“Two Mules and Saddles”: a Monitor reporter’s journey to Ethiopia

March 1, 2017

Detailed summary of Mr. Markham’s Abyssinian trip

“Detailed summary of Mr. Markham’s Abyssinian trip,” undated, Church Archives, Box 20226, Folder 127734.

Mary Baker Eddy founded The Christian Science Monitor in 1908. In the lead editorial of the first edition, she wrote, “The object of the Monitor is to injure no man, but bless all mankind.”1 The newspaper covered national and international news from its inception—and the stories behind Monitor reporting are sometimes as interesting as the dispatches themselves.

In 1935 the Monitor sent correspondent Reuben H. Markham (1887-1949) to Ethiopia, to cover the Second Italo-Ethiopian War. During his time there, Markham dispatched dozens of reports on topics ranging from political meetings to human interest stories. Our collections include the expense report that Markham submitted for this trip. It gives unique insights, offering hints at how the Second Italo-Ethiopian War influenced the impending Second World War, only four years in the future.

Born on February 21, 1887, in Smith County, Kansas,2 Markham spent time as a Protestant missionary before joining the Monitor as a stringer correspondent in 1927.3 He soon became a full member of the staff and primarily covered the Balkan countries before his Ethiopian trip.4 His articles from this period reflect the Monitor’s goals of each day covering a world of news without sensationalism, appealing to readers interested in bettering human conditions. On September 12, 1935, Markham reported on his audience with the Haile Selassie, Emperor of Ethiopia, in which the Emperor offered his side of the Italo-Ethiopian conflict and urged the press to learn more about his country.5 On October 26, the Monitor published Markham’s article on efforts to improve literacy in Ethiopia. He particularly noted that the education of women was a priority and that girls often studied alongside boys.6 On November 4 he published “Foreigners Ever Active In Developing Ethiopia,” a report that highlighted individual foreigners who had established businesses in Ethiopia, as well as concerns about the exploitation of native Ethiopians for cheap labor.7

Markham’s expense report for this trip reveals a great deal about his experience in Ethiopia. For example, his meeting with the Emperor, described in an September 12 article, was a formal occasion; he rented a tuxedo for what he described as “tea with the Emperor.” He paid for 69 days of assistance from interpreters. He also notes the purchase of “two mules and saddles.”8

Markham’s experience with mules was in fact so remarkable that it served as the subject of his September 23, 1935, article, “Mule-Power Vital to Ethiopian Life.” With no reliable public transportation in the capital city of Addis Ababa, the only way to get around was either to take a taxi or to purchase a horse or mule. Taxis were prohibitively expensive, so Markham purchased one mule each for himself and his interpreter.9 While one of the mules was rather slow, the other was swift and obedient—and Markham generously allowed his retainer to ride the more comfortable animal. At the end of his trip, he sold the mules for a fair price and deducted their cost from his expense report. “The selling price,” he later recalled, “was not enough to induce the Monitor to maintain a mule business as a permanent sideline.”10

Learn more about Reuben Markham’s visit to Ethiopia by reading some of the articles he published in The Christian Science Monitor.

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  1. Mary Baker Eddy, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, (Boston: The First Church of Christ, Scientist, 1913), 353.
  2. “U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925,” database on-line, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 1 February 2017), entry for Reuben Henry Markham, 24, 1 February 1912.
  3. Erwin D. Canham, Commitment to Freedom: The Story of The Christian Science Monitor (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1958), 345.
  4. Ibid., 346.
  5. Reuben H. Markham, “Emperor Is Good Handshaker But Never Despotic Monarch, Talk With Haile Selassie Shows,” The Christian Science Monitor, September 12, 1935.
  6. R.H. Markham, “Attacking Illiteracy,” The Christian Science Monitor, October 26, 1935.
  7. R.H. Markham, “Foreigners Ever Active In Developing Ethiopia,” Monitor, November 4, 1935, 4.
  8. “Detailed Summary of Mr. Markham’s Abyssinian Trip, 29 July to 11 November 1935,” n.d., Church Archives, Box 20226, Folder 127734.
  9. R.H. Markham, “Mule-Power Vital to Ethiopian Life,” The Christian Science Monitor, September 23, 1935.
  10. R.H. Markham, “Excerpt from Reminiscences of R.H. Markham,” n.d., Church Archives, Box 20226, Folder 127734.