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Alice Bradley Sheldon, 1915-1987

Alice Bradley Sheldon was born in 1915 and grew up in Chicago. She was the only child of exceptional parents: Herbert Bradley, a lawyer and amateur naturalist, and Mary Hastings Bradley, a popular novelist and travel writer. The Bradleys were wealthy and charming, knew everyone in Chicago society, and held legendary parties in the trophy room of their Hyde Park home.

In 1921-22, the Bradleys made their first trip to Central Africa. Traveling with the hunter and naturalist Carl Akeley, they went to the eastern Congo to study and hunt mountain gorillas.

"It took two hundred porters, each with forty to sixty pounds on his head, to carry everything they had brought: tents, cots, guns, folding bathtubs, formaldehyde, medical supplies, Mary's typewriter, sixty-five boxes of food, four porter loads of glass-plate negatives, and the evening clothes they would need again in British East Africa. [...]

"Gisenyi, near Goma, at the northern end of Lake Kivu, was their destination, and they arrived there at the end of October, nearly two months out of Cape Town. There Mary and Akeley both came down with malaria, so they waited, and then waited again for porters....Meanwhile Alice played 'gorilla hunter' on the beach, attacking the bushes with a native spear."

Six-year-old Alice in front of her tent, in her traveling clothes.

Mary Bradley, gun bearer, and guides, hunting gorillas. The gorillas the party shot are still on view in New York City's American Museum of Natural History.

On her second trip to Africa, at age nine, Alice longed for a gun of her own.

Mary Bradley in an author photo for Caravans and Cannibals, 1926.

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Alice in the Bradleys' "African Room."