The Adventurers Martin and Osa Johnson:
Osa Leighty was born and raised in Chanute, Kansas. Although born in Rockford, Illinois, Martin Johnson grew up in Lincoln, Kansas, and Independence, Kansas. 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 May 1910.
In the first half of the 20th century, Martin and Osa Johnson, captured the public's imagination through their films and books of adventure in exotic, faraway 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 film footage and photographs, offering many Americans their first understanding of these distant lands.
Beginning in 1917 and continuing for 20 years, Martin and Osa wrote 6 books and produced 13 documentary films chronicling their adventures.
Martin Johnson died in the crash of a Western Air Express Boeing 247 commercial flight near Newhall, California in 1937. Osa was severely injured but recovered. Osa later died in New York of a heart attack in 1953.
Osa Johnson's autobiography I Married Adventure was the best-selling non fiction book of 1940.
Martin and Osa's Legacy:
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 Public Library.
In 1998 the Martin and Osa Johnson Safari Museum was named by the History Channel Traveler website as one of the "Top-Ten Historic Sites for Valentine's Day" that "capture romance, American-style." In 2001 The Pitch (Kansas City newspaper) named Chanute, Kansas, and the museum as "Best Romantic Day Trip."
The Walt Disney Company was the first organization to license Johnson film from the Martin and Osa Johnson Safari Museum for the 1976 program "Filming Nature's Mysteries." Disney again licensed Johnson film as part of the "Rafiki's Planet Watch" at Disney's Animal Kingdom when it opened April 22, 1998. The architects and Disney team developing a new "safari lodge" borrowed Johnson films from the museum in 1997 and 1998 for research and inspiration. Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge opened April 16, 2001. Included is an ongoing exhibit of 36 Johnson photographs along with an original copy of Osa Johnson's 1940 autobiography I Married Adventure in the lodge's Sunset Lounge.
Martin and Osa Johnson were the namesake, inspiration and background story for the 2006-2010 Martin + Osa clothing line and national chain of 28 Martin + Osa stores launched by American Eagle Outfitters. Martin + Osa used references to the Johnsons on their clothing and accessories. Examples included "1910" (the year Martin and Osa married), "S-38" (refers to the Sikorsky S-38 amphibian airplane flown by the Johnsons) and "NC-52V" (the aircraft registration number of their Sikorsky S-39). Similarly Osa Johnson’s autobiography inspired a 2011 Kate Spade "I Married Adventure" zebra-striped purse.