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Exploring Africa with Martin and Osa Johnson.

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In the first half of the 20th century an American couple from Kansas named Martin and Osa Johnson captured the public's imagination through their films and books of adventure in exotic, far-away lands.

Photographers, explorers, naturalists and authors, Martin and Osa studied the wildlife and peoples of East and Central Africa, the South Pacific Islands and British North Borneo. They explored then unknown lands and brought back knowledge of cultures thousands of miles away through their films, writings and lectures.

From 1917-1936, the Johnsons set up camp in some of the most remote areas of the world and provided an unmatched photographic record of the wildernesses of Kenya, the Congo, British North Borneo and the Solomon and New Hebrides Islands. Their equipment was the most advanced motion pictures apparatus of the day, some of it designed by Martin Johnson himself.

When the young adventurers left their home in Kansas to explore and photograph these lands, little did they realize that they would provide the world with a photographic record of the African game of unimagined magnitude and beauty. The Johnsons gave the filmmakers and researchers of today an important source of ethnological and zoological material which would otherwise have been lost.

Their photographs represent one of the great contributions to the pictorial history of the world and their films serve to document a wilderness that has long since vanished, tribal cultures and customs that ceased to exist.



Through popular movies such as Simba (1928) and Baboona (1935) and best-selling books still in print such as I Married Adventure (1940), Martin and Osa popularized camera safaris and an interest in African wildlife conservation for generations the world over. Their legacy is a record of the animals and cultures of many remote areas of the world which have undergone significant changes: permission has been granted to Safaritalk by the Martin and Osa Johnson Safari Museum to publish photographs and personal letters from their extensive African archive in an effort to bring to life what Safari was like during the nineteen twenties and thirties. Safaritalk is working with the museum's curator, Jacquelyn Borgeson in order to publish the most relevant documents to the trips with regard to logistics and costings, equipment and transportation as well as Martin and Osa's personal thoughts. Thus for the first time many of these photographs and letters are being made available for study to a wide general audience: as an ongoing project it will become an important Johnson study resource on the internet.


The Martin and Osa Johnson Safari Museum is located in Osa's hometown of Chanute, Kansas. Formed in 1961 to preserve the Johnsons achievements and to encourage further research into their fields of study, the Safari Museum (as it was originally named) has grown and flourished. The museum started with a core collection of the Johnsons films, photographs, manuscripts, articles, books, and personal belongings donated by Osa's mother. The museum shares the beautiful old railroad depot with the Chanute Library.

The museum website can be found here: www.safarimuseum.com

The Martin and Osa Johnson Safari Museum is a not-for-profit, 501©(3) organization.

It is situated in Chanute's beautifully renovated Santa Fe train depot at 111 N. Lincoln Avenue, Chanute, KS, 66720

All images and letters are provided courtesy of the Martin and Osa Johnson Safari Museum and all other uses are prohibited without written permission: please contact the museum directly at (Tel) 620-431-2730 or osajohns@@SafariMuseum.com.


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A brief overview of the African Expeditions.


1. The Johnson's first Africa expedition, from 1921 to 1922, resulted in their feature film Trailing Wild African Animals (1923).



2. During the second and longest trip, from 1924 to 1927, the Johnsons spent much of their time in northern Kenya at their home by a lake they dubbed Paradise, at Mount Marsabit. The movies Martin's Safari (1928), Osa's Four Years in Paradise (1941), and the film Simba: King of the Beasts (1928) were made with foootage of these trips.



3. The third African safari from 1927 to 1928 was a tour of the Nile with friend and supporter George Eastman (of Eastman Kodak fame). This trip, along with previous footage was one of the first talkies for the Johnsons, Across the World with Mr. and Mrs. Johnson (1930) which included Martin's narrative.



4. From 1929 to 1931, the Johnsons spent a fourth tour in Africa in the Belgian Congo. There they filmed the Mbuti people of the Ituri Forest and the gorillas in the Alumbongo Hills. The 1932 feature movie Congorilla was in part a product of this trip, and was the first movie with sound authentically recorded in Africa.



