1908, Owego native and naturalist, J. Alden Loring received notice from the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C., that he was to accompany former United States President Theodore Roosevelt on an expedition to Africa. Loring was charged with collecting animal specimens for the Natural History Museum in D.C. The expedition began in 1909, during which the group traveled through the Suez Canal, down the Red Sea, and around the coast of British East Africa to modern-day Somalia. There they traveled into Kenya by train. The men on the expedition had plenty of supplies for the trip and were met and guided through Africa by local tribes.
In June of 1909, an event happened that would change Loring’s life. The group heard news of a lion that was said to be near their camp. This lion had injured an Englishman and killed two natives trying to fend it off. Not long after this tragic event, Loring and another member of the expedition, Major Edgar A. Means, left the group to explore. They investigated the rumor of lions being nearby and upon spotting some, they took up positions to fire when they had clean shots. Loring could see one particular lion approaching him, about fifty yards away. Loring shot at the lion, hitting it several times. It however, did not go down. Only feet away from Loring, the lion charged at him and the other men. Finally, Loring used a second gun to mortally wound it. The lion rushed past Loring and after several feet, it finally fell to the ground. Upon examination, Loring saw that every shot he had taken hit the animal.
They took the lion back to the camp, where Theodore Roosevelt was very impressed. He gave Loring a rifle better able to shoot big game in Africa. After the expedition was over, Roosevelt sent other gifts, one of them being the Marlin 25-36 rifle that Loring used to shoot the lion. Accompanying the gifts was a letter from Roosevelt, expressing his admiration and appreciation for what Loring did for the expedition and for the Smithsonian.
Loring’s rifle, safari hat, and the letter from President Roosevelt are on display at the Tioga County Historical Society.
-Tom Mazza, Administrative Assistant