|In 1903 the first American diplomatic mission arrived in Ethiopia.
The story is told by Robert P. Skinner, Commissioner to the mission, in
of To-Day, subtitled "An Account of the First Mission Sent by the American
Government to the Court of the King of Kings (1903-1904)" (Longmans, Green
& Co., New York, 1906).
Most of the photographs were taken by the expedition, but some of the photos acquired during a side trip to Harrar are credited to Postmaster, J.A. Michel. Ras Makonnen and Michel had visited the American camp together.
During the trek from Dire Daoua [terminus of the railway at that time] to Addis Abeba the expedition arrived at Choba. "As this was the first telephone station on our route, it was decided to send a few messages to inquiring friends. It was December 13, and we had been out of touch with the great world for two weeks. The telephone director was amiability itself. He 'allooed' vigorously in our behalf, but M. Michel, the very capable gentleman in charge at Harrar, was absent, it being Sunday, and communication could not be established. (page 60)" A message to forward was left with the telephone director, who could not even read Amharic. When the expedition returned a month later the message had not been sent, but the offer was made to immediately send it.
The expedition of officers and soldiers were greeted at Addis Abeba by Leon Chefneaux, Menelik's advisor [Alfred Ilg was absent in Europe at the time]. Meetings with Emperor Menelik II were most cordial, being held in the Aderach, or audience hall. The arrival of Menelik and his entourage is shown in one photo, while the American party is
As the American party prepared to leave, they were decorated with the Star of Ethiopia medal.
"His Majesty personally handed the medallion and ribbon of the Star of Ethiopia to each of the five officers present, leaving that task to the Grand Chamberlain when it came to the turn of the men. The text of the patent accompanying the decorations reads:
"'The Lion of the Tribe of Judah has
conquered. Menelik II, chosen the Lord King of Kings of Ethiopia. To all
who see these presents, greeting! As the kingdoms of the earth decorate
the doers therein for their discernment, their intelligence, their valiance,
and their ability, so we decorate , class officer, in our order of the
Star of Ethiopia, the insignia of which he has our permission to wear upon
"After all our soldiers had stepped forward, saluted, and retired, it was noticed that two medals still remained in the silver dish from which they had been distributed. Now, it had been mentioned quite casually to the Emperor on the day of our arrival that two of the soldiers had been returned to their ship immediately after reaching the railway terminus on account of illness. I had completely forgotten ever having spoken of this matter until the Emperor pointed to these two remaining medals, and said:
"'Two of your American soldiers could not come any further than Dire-Daouah with you on account of being sick. I don't want them to be left out of this little ceremony. It marks the beginning in our relations, which will have some place in history. So I wish you to take these medals back with you, and present them in my name to the two sick men as souvenirs of this occasion.'
"It seemed to me that as an evidence of kindly thought and tact this occurrence is worthy of permanent record. The decorations conferred upon the commissioned officers of the United States present have been since deposited in the Department of State at Washington, as the statute requires. (pages 202-4)"
There were post offices at Harar and Addis Abeba, but none at Dire Dawa during this first American mission. Someone must have sent letters. Can anyone illustrate a cover? A list of the members of the American Party follows.
UNITED STATES AND THE KING OF ETHIOPIA
THE COMMERCIAL RELATIONS BETWEEN THE TWO COUNTRIES
Signed at Addis-Ababa, December 27, 1903.
By THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
TREATY OF COMMERCE.
Done at Addis-Ababa this seventeenth day of December, one thousand eight hundred and ninety-six, in the year of grace (corresponding to December 27, 1903).
[Seal of MENELIK II.]
And whereas it is provided by the said treaty that it shall take effect' if ratified by the Government of the United States of America, and 'if this ratification shall be notified to His Majesty King Menelik II., King of Kings of Ethiopia, within the period of one year';
And whereas the said treaty has been duly ratified on the part of the United States of America, and notification of such ratification was given to His Majesty Menelik II., King of Kings of Ethiopia, on the second day of August, one thousand nine hundred and four;
Now, therefore, be it known that I, Theodore Roosevelt, President of the United States of America, have caused the said treaty to be made public, to the end that the same and every article and clause thereof may be observed and fulfilled with good faith by the United States and the citizens thereof.
In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States of America to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington this thirtieth day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand nine hundred and four, and of the Independence of the United States of America the one hundred and twenty-ninth.
[SEAL] By the President: THEODORE ROOSEVELT.
FRANCIS B. LOOMIS,
Note: The treaty was written in French and Amharic. The English is a translation.
Last update: October 10, 2011