5. In 1932 the Johnsons learned to fly at the airfield in Osa's hometown of Chanute. Once they had their pilot's licenses, they purchased two Sikorsky amphibious planes, a S-39-CS "Spirit of Africa" and S-38-BS "Osa's Ark". On their fifth African trip, from 1933 to 1934, the Johnsons flew the length of Africa getting now classic aerial scenes of large herds of elephants, giraffes, and other animals moving across the plains of Africa. They were the first pilots to fly over Mt. Kilimanjaro and Mt. Kenya in Africa and film them from the air. The 1935 feature film Baboona was made from this footage.

(Note: as we examine each trip later a more in-depth summary will be provided.)

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The first of Martin's letters which mentions Africa.

Dated January 6th, 1921.

In 1917, Martin and Osa departed on a nine-month trip through the New Hebrides (Vanuatu) and Solomon Islands. (Martin had visited the Solomons and New Hebrides with Jack London, 1907-1909). The highlight of the trip was a brief, but harrowing, encounter with a tribe called the Big Nambas of northern Malekula. Once there, the chief was not going to let them leave. The intervention of a British gunboat helped them escape. The footage they got there inspired the feature film Among the Cannibal Isles of the South Seas (1918).

The Johnsons returned to Malekula in 1919 to film the Big Nambas once again, this time with an armed escort. But what really disarmed the Big Nambas was watching themselves in Among the Cannibal Isles of the South Seas. They finished their trip in 1920 with visits to British North Borneo (now Sabah) and a sailing expedition up the coast of East Africa. After returning home, they released the features Jungle Adventures (1921) and Headhunters of the South Seas (1922).

To see a full time line of the Johnson's lives please click here:


Although their South Seas films brought them global fame at the time, it is the five African expeditions for which they are best remembered. They made "safari" and "simba" household words and Kenya's Nairobi more familiar to thousands throughout the world than New York or Los Angeles.

From the museum archives, this is the first letter that discusses the Johnson's intention to head to Africa.


We are working extra hard so as to get off to Africa in the late spring--I am looking foreward to our trip from Cape Town to Cairo.

It's written right after their hugely successful "trial run" at filming wild animals in Borneo and Martin is clearly flush with excitement about what they would/could be doing in Africa.


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Jacquelyn Borgeson is the curator of The Martin and Osa Johnson Safari Museum, and an expert on their lives. One aspect of Martin's photographic archive is the seemingly haphazard way in which it is compiled, with the photographs not in sequential order for each of the Africa trips.

I'll hand over to Jacquelyn for an explanation:


Martin was a perfectionist who actually destroyed any/all photos he deemed unworthy. Did you know he took color film in Africa? No? Never seen any of it? Yeah, me either. Martin destroyed it all! If you find a blurry or an off center shot, I assure you it was the top of the line for the topic and was kept just as a reference point while all others in the series met with the African version of the circular file.

The reason the photos appear out of sequence is because there were always (even in the true salad days o' the first south seas jaunts) multiple still cameras running at the hands of multiple cameramen. Er... camera persons, is more appropriate in today's PC world.

They had many different types of cameras, and Osa didn't have a good grasp on still camera operations. He was cranking away, on the motion one and had timers on others, but at the same time she was handcranking away too.

Barbara (the previous museum curator) theorized that the slightly different angle but same scene or topic yet out of main sequence were likely from his using different camera models, be they timer rigged, run by Osa or some of their local guides whom they often trained (and later gave the cameras to as parting gifts!). She proved her theory - in my opinion, anyway - by investigating the original photo or negative size - many times they look so different as to surely have been taken by drastically different cameras using different film types.

Martin was paid by Bell Howe, Akeley and Eastman to field test cameras so naturally he would have kept those photos separate to write up his reports/endorsements. We know Osa also worked the camera and not as well as Martin - in the beginning anyway, later he claimed she was as good as he and perhaps better! Therefore he surely pitched a bunch of her photos, which threw off any side by side comparisons over the years.

