Expedition History, 1919-1920

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  • Armstrong, Joseph
  • Porter, Henry
  • Kohler, Henry N
  • Scott, George
  • Horne, Pliny
  • Stowell, William 1885-1919
  • Raven, Henry Cushier 1889-1944
  • Heller, Edmund 1875-1939
  • Shantz, H. L (Homer LeRoy) 1876-1958
  • Thierry, Edward M
  • United States National Museum
  • United States Department of Agriculture
  • Universal Film Manufacturing Company


  • This is an expedition history. It does not describe actual records. The Smithsonian Institution Archives uses these histories as brief accounts of expeditions to set it in its historical context. If we have identified SIA collections containing documentation of this expedition, they will be listed under "components," or "see more items in," below. Clicking on those links will open a brief description of relevant records.
  • Annual Report of the Smithsonian Institution, 1919, page 9
  • Annual Report of the Smithsonian Institution, 1920, pages 20-21, 134
  • Annual Report of the Smithsonian Institution, 1921, pages 9, 37, 129
  • Guide to the Smithsonian Archives, 1996, index
  • Explorations and Field-Work of the Smithsonian Institution, 1920, pages 21-31
  • The objective of Smithsonian-Universal Film Manufacturing Company African Expedition was to secure additional specimens of plants and animals, primarily from the interior of Africa, as well as South Africa. It began on July 16, 1919 and ended July 14, 1920 and traveled to Cape Town, Victoria Falls, western Rhodesia, Lake Tanganjika, Ujiji, former German East Africa and the Uganda Protectorate. Moving picture photographers from the Universal Film Manufacturing Company accompanied the expedition, in order to document the life of interior Africa. While Edmund Heller was officially in charge of the expedition, his title of expedition leader was in name only. During the expedition there was a railroad incident in which two members of the expedition died: Joseph Armstrong, business director, and William Stowell, cinematographer and director. Immediately afterward, the Institution received conflicting accounts about which two members died. There were many conflicts among the team members of the expedition regarding the leadership and scientific quality of the expedition. After the return of the expedition, Universal Film Manufacturing Company sent the film recordings to the Smithsonian along with proposed titles for the Institution's approval. It was sensed that the film company was more interested in the creation of an entertaining film than accurate scientific work and the Institution distanced itself as far as possible from the results of the expedition. The materials collected were used to augment the United States National Museum (USNM) collection from Africa.
  • Other members of the expedition included Henry Cushier Raven, Smithsonian collector, naturalist and zoologist; H. L. Shantz, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) botanist; Edward M. Thierry, journalist; Pliny Horne, photographer; George Scott, cameraman; Mr. Denny, Universal Film Manufacturing Company replacement photographer; Henry N. Kohler, Universal Film Manufacturing Company photographer and developer; Mr. Derr, assistant to Kohler; Henry Porter, expedition assistant; Mr. Hinton, assistant to Scott; and a Mr. Brown, hunter.
  • This expedition is also referred to as the Smithsonian African Expedition, under the direction of Edmund Heller in conjunction with Universal Film Manufacturing Co.

Repository Loc.

Smithsonian Institution Archives Capital Gallery, Suite 3000, MRC 507; 600 Maryland Avenue, SW; Washington, DC 20024-2520


  • 1919
  • 1919-1920


  • Zoology
  • Plants
  • Botany


  • Cape Town (South Africa)
  • Victoria Falls (Zambia and Zimbabwe)
  • Africa
  • Uganda
  • South Africa
  • German East Africa
  • Tanganyika, Lake
  • Ujiji (Tanzania)
  • Rhodesia and Nyasaland


Mixed archival materials

Local number

SIA AH00414

Full Record

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