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Theodore Roosevelt's 1914 trip to Brazil and a numismatic gold coin mystery

WillieBoyd2WillieBoyd2 Posts: 5,027 ✭✭✭✭✭
edited April 28, 2023 6:30AM in World & Ancient Coins Forum

In 1912 former United States president Theodore Roosevelt lost his re-election campaign and was looking for something to do.

Usually former American presidents who have lost elections retire to write their memoirs but not Theodore Roosevelt.

In 1913 he was invited to give speeches in various South America countries.

He received an interesting invitation from Brazil's minister of foreign affairs to explore an "unknown river", the "River of Doubt". Theodore's son Kermit was working in South America and joined the expedition, which was led by Colonel Candido Rondon, Brazil's famed Amazon jungle explorer. There were fifteen Brazilian porters (camaradas) along on the expedition who did most of the work.

The trip is described in the 2005 book The River of Doubt - Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey by Candice Millard.

The expedition lasted from February to April 1914 and was a real jungle horror story with actual cannibals, deadly snakes, insects, diseases, infections, deaths, a murder, and starvation. When they were able to exit the river Theodore Roosevelt was taken to a hospital in Manaus to recover and then boarded a steamship for the trip back to the United States.

The book noted that Theodore Roosevelt gave two gold coins to each of the members of the expedition.

But what were the gold coins? Could they have been some of the American gold coins which, as president, Theodore Roosevelt had a part in designing?

Well, the gold coin question has been answered in another book.

The book is the recent (2023) book Into the Amazon: The Life of Candido Rondon by Larry Rohter.

Then Rondon and the other Brazilians came on board the steamship Aidan to say goodbye. Roosevelt shook hands with every camarada, gave each two gold sovereigns and made a speech, which Kermit translated into Portuguese. "You are all heroes," he told them, adding that they were "a fine set-brave, patient, obedient and enduring." Nor was Simplicio (a camarada who died) forgotten: Roosevelt directed that his gold coins be sent to his mother.

British gold sovereigns were an international currency then. They were used all over the world, including in South America.

A British gold sovereign, minted too late for Theodore Roosevelt's purposes:

image
Great Britain King George V Sovereign 1915

:)

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Comments

  • TwoKopeikiTwoKopeiki Posts: 9,505 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Cool story. Now to get the ebook :)

  • BillJonesBillJones Posts: 33,382 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I might also add that Theodore Roosevelt’s experience there broke his health. He was never the same. I heard in a documentary about that trip that when he was very ill, asked that he be left behind to save the others. They didn’t leave him.

    Retired dealer and avid collector of U.S. type coins, 19th century presidential campaign medalets and selected medals. In recent years I have been working on a set of British coins - at least one coin from each king or queen who issued pieces that are collectible. I am also collecting at least one coin for each Roman emperor from Julius Caesar to ... ?
  • ExbritExbrit Posts: 1,233 ✭✭✭✭

    @WillieBoyd2 said:
    In 1912 former United States president Theodore Roosevelt lost his re-election campaign and was looking for something to do.

    Usually former American presidents who have lost elections retire to write their memoirs but not Theodore Roosevelt.

    In 1913 he was invited to give speeches in various South America countries.

    He received an interesting invitation from Brazil's minister of foreign affairs to explore an "unknown river", the "River of Doubt". Theodore's son Kermit was working in South America and joined the expedition, which was led by Colonel Candido Rondon, Brazil's famed Amazon jungle explorer. There were fifteen Brazilian porters (camaradas) along on the expedition who did most of the work.

    The trip is described in the 2005 book The River of Doubt - Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey by Candice Millard.

    The expedition lasted from February to April 1914 and was a real jungle horror story with actual cannibals, deadly snakes, insects, diseases, infections, deaths, a murder, and starvation. When they were able to exit the river Theodore Roosevelt was taken to a hospital in Manaus to recover and then boarded a steamship for the trip back to the United States.

    The book noted that Theodore Roosevelt gave two gold coins to each of the members of the expedition.

    But what were the gold coins? Could they have been some of the American gold coins which, as president, Theodore Roosevelt had a part in designing?

    Well, the gold coin question has been answered in another book.

    The book is the recent (2023) book Into the Amazon: The Life of Candido Rondon by Larry Rohter.

    Then Rondon and the other Brazilians came on board the steamship Aidan to say goodbye. Roosevelt shook hands with every camarada, gave each two gold sovereigns and made a speech, which Kermit translated into Portuguese. "You are all heroes," he told them, adding that they were "a fine set-brave, patient, obedient and enduring." Nor was Simplicio (a camarada who died) forgotten: Roosevelt directed that his gold coins be sent to his mother.

    British gold sovereigns were an international currency then. They were used all over the world, including in South America.

    A British gold sovereign, minted too late for Theodore Roosevelt's purposes:

    image
    Great Britain King George V Sovereign 1915

    :)

    Sovereigns were/are the most recognized gold coin in the world and have many fascinating stories attached to them throughout the centuries. I haven’t heard of this one before and thank you for posting it.

  • jt88jt88 Posts: 2,781 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Interesting story. Thanks for posting it.

  • 291fifth291fifth Posts: 23,855 ✭✭✭✭✭

    There is a PBS show that covers that expedition. It may have been part of the "American Experience" series. It is an excellent show that features many of the original movies taken during the expedition.

    All glory is fleeting.
  • ExbritExbrit Posts: 1,233 ✭✭✭✭

    @291fifth said:
    There is a PBS show that covers that expedition. It may have been part of the "American Experience" series. It is an excellent show that features many of the original movies taken during the expedition.

    Saw it and it was good. No mention of the sovereigns, however.

  • coinkatcoinkat Posts: 22,675 ✭✭✭✭✭

    TR was injured during this expedition and that injury manifested itself into a severe infection. Not only was he never the same after this, his premature death in 1919 ended the speculation of a Presidential campaign in 1920. He had mended enough fences to the point that he had a reasonable shot at the Republican Nomination in 1920. A third Roosevelt term could have really changed the course of the 20th Century.

    Experience the World through Numismatics...it's more than you can imagine.

  • BillJonesBillJones Posts: 33,382 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @coinkat said:
    TR was injured during this expedition and that injury manifested itself into a severe infection. Not only was he never the same after this, his premature death in 1919 ended the speculation of a Presidential campaign in 1920. He had mended enough fences to the point that he had a reasonable shot at the Republican Nomination in 1920. A third Roosevelt term could have really changed the course of the 20th Century.

    Yes, the Republicans nominated Warren G. Harding instead. That didn’t work out very well.

    Retired dealer and avid collector of U.S. type coins, 19th century presidential campaign medalets and selected medals. In recent years I have been working on a set of British coins - at least one coin from each king or queen who issued pieces that are collectible. I am also collecting at least one coin for each Roman emperor from Julius Caesar to ... ?
  • worldcoinguyworldcoinguy Posts: 2,998 ✭✭✭✭

    Interesting thread. There must have been an Indiana Jones spirit of adventure in the Roosevelt bloodline. Maybe Theodore Roosevelt was jealous of his distant cousin FDR's time on Oak Island 3 years earlier in 1909.

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