So in order to remain true to Martin's own photographic sequential system Safaritalk will publish the images as archived (though in order to avoid repetition some will be left out). It must also be noted that some of the photographs will feature representations of hunting: there can be no denying of the fact that due to Martin's desire for being as close to the wildlife as possible in order to achieve the best shot (and he was also limited by the photographic technology of the time), at times Osa had to protect him with her rifle. To disregard such images because of their content would only serve to tell half the story of the Johnson's time in Africa.
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The First Africa Expedition. (1921 - 1922)

In 1921, when Martin and Osa arrived for the first time in Kenya, battle lines were bring drawn concerning the future of East Africa's wildlife. Many white settlers favoured eradicating the animals because of agricultural interests, while conservationists and guides preferred game preservation. The Johnsons were there to make an authentic record of wildlife in its natural state at the urging of Carl Akeley. Osa later said in her book I Married Adventure:

"You have a very important mission, Martin," Mr. Akeley said on one of those never-to-be-forgotton evenings. "Even more important than mine."

Martin and his father and I stared uncomprehendingly.

Carl Akeley went on. "I've made it my mission to perpetuate vanishing wild-animal life in bronze and by securing specimens for the museum. You are doing the same thing in film, which is available to millions of people all over the world."

This was one of many long and earnest talks with Mr. Akeley, and through him our plans for the future took shape. He suggested British East Africa as the best place in the world for our film studies of wild-animal life, and so this became our next goal.


Osa Johnson - I Married Adventure.


By the time they left in 1922, Martin and Osa had shot 100,000 feet of film and taken hundreds of still pictures. The resulting film, Trailing African Wild Animals, premiered in April of 1923 while Martin's book Camera Trails in Africa was published a year later in 1924.

For the first several months they made photographic safaris to several areas in central Kenya, including the Athi Plains, the Ithanga Hills, the Loita Hills and northwest across to the Loita Plains. Their trip culminated with a visit to the northern reaches of Kenya, specifically Mount Marsabit where they spent time camped near a lake which they named Paradise. Here they found an area seldom visited by sportsmen hunters and therefore animals were easier to approach.

After a few short months they left Lake paradise, but resolved to return for a longer period of time. With its undisturbed wildlife, they felt this was the ideal place to make a permanent record of African wildlife.

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Museum Title: Osa Johnson and Daddy Johnson, Ship Rail, New York City, First Trip to Africa

In 1921 Martin was elected a member of the prestigious Explorers Club of which Theodore Roosevelt had been a member.

Carl Akeley of the American Museum of Natural History was also a member and having himself filmed East African game herds while collecting material for the museum's African Hall urged Martin and Osa to take their cameras to Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika (now Tanzania) to film the incredibly abundant and diverse wildlife there - predicting even then the day when the great herds would dwindle and in some areas disappear altogether.

This photograph was taken (one presumes) by Martin as their ship leaves Manhattan bound for Kenya in 1921, with Martin's father John on the left, and Osa right.

Osa later recalled her father in law saying:


"I'll just take a little peek at Africa," the elder Johnson said, "maybe get a look at a lion, then go around home and compare notes with the one hanging in the Booth Hotel."

I wonder what their thoughts were, setting out on such a journey - a long and arduous sea voyage ahead of them.

(Sources - Exploring with Martin and Osa Johnson by Kenhelm W. Stott, Jr - Martin and Osa Johnson Safari Museum press, 1978
I Married Adventure - Osa Johnson 1940)

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Osa later commented of the sea voyage:


The preparations for our first trip to Africa had tired us all more than we knew, so I took advantage of the leisurely weeks aboard ship to rest and store up energy for whatever might lie ahead. Martin, however, was up early every morning pacing the deck. There was a new restlessness in him, a new anxiety.

From - I Married Adventure - Osa Johnson 1940

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Museum Titles: Osa Johnson and Kalowatt on Boat to Africa


It was at the edge of the village, outside the door of a wretched hut, that we first came upon Kalowatt. A baby gibbon ape, she was on a chain - a pathetic little ball of silver-grey fluff. Martin and I stood and stared at her and clutched each at each other's hands, and then Martin picked her up and cuddled her against his cheek.


