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Cecil the Lion
Photograph: Wikimedia CommonsCecil the Lion

A lion was hunted in Chicago in 1909

Written by
Adam Selzer

With all the uproar this week over a Minnesota man killing a famous Lion in Zimbabwe, one can't help but think that (for better or worse) there was no scandal whatsoever when a lion was "hunted" and killed in Chicago in 1909.

In that year, Col. Theodore Roosevelt left the White House and went on safari in Africa. Though Selig Polyscope, a Chicago-based film company, tried to make a deal to film the excursion, they wound up having to settle for filming a reenactment (which plenty of viewers mistakenly believed was the real deal, a misconception Mr. Selig did nothing to discourage). A lion bred in captivity was brought into a jungle created in the Selig studio at Byron and Claremont, where, having been bred in captivity, it seemed scared and confused. Toward the end of filming the $15,000 movie, the lion was shot and killed before the camera. 

The movie, like almost all Selig Polyscope films, is now lost, though by all accounts it featured a lot of hand-shaking and a lot of Roosevelt saying "dee-lighted." Being a very different time, the fact that an animal had certainly been harmed in the making of the motion picture doesn't seem to have caused much of a stir.

More info on the shoot is at the Mysterious Chicago blog.

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