be freed. The King showed keen interest in President Roosevelt. He had heard about his “Rough Riders” and his naturalist ideals. Being a hunter himself, Menelik offered two male lion cubs to be given as a gift upon Skinner’s return to the United States.

In celebration of the treaty and new allies, Menelik hosted a 3,000 - guest banquet. Foods stretched the length of the table and the wine flowed freely. As was tradition, the Abyssinian host presented gifts to the delegation to be aligned with the wise men who brought gifts to Christ’s birth. It was then Skinner’s turn to return the kindness to his host. He had a tough act to follow as the British government had recently sent Menelik a trained elephant. Skinner presented Menelik with a signed photograph of President Roosevelt, a copy of the President’s book, North American Big Game, an American typewriter, and a special magazine fed rifle, the latest in American gun manufacturing. These gifts were well received by Menelik.

As the mission came to an end, the American delegation made its way back to Djibouti, from where the journey home would begin. Menelik, being the kind and warm host that he was, sent a representative to each camp the delegation made with gifts that often included a special native beer.

State Dinner with the Emperor
Dr. Pease described the dinner in great detail in his book Winter Wanderings,published in 1910.

Collection of the Massillon Museum
Gift of Mrs. Horatio W. Wales (58.80.1)

U.S. Marines celebrating on their final night in Addis Ababa with a local drink.

Collection of the Massillon Museum


Page 6: Photos

Page 7: Conclusion

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