Martin and Osa encountered the baby gibbon whilst on their trip to Borneo (1920) and ended up buying her for 3 US dollars: had they not it was likely the gibbon would have starved to death at the end of a chain.

So attached were they to Kalowatt, that despite leaving their menagerie of animals collected in Borneo with the Central Park Zoo, (including a juvenile female orangutan named Bessie), the silver gibbon was to accompany them to Africa:


Martin had a beautiful little cage made for her, but even so, several steamship companies refused to take her as a passenger, and we were delayed by the rearranging of our schedule.

From - I Married Adventure - Osa Johnson 1940

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  • 2 weeks later...


Museum Title: Ship, Capetown, Eastern Glen, Seattle

(I believe) The steamship upon which the Johnson's sailed from New York to Mombasa - and to think much complaint is made these days by travellers of the long flights and having to change when flying from America to Africa: imagine therefore how much of an undertaking it was in 1921.



Museum Title: African East Coast, Durban, Mombasa, Capetown



Museum Title: Capetown, South Africa, Osa Johnson, Street Scene



Museum Title: Capetown, South Africa?, 1912 (Note this date is incorrect, should read 1921)

Archive records and titling was composed from notes and written details on the back of original images made by Osa's mother before everything was donated to form the basis for the museum in 1961

Interesting point to note with this image is the gentleman with his suit and tailored shorts looking towards the camera.



Museum Title: Capetown South Africa?

Note the open topped tram and distinct lack of vehicular traffic in these last three images.

I would suggest each of the three last images are indeed from Cape Town taken on opposite sides of the same road junction, evidence for this is from the clock tower on the right hand side, middle distance, the various balconies and the tram wires. Also in the background is what looks to be Table Mountain. Perhaps too the first one is of Capetown.

If you can suggest different please do, as it will help both myself and the museum with its identification.



Museum Title: Osa at Capetown, Cecil Rhodes Monument



This is a shot of the Rhodes Monument in Cape Town that I took on my recent trip. One can see that the trees behind have grown obscuring the view to Table Mountain.

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Museum title: African East Coast, Durban, Mombasa, Capetown.

This would have to be one of the bigger ports though there is not enough detail to positively identify which. Having sailed round the Cape, the Johnsons would have docked at Durban, then Zanzibar, (perhaps Dar es Salaam) and then Mombasa. Osa looks out dressed well as per usual.



Museum title: Osa Johnson and Monkey at South African Park, 1923.

(Date is wrong in this picture - as you will see from the following images of the rickshaws, comparing Osa's clothing, this image is part of the same set taken in Durban)



Museum title: Men with Rickshaws, Durban South Africa

An interesting note: why are there so many rickshaws parked outside the Public Lavatories? A question which might have piqued Martin Johnson's inquisitive mind...



Museum title: Osa Johnson and Boys with Rickshaw, Durban South Africa, 1923



Museum title: Durban South Africa, Boy with Rickshaw, 1923

Details of the rickshaws and their drivers. (both images dated incorrectly. Durban was reached in 1921)

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Museum title: Osa Johnson and British Ship Captain, East Coast of Africa



Museum title: African East Coast, Osa Johnson and Kalowatt on Boat



Museum title: Osa on Ship to South Seas, 1912. Once more this is a wrongly titled image. The clothing Osa is wearing is consistent with that which she is wearing in later images from this set. Indeed, Jacquelyn Borgeson says:


Osa's clothing is a tried and true method of solving such riddles!


Osa never went to the South seas in 1912. (Martin had visited the Solomons and New Hebrides with Jack London, 1907-1909). Hence I believe this was taken on the approach to Zanzibar as it was within a small series including shots in and around the island, such as this following image.



Museum title: Zanzibar, Boat in Harbor, Dhow, 1921

Regarding the titling of the photographs, we have already discussed that Osa's mother labelled many of the original photographs following her death and before the foundation of the museum: however, as we progress with this project on Safaritalk so we are able to piece together a more definitive timeline - there will be times when a Safaritalk reader can help to identify a location and if so, please feel free to add your comment to this article: by doing this you will be directly helping the Martin and Osa Johnson Museum with their archives and so play a personal part in keeping their memory alive.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Here is an interesting series of shots which shows Osa, (and possibly Martin's father - see the chap with the straw boater and compare with the image of them leaving New York) leaving the main steam ship for a smaller launch which would have been able to find a berth in the Zanzibar harbour.


