Childs Frick (1883–1965), son of Pittsburgh industrialist Henry Clay Frick (1849–1919), led two expeditions to Africa. The first, in 1909–10, was to British East Africa where he collected 126 mammals for Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Few details of this trip have come to light in archival research. The second, in 1911–12, officially the Childs Frick Abyssinian Expedition, also included British East Africa. It is well documented in the scientific literature and various archives and is the main focus of this website. Accompanying Frick on the second expedition were Edgar A. Mearns (1856–1916), Dr. Donald G. Rafferty of Pittsburgh (1882–1930), friend Alfred Bradley, and field collector John C. Blick, who later became an associate of the Frick Laboratory at the American Museum of Natural History. Over 500 mammals were collected for the Carnegie Museum and some 5,000 birds were collected for the United States National Museum, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. The accompanying story map shows the route that was taken by the second expedition as well as trip highlights.*
The Frick party arrived on the African continent after a sea voyage of three weeks then journeyed inland by rail, leaving from Djibouti on November 25, 1911. Traveling south through today’s Ethiopia and Kenya, the bulk of the route was by foot or pack animals. The expedition picked up the Uganda Railway in southern Kenya and continued to the east coast, where they sailed from the port of Mombasa on September 16, 1912.
Original exhibits in the Carnegie Museum of Natural History have been updated in recent years, but many of the mammals that Frick collected over a hundred years ago are on view in the museum’s Hall of African Wildlife. Prepared by chief taxidermist, Remi H. Santens, and his brother, Joseph A. Santens, the exhibits display animals in natural poses with vegetation from their native environment, a revolutionary concept when first displayed. The taxidermy team’s artistic talent and meticulous attention to detail resulted in a collection of extraordinarily lifelike African wildlife that still meets 21st-century exhibition standards.
*Place names shown are those that were in use at the time of the expedition. Modern names are in parentheses.