Martin and Osa Johnson

Martin Johnson (Oct. 9, 1884 – Jan. 13, 1937) and his wife Osa Johnson (née Leighty, Mar. 14, 1894 – Jan. 7, 1953) were adventurers from Kansas. In the first half of the 20th century an American couple, Martin and Osa Johnson, from Lincoln and Chanute, Kansas respectively, captured the public's imagination through their films and books of adventure in exotic, far-away lands.


Photographers, explorers, marketers, naturalists and authors, Martin and Osa studied the wildlife and peoples of East and Central Africa, the South Pacific Islands and British North Borneo. They explored then unknown lands and brought back knowledge of civilizations thousands of miles away through their films, writings and lectures.

Martin Johnson took part as a crew member and cook in Jack London's 1907–1909 voyage across the Pacific aboard the Snark. After that, he started a traveling road show that toured the United States displaying photographs and artifacts collected on the voyage. He met Osa Leighty while passing through her hometown of Chanute, Kansas, and they married in 1910. After seven years, Martin and Osa raised enough money to depart for new adventures, going first to the Solomon Islands, and later Borneo, and still later Africa.

Martin Johnson died in the crash of a Western Air Express commercial flight near Burbank, California in 1937, while Osa was severely injured but recovered. By October 1937, the New York Times was publishing dispatches of Osa's latest trip to Africa, in which she described lifestyles and practices of the Masai and other tribes.

She died in New York City of a heart attack in 1953.

The Martin and Osa Johnson Safari Museum
The Martin and Osa Johnson Safari Museum is located in Osa's hometown of Chanute, Kansas. Formed in 1961 to preserve the Johnsons' achievements and to encourage further research into their fields of study, the Safari Museum (as it was originally named) has grown and flourished. The museum started with a core collection of the Johnsons' films, photographs, manuscripts, articles, books, and personal belongings donated by Osa's mother. The museum shares the beautiful old railroad depot with the Chanute Library.

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