884.6363/2

The Consul General at London ( Skinner ) to the Secretary of State

No. 9716

Sir: I have the honor to refer to my telegram of June 7, 1920,5 stating briefly that an exploring party representing what is to all intents and purposes, the Standard Oil Company, would reach Aden within the next few days en route to Abyssinia, and suggesting that the American Consul at Aden who is understood to have Abyssinia more or less under his observation, be instructed to accompany the party, in order that the real solidity and importance of the undertaking might be understood, or more particularly in order that our fellow citizens might have some American official representative on the spot in the event of any discussions arising between them and the Abyssinian Government.

For the further information of the Department, I am enclosing herewith a copy of a letter dated June 7, 1920, addressed to me by Mr. Charles E. Dudley of the Anglo-American Oil Company, Limited. The Anglo-American Oil Company, as the Department no doubt knows, is a British Company practically owned by the Standard Oil Company. In this letter Mr. Dudley furnishes all useful particulars with regard to the Concession in Abyssinia and present plans for working it. The Concession is dated August 26th 1915 and one of its conditions is that work must be commenced before August 26th 1920. As the Concession was only brought to the attention of American Oil interests a few weeks ago, it was indispensable that practical steps be taken immediately, and therefore a steamer has been despatched to Jibuti with oil-drilling machinery on board and an exploring party have already proceeded on a passenger steamer as stated above.

I look upon the enterprise as the most important commercial undertaking ever organised for business purposes in Abyssinia, as it is backed by an abundance of capital and represents no political interest of any character. It seems to me, therefore, very important that during the initial stages of the exploration, we should have someone in Abyssinia to whom our fellow citizens can appeal in certain circumstances and while the presence of the American Consul at Aden would answer all immediate requirements, I suggest that the time has come when we should be permanently represented at Addis-Ababa.

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As the Department knows, for many years we have had a very large trade in Abyssinia in American sheeting, indeed the largest trade of the country, and we are importers of the few raw products which Abyssinia has to sell.

The American Oil interests now under consideration have taken up a Concession for a comparatively small area, but it is proposed to explore the country thoroughly, and if oil is found in sufficiently large quantities, to lay a pipe line to the coast and to make other arrangements for handling the business upon a comprehensive scale.

I am very hopeful that under these circumstances the Department will be inclined to take some action in the sense of the foregoing suggestions.

I have [etc.]

Robert P. Skinner
[Enclosure]

Mr. Charles E. Dudley of the Anglo-American Oil Company, Limited, to the American Consul General at London ( Skinner )

Dear Mr. Skinner: Following our conversation of to-day I beg to advise you of the following details of the Expedition now on its way to Abyssinia, in connection with a Petroleum Concession in that country.

Messrs. H. H. Topakyan formerly Persian Consul General in N. York, and Hagob Baghdassarian, brother-in-law of the present Empress of Abyssinia and formerly Controller of the Mint in Abyssinia, are holders of a Mineral Concession including Petroleum, direct from the Abyssinian Government in the Province of Harrar, Abyssinia. This Concession is dated August 26th 1915 and runs for 50 years, but a special condition is that work must be commenced within a period of 5 years, that is before August 26th 1920.

Owing to the War the Concession holders have been unable to commence work and they approached the undersigned and associates with a view of obtaining assistance to not only validate the Concession by preliminary work, but also to actively develop same provided the conditions justify.

While the Concession covers all mineral rights in the Province of Harrar, the undersigned has only obtained the petroleum rights. The terms are that work is to begin as soon as possible, but not later than August 26th 1920. The Abyssinian Government is to receive 8% in value of any results obtained and the remainder is to be divided between the two Concession holders above and the undersigned, in the proportion of 25% and 75%. As a consideration, the [Page 247] undersigned and associates have agreed to spend not less than £25,000 in the expense of an expedition to render the Concession valid, by endeavoring to develop the petroleum deposits if any.

A small expedition therefore, left Marseilles on the 5th inst. for Addis-Ababa via Jibuti. On arrival their first object will be to confirm the Concession rights with the Abyssinian Government and to announce their intention of immediately proceeding to work same. Following them, and leaving here not later than Thursday or Friday of this week, will be a competent oil-well driller and assistant, together with the necessary machinery for a preliminary test well. This apparatus and the personnel will go direct by steamer to Jibuti and from there to the interior. The first work will probably be done in the vicinity of Adde-Gala on the railway at a point about 9 miles from the line, and where petroleum indications have been reported.

A prominent member of the expedition is Dr. Barnum Brown of the American Museum of Natural History in New York, a scientist and geologist who has conducted several expeditions in the Western States, Cuba and South America for the American Institute and the recovery of fossil specimens of great value. Dr. Brown has written in the Geographic Magazine at some length on his previous expeditions. His work with this expedition will be to investigate the geological formation of the country comprised in the above Concession with a view to advising as to further development, if in his opinion, the indications will justify.

I am this morning in receipt of a letter from Hagob Baghdassarian from Marseilles urging strongly that, in view of the American character of the expedition, that the American Consul at Aden be requested to accompany the members of the expedition to Addis-Ababa and give them what official assistance he can. If this can be arranged it will be of great service, and should only be the forerunner of the appointment of a permanent representative of the American Consular Service at Addis-Ababa.

In this connection, and in order that time might be saved, I would strongly recommend that Major S. S. Rooney, an American citizen and late of the U. S. Army, who accompanies Dr. Barnum Brown, be at least temporarily appointed American Consular representative at Addis-Ababa until a successor can be appointed and reach the country.

With the above facts before you, I trust that you will be able to communicate with the Department in Washington in such a manner as will ensure the expedition being supported, as I feel that the interests involved are to a certain extent, national.

Thanking you [etc.]

Chas. E. Dudley
  1. Not printed.