Museum title: Osa Johnson on Boat to Africa, Looking Out Basket on Deck



Museum title: Boat to Africa, Basket on Deck



Museum title: Boat to Africa, Basket Cage



Museum title: Osa Johnson on Boat to Africa, Basket on Deck

Note: originally filed in the archive under a different order to the above.

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A note about the images - some you have seen have a white border, some no border at all: this is not down to my poor cropping of the original image, but I am attempting to preserve the image as in the archive, some have borders, some not.

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A brief interlude on Zanzibar...


Museum title: Zanzibar Boats, 1921

Note Stonetown Fort and Beit al-Ajaib (House of Wonders) in the background.



Museum title: Zanzibar, Arab Dhows, 1921



Museum title: Zanzibar Market, 1921



Museum title: Martin and Osa Johnson, Noumea, New Caledonia Beach, 1912

Once more I believe a wrongly titled image: I think this was taken somewhere on Zanzibar during this stop over before Mombasa. (Between 1912 and 1914 the Johnsons were represented by the Keith-Orpheum Circuit playing first rate vaudeville theatres, showing film Martin had taken during the voyage of the Snark and regailing audiences with his stories).

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Arriving at Mombasa, the seaport to British East Africa, we immediately noticed the thick and humid heat that lies on this country's lower lands along the Indian Ocean coast. It took three days to get our eighty-five trunks, boxes, and crates through customs and to arrange for their shipment by rail to Nairobi, though one bright sopt in the apparently endless confusion and swelter was the discovery that refrigerator cars were available. My husband had our film put in one of these as speedily as possible, and from that moment on he seemed not to mind the heat at all. I was at first worried about Father Johnson, but he bought a pith helmet and trailed cheerfully around with Martin from docks to train shed, pencil and pad in hand, doing all the things I usually did to help check our equipment.

From - I Married Adventure - Osa Johnson 1940

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"Why, with a few thousand dollars, a man could live like a millionaire around here." he said delightedly. (Father Johnson) When he learned, however, that it was costing us more to ship our things from Mombasa to Nairobi, a distance of about three hundred and thirty miles, than it had cost to come from the United States to Africa, and that our railroad tickets were costing us eighteen cents a mile, he was frankly bewildered.

From - I Married Adventure - Osa Johnson 1940

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Museum title: Uganda Rail Road, Nairobi


On the evening of the third day, with our stuffy hotel rooms and the heat and confusion of Mombasa left behind, we started our journey to Nairobi on the Uganda railroad. Among the pleasant incongruities of travel in this part of the world was finding ourselves in a modern compartment car drawn by a wood burning engine. The engine, I remember, had a preposterously feminine-sounding whistle which screeched incessantly.


Museum title: Osa in Unidentified Location, Rail Road, 1921



Museum title: Northern Frontier, Three Native Men, 1921



Museum title: Nairobi, Osa Johnson and Porters, 1921

I propose that the above three images were taken at the same station during the journey from Mombasa to Nairobi - from the name board MAKI--U: Perhaps also the chap on the far right in the turban is the train driver who Osa describes as "The engineer, a bearded, beturbaned Sikh... with very engaging grin..."

Nyama wrote to me with an update to the above images: "The three pictures at the railway station were certainly taken at Makindu, north of Chyulu Hills and appr. 160 kms south-east of Nairobi."


We decided with some impatience that this certainly was not an express train, for we stopped at every little station along the way.

From - I Married Adventure - Osa Johnson 1940


When Martin, Osa and Father Johnson arrived in Mombasa, they leased a refrigerated box-car for their photographic equipment. As their train left the Indian Ocean behind and passed through sultry lowland plantations of bananas, pineapples, cashews and other tropical fruits into the wooded coastal hills, the landscape seemed similar to that of South Pacific islands. During the night however they crossed the Maji ya Chumvi Desert and entered the thornbush and boabab country so typical of East Africa's lowland desert scrub.


Source - Exploring with Martin and Osa Johnson by Kenhelm W. Stott, Jr - Martin and Osa Johnson Safari Museum press, 1978

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Thanks to Carl Akeley, we were prepared for the fact that the Uganda railroad did not supply the comforts or the bedding usually found in American Pullman sleeping cars. So when night came I got pillows, sheets, and blankets from our own luggage to make things fairly comfortable. It was ten o'clock when I awoke the next morning, but Martin and his father, both too excited to sleep, had been up since daybreak and siad the wild bush through which we were now traveling was alive with animals.

"Looks as if Noah's Ark might have been spilled out right here," Father Johnson cried, his nose, like Kalowatt's, glued to the windowpane.

From - I Married Adventure - Osa Johnson 1940



As soon as the sun rose they began to see game - zebra and giraffe, warthog and impala, at first in small groups, then in gradually increasing numbers. The train stopped for breakfast at Voi, now the gateway to Tsavo East National Park.

Source - Exploring with Martin and Osa Johnson by Kenhelm W. Stott, Jr - Martin and Osa Johnson Safari Museum press, 1978



We stopped for breakfast at a little village called Voi. The eating house was of galvanised iron, and the inside was surprisingly reminiscent of the Harvey Restaurants on the Santa Fe line.

From - I Married Adventure - Osa Johnson 1940

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Game Warden


Museum title: Government Road, Nairobi



They disembarked at a bustling railway station and proceeded up Government Road through the center of town to the Norfolk Hotel, then on Nairobi's outskirts. The Norfolk is a one-of-a-kind hotel, as distinctive as Singapore's Raffles or Calcutta's Grand. Although tastefully modernised, it retains today the atmosphere that enchanted the Johnsons as it had Theodore Roosevelt before them and every Africa "buff" since.

Source - Exploring with Martin and Osa Johnson by Kenhelm W. Stott, Jr - Martin and Osa Johnson Safari Museum press, 1978

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I had pictured all Englishmen in Africa as wearing pith sun helmets and khaki shorts, but here in Nairobi they dressed exactly as they might have done in London, in good, well-cut, tailored woolens.



Museum title: Street Scene, Location Unknown


Perhaps taken in Nairobi, Osa stands to the right and behind of the two men. Also note the juxtaposition of the oxen drawn cart and the new automobile to its right.


There were dilapidated wagons drawn by mules, ... lively bicyclists, slow pushcarts, and impatient auto mobiles - the latter often of American make.

From - I Married Adventure - Osa Johnson 1940

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Museum title: Nairobi, Government House, 1921



Museum title: Government House, Nairobi, 1921



Museum title: Government House, Band, Nairobi


Three views taken from the rear of Government House. The soldiers in the band are likely to be The Kings African Rifles which are referenced in a later image.


After checking in at the Norfolk, the Johnsons paid their respects to the Governer, Sir Edward Northey, who introduced them to Sir Northrup McMillan of the legislative council. Two other early contacts that were to prove of infinite help were Blayney Percival, formerly of the Game Department, and a young American, Bud Cottar.

Source - Exploring with Martin and Osa Johnson by Kenhelm W. Stott, Jr - Martin and Osa Johnson Safari Museum press, 1978


Museum title: Osa Johnson and Blaney Percival with Masai Men


I find this a fascinating photograph: Percival had years of experience in Kenya before the Johnson's arrival and what stories he must have had to tell round the camp fire.


Blayney Percival, of course, occupies a niche all his own in my affectionate regard. Twenty years as game warden in British East Africa had made him an unquestioned authority on the animals of the country. He knew all the various species and their habits and haunts, and he was extremely generous with both his knowledge and his time. He had a brusqueness of manner that at first was a little disconcerting, but this wore off after a little and we saw that it grew out of a downright exasperation with the so-called big-game hunters who came, in increasing numbers, to fatten their egos with trophies, no matter how obtained, and whose lust to kill would in time become a menace to African wildlife.

