Thanks, ModernNotion, for telling us exactly how horrible a person Jameson Irish Whiskey heir James Jameson actually was. After hearing this story, we may never sleep again.
The (totally true) tale goes like this: While on expedition in Africa, Jameson decided that he not only wanted to witness cannibalism first-hand, he also wanted the opportunity to sketch it. Accounts differ on how everything happened, but all seem to agree that he paid the price of six handkerchiefs to buy a young slave girl—either 10 or 11 years old, depending on which account you read. He then donated the girl to some friendly cannibals so he could watch them kill and eat her.
In November 1890, the New York Times published two differing accounts of what happened. The first came on November 14, from Swahili interpreter Assad Farran, who allegedly came along on the trip and claimed to be an eyewitness to this atrocious act.
Screengrab via New York Times
By the time these accusations came to light, Jameson himself was dead. So Jameson’s wife submitted a letter dated August 8, 1888 to the NYT in her late husband’s defense. It was published on November 15, 1890.
Screencap: The NYT
Another account exists in the biography about explorer Henry Morton Stanley, titled Stanley: The Impossible Life of Africa’s Greatest Explorer (published by Yale University Press in 2008). According to author Tim Jeal, one of Stanley’s assistants, seeking to deflect attention from himself, told Stanley about this horrible thing that Jameson had allegedly done. Stanley was skeptical, and intended to question Jameson about the incident himself. But then he found Jameson’s journal, which corroborated the entire horrible incident.
While neither the alleged sketches nor the watercolors are known to exist today, you can read the full text of Jameson’s journals here.
Jameson’s account of the incident reads a little differently than Farran’s. Jameson writes that the whole thing started as a joke, and that he wanted to see if cannibalism was a real thing after one of his guides started telling him about cannibal tribes in the area they were traveling in.
“I sent my boy for six handkerchiefs, thinking it was all a joke, and that they were not in earnest, but presently a man appeared, leading a young girl of about ten years old by the hand, and I then witnessed the most horribly sickening sight I am ever likely to see in my life. He plunged a knife quickly into her breast twice, and she fell on her face, turning over on her side. Three men then ran forward, and began to cut up the body of the girl; finally her head was cut off, and not a particle remained, each man taking his piece away down the river to wash it. The most extraordinary thing was that the girl never uttered a sound, nor struggled, until she fell.
Until the last moment, I could not believe that they were in earnest. I have heard many stories of this kind since I have been in this country, but never could believe them, and I never would have been such a beast as to witness this, but I could not bring myself to believe that it was anything save a ruse to get money out of me, until the last moment.
The girl was a slave captured from a village close to this town, and the cannibals were Wacusu slaves, and natives of this place, called Mculusi. When I went home I tried to make some small sketches of the scene while still fresh in my memory, not that it is ever likely to fade from it. No one here seemed to be in the least astonished at it.”
We know we definitely need a drink after reading this—but maybe not Jameson.
[via Modern Notion]