and the American West©1989 and 2009 Rolf Achilles, revised and
corrected July/August 2009
This text, originally
a booklet and guide to an exhibition, Organizing the
Unknown: German Science and the American West, first shown at the Nedwberry Library, Chicago, 1989, and then toured to various high schools
and libraries in Illinois, attempts to bring together a great diversity of material on some of the contributions made by
German scientists, travelers, explorers and writers to our understanding
of the American West. The original sources are all found in the Newberry
subject is so vast that no attempt to be inclusive has been made. Further research would quickly illuminate other fields
of activity, engineering for one, not touched on here. At its core
Organizing the Unknown is about travel, local and world wide, for scientific
purposes. This type of travel developed in the course of the eighteenth
century and was fed, in turn, by the new experiences and knowledge gathered. It continues today.
By the time
Alexander von Humboldt undertook his expedition to South and Central America (1799-1804), travel writing,
especially the scientific variety, was defined as a genre with specific rules. En route the traveler recorded “Land
und Leute” (land and people) in day-to-day experiences, observations and sketches. Back home, this clutter of facts
was organized and published, often in the letter-from-afar form. This format gave the illusion of being personal as it
focused on a specific topic or portion of a journey. Adventures were
spaced at acceptable intervals, allowing the reader to feel a part
of the narrative. Travelers and readers soon learned that a culture could also be studied through its remains: art, relics,
and bones. The collecting expedition was launched. Often scientific in scope, its end was the creation of collections to
be viewed by the bourgeois populace in museums, pavilions, zoos and
expositions expressly built for this purpose.
The exhibition was curated and its guide written by Rolf
Achilles with the assistance of John Aubrey and sponsored by the
Newberry Library’s D’Arcy McNickle Center for the History of the American Indian, Frederick E. Hoxie, Director.
Robert E. Bieder, Indiana University, served as Historic Consultant. While many scholars, writers and explorers, past
and present, have made this text and exhibition possible, and the
project staff is grateful for the assistance of Dr. Walter Breuer,
Richard H. Brown, John B. Jentz, Robert Karrow, Max Maldacker, Jay Miller and Leo Schelbert, the synthesis presented here,
right or wrong, is the responsibility of the curator.
Most Germans became acquainted with North America through travel literature and guidebooks,
which gave, detailed information of sites, peoples and cultures immigrants
might encounter. In Germany the ethnographic novel flourished. And intellectuals
such as Wieland, Herder, Lessing, Schiller, and Kant watched American events with a sympathetic interest as America’s
success with democracy was widely admired in Germany where idealism and the pursuit of democracy were vigorously suppressed
by the Imperial government. Goethe had some understanding of the significance of the frontier in United States history
and believed that, in contrast to Europe, America might develop as
a continent dedicated to peace. To many Germans Washington and Franklin
were heroes of liberty. As a result, many well-educated Germans visited North America broadly while others emigrated
to the central and western United States specifically. Their education and idealism served their new home well. In turn,
James Fenimore Cooper’s The Spy, appeared in German translation in 1824. All his books
were phenomenally popular in Germany. Books by German authors such as Freidrich Gerstacker, helped export an
image of America based on facts and personal experiences. Quickly translated, these works were also very popular in England
and the United States.
Besides New York, Boston and Philadelphia, New Orleans was a
major port of entry to the American West. It had direct trans-Atlantic links to Hamburg and Bremen, Germany’s most
important harbors and emigration ports. From New Orleans the traveler
could go to Texas, where there were a number of German communities,
or steam up the Mississippi to St. Louis and then up the Missouri valley into the recently acquired Louisiana Territory.
When Napoleon Bonaparte became ruler
of France, he opened negotiations with Spain for the retrocession of Louisiana to France. By the treaty of San Ildefonso
(1796) Louisiana again became French territory, but remained under
Spanish administration until 1803. Despite Spanish control Louisiana
remained French in culture.
news of the retrocession of Louisiana reached President Thomas Jefferson. He instructed Robert Livingston, the American
Minister to Paris, to attempt to purchaser the Isle de Orleans (that
part of Louisiana which lay east of the Mississippi) and sent James
Monroe to help. After some negotiating Livingston and Monroe purchased the entire colony, an unknown area larger than
the colonial United States, for $15,000.000. The contract did not specify boundaries, and when this was called to the
attention of Talleyrand, Napoleon’s Foreign Minister, he replied:
”… you have made a noble bargain for yourselves, and
I suppose you will make the most of it.”
than any other group, German travelers and immigrants entered the American West through St. Louis. In the
midst of the German rush the need to establish a consulate there arose.