From - I Married Adventure - Osa Johnson 1940


Museum title: Bud Cottar, John Walsh and Osa, Isiolo, 1921


(John Walsh features later.)

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  • 1 month later...
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Museum title: Nairobi, First Home


Realizing the necessity of a more permanent residence, the Johnsons rented a bungalow of their own.

Source - Exploring with Martin and Osa Johnson by Kenhelm W. Stott, Jr - Martin and Osa Johnson Safari Museum press, 1978


While Martin busied himself with plans for our first safari, his father and I searched for living quarters and had the good luck to find a lovely eight-room bungalow just twenty minutes from town.


From - I Married Adventure - Osa Johnson 1940


Museum title: Nairobi, Model T Truck



Museum title: Nairobi, Uganda Rail Road, From Home



Museum title: Drying Drum, Martin's Lab, Nairobi, 1921


While Kalowatt enjoyed the garden, they "camped out" in three rooms, devoting the rest of the house to laboratories and a darkroom to be used in later months by A. Radcliffe Dugmore and even Carl Akeley himself.

Source - Exploring with Martin and Osa Johnson by Kenhelm W. Stott, Jr - Martin and Osa Johnson Safari Museum press, 1978



Museum title: Martin's Lab


Martin... had surveyed the possibilities of our eight roomed bungalow and then had a clause added to the lease to the effect that certain drastic alterations could be made... We had brought with us from New York several fifty gallon developing tanks and drums on which to dry the film. When these were set up, together with several long narrow tables, and the windows of the darkroom made lightproof, we had as fine a laboratory as any to be found outside of New York or Hollywood.


Carl Akeley had written various people letting them know of Martin and his mission in this part of the world, with the result that our house - or, rather, the laboratory - became the gathering place for everyone in Nairobi interested in either photography or in the animals of British East Africa. Major A. Radclyffe Dugmore, the famous explorer and photographer, who made some of the best still pictures ever to have come out of Africa, developed hundreds of his photographs in Martin's laboratory.


From - I Married Adventure - Osa Johnson 1940



Museum title: Nairobi Coffee Plantation


(This is possibly Karen and Bror Blixen's farm.)



Museum title: Nairobi, Coffee Drying on Plantation

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Museum title: Porters at Tarlton, Whetham & Burman Safari Outfitters



Museum title: Porters at Tarlton, Whetham & Burman Safari Outfitters


Through the agency of Tarleton, Whetman and Burman Ltd, the Johnsons obtained the services of Jerramani as headman. This was a great stroke of luck since Jerramani had accompanied the Roosevelt expedition Martin had tried so desperately to join twelve years before. For a household staff and safari porters they went to the Bureau of Native Affairs to obtain cook, number one and two house boys, seasoned gun bearers for both Martin and Osa and a host of porters.


Museum title: Kenya, Jerrimani-Gun Bearer


(Note misspelled - should read Jerramani)



Museum title: Chobe Hills, Osa Johnson, Kalowatt and Gun Bearers with Camera


This I believe to be a shot with both Ferraragi (Left with tripod) and Jerramani (with camera).

Source - Exploring with Martin and Osa Johnson by Kenhelm W. Stott, Jr - Martin and Osa Johnson Safari Museum press, 1978

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  • 1 month later...
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The Johnson's first Safari equipped vehicles.


Museum title: Nairobi, Osa Johnson & Daddy Johnson, First Car in Africa



Museum title: Osa Wearing Gingham Jumper by Model T Truck



Museum title: Ford Car on Safari, Kalowatt



Museum title: Martin and Porter Fixing Tire on Model T Truck


A great shot showing all three vehicles together - if this vehicle in the foreground was the lorry capable of carrying as many as forty porters - it must have been a tight squeeze.


With Cottar's aid, they purchased one new safari Ford, a second hand Ford which they converted into a second safari car, and a lorry capable of carrying as many as forty porters.

Source - Exploring with Martin and Osa Johnson by Kenhelm W. Stott, Jr - Martin and Osa Johnson Safari Museum press, 1978

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