The first appeal came from Dr. Georg Engelmann (1804-84), a doctor and naturalist.
On a visit to Berlin in 1840, he urged the cause of a Prussian Consulate in St. Louis. Engelmann noted that from 1833
to 1840 the German population had increased from 20 or 30 to 6,000
while the total population had increased from 7,000 to 20,000, and
estimated the total German population of Missouri and Illinois, with St. Louis as its center, at about 50,000. Engelmann
proposed a number of candidates and cited E.K. Angelrodt (1799-1869) as the most notable German merchant of the community
and favored him for the position. Five years of wrangling followed. Finally, on 21 April 1845, the King of Prussia, in
a Cabinet decree issued at Potsdam, and approved later by President
Buchanan in Washington D.C., Angelrodt was commissioned.
Throughout his tenure, Angelrodt was
very supportive of immigration and helped where he could to make the life of German travelers and immigrants easier. He
also arranged for the shipment of many of Engelmann’s botanical
specimens to Germany. Engelmann's personal botanical collection,
in 1857 he bought a 62,000 species plant collection in Europe, became the nucleus of the now world-famous Missouri Botanical
Gardens in St. Louis. The Engelmann Spruce was named in his honor, probably in 1861 or 1862 by his friend
Charles Parry who collected Picea engelmannii in Colorado. It was Engelmann who actually published Parry's
description of this tree in 1863. In an 1879 publication, Engelmann also named and described Picea pungens,
another famous tree that Parry discovered, the Colorado blue spruce.
Johann Friedrich Gustav von Eschscholtz, 1793-1831, surgeon, Professor of
Anatomy, Director of the Zoological Cabinet, and participant in two
scientific trips around the world with the Otto von Kotzebue Expeditions
of 1815-1818 and 1823-1826. On the first trip, the California poppy was collected near present-day
San Francisco and named for him, Eschscholzia californica, by his
friend and fellow on-board scientist, Adelbert von Chamisso (of the
genus Chamissonis). Eschscholtz later returned the favor in the name Lupinus chamissonis.
Many other species were named for Eschscholtz.
first German to scientifically explore the Americas was Friedrich Wilhelm Alexander von Humboldt, born in Berlin
in 1769, and died there in 1859. From 1787 to 1792 he studied at the universities in Frankfurt an der Oder and Göttingen,
at the Academy of Commerce in Hamburg and the Academy of Mining in Freiberg. His studies familiarized him with technology,
botany, economics, geology, mining science and antiphlogistic chemistry. In 1790, he traveled to the Netherlands, then
to England and Paris with George Foster, the naturalist who had been
with Captain James Cook, the English explorer and navigator, on his
second round the world voyage (1772-75).
1792, von Humboldt entered the Prussian mining service. While in this service he invented a number of machines,
continued his plant experiments, began his lifelong study of geomagnetism and founded a free mining school with is own
Humboldt lived in the Age of Romanticism but was a thorough empiricist.
For him, facts, measurements and numbers were the cornerstone of science. He believed in universal
harmony and equilibrium in nature. Though a founder of geography as a science, von Humboldt had as his major goal a comprehensive
view of nature to which the earth sciences would contribute significantly.
In 1796, he became financially independent, left the civil service, and began
to plan a “great journey beyond Europe.”
next year he went to Paris, where he met the French botanist Aimé Jacques Alexandre Bonpland (1773-1858)
with whom he traveled to South America in 1799, remaining there until the end of 1804. They traveled by foot, packhorse,
canoe and sailing vessel through every conceivable type of terrain
in what is now Venezuela, Cuba, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and Mexico.
Along the way von Humboldt and Bonpland recorded, sketched, described, measured and compared what they observed, and they
also gathered some 60,000-plant specimens, 6,300 of which were hitherto unknown in Europe.
Von Humboldt made maps and amassed exhaustive data on
magnetism, meteorology, climatology, geology, mineralogy, oceanography,
zoology, plant geography and physiognomy. He also undertook ethnological,
historical and linguistic investigations, studied Indian monuments, current population figures, social conditions (he
found slavery to be the evil of humankind) and economic development.
He navigated the Orinoco and Magdalena rivers and set a new mountaineering
altitude record with his ascent of Chimborazo in June 1802. Later, others would call this trip “the scientific
discovery of America.”
1804, before returning to Europe, von Humboldt visited Washington
D.C. where he met several times with President Jefferson, who found his
information on New Spain (Mexico) of special interest. In Philadelphia the American Philosophical Society elected him
a member. Most of von Humboldt’s later life was spent in Berlin
editing his enormous collection of notebooks and writing Kosmos,
a scientific account grasping the entire material world from the galaxies to the geography
of the various mosses, presented in a vivid and pleasing language. It proved very popular.
Although written in German and French, his works were
quickly translated into English and other languages with profound
effects, and they lent major impetus to the study of the Americas.
His monographs on Cuba and Mexico were the first treatments of geography in terms of science, politics and economics. They
set the standard on which most Europeans, American and all German science and exploration rested for most of the nineteenth
Humboldt opened the Americas to scientific study, the systematic scientific exploration of the American West began with
Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, both of the United States Army.
They crossed the North American continent from the Mississippi River
to the Pacific Ocean between 14 May 1804 and 26 September 1806. Their expedition demonstrated the great size of western
North America and its potential riches in furs, minerals, fishes,
and other natural resources. Preparations for this expedition were
thorough. Lewis learned mapmaking from Andrew Ellicott, cartographer to the United States, Robert Patterson instructed
him in the use of scientific instruments, and how to determine longitude by lunar calculations (Lewis never mastered this).
Caspar Wistar instructed him in medicine and anatomy and Albert Gallatin gave lessons in hypothetical geography and Indians.
Charles Wilson Peale and Benjamin Smith Barton taught him the art of collecting and preserving specimens. Their
published journal made the West an object of desire. Yet, the almost complete absence of illustrations of the sights seen
on this epic journey seriously diminished its popular impact and underscored the important role artists would play in later
exploration and in creating the concept, “America.”
The Lewis and Clark expedition helped foster the emergence of a continental
consciousness that quickly led to the extensive scientific reconnaissance of the American West. Mapping the course of rivers,
mountains, deserts, high plains, valleys and the incredible complexities of the canyon country of the Southwest made mapping
an art that few were competent at but many admired. The geography, ecology, climate, soil and vegetation were noted, correlated
and charted. Technical skills and scientific knowledge were the major German contribution to the mapping and understanding
of the American West. Von Humboldt was the guide throughout.
not German, Zebulon Montgomery Pike (1778-1813) produced a very important record of the American West,
which owes much to von Humboldt. Pike left St. Louis 15 July 1806 for points as far west as the Rocky Mountains and south
into New Mexico. In 1810, he published several maps, one of which, A Map of the Internal Provinces of New Mexico… is, mostly, a plagiarism of the northern two-thirds of von Humboldt’s map of New Spain,
not published until 1811.
Humboldt, in his Travels to the Equinoctial Regions of the New Continent
during the Years 1799-1804, originally in French, translated into English
by Helen Maria Williams and published 1815, in Philadelphia, wrote,
“Mr. Pike displayed admirable courage in an important undertaking for the investigation of western Louisiana, but
un-provided with instruments, and strictly watched on the road from
Santa Fe to Natchitoches, he could do nothing towards the progress
of geography… The maps of Mexico, which are annexed to the narrative of his journey, are reduced from my larger
map of New Spain, of which I left a copy, in 1804, at the secretary
of state’s (James Madison) office in Washington.”
Gottfried Duden (1789-1856) was not
a scientist by training or avocation, yet he was the first German to give his countrymen a fairly comprehensive, and reasonably
accurate, first hand account of conditions in the eastern parts of Missouri. The first edition of 1500 copies, published
at Duden’s own expense, of this now famous book, Bericht
über eine Reise nach den westlichen Staaten Nordamerika’s
und einen mehrjährigen Aufenthalt am Missouri (in den Jahren 1824,25,26 und 1827) oder: Das Leben im Inneren der
Elberfeld, 1829, was an instant success. A second and third edition
and numerous reprints followed. The text was written in diary-letter form, thirty-six personal letters in all that
gave a sense of immediacy and credibility. This travel-writing format was extremely popular in the eighteenth and nineteenth
centuries. To spur sales the book was available directly from the publisher at half-price to all emigrants to the United
States, and limited to twenty copies per emigrant organization. Beginning
in 1830s, many German immigrants known as “followers of Duden”
settled in the lower Missouri valley. This book has been called “the most important piece of literature
in the history of German immigration” and “a masterpiece of promotional literature,” because of the
effect it had at the time.
Born 1785, in Remsheid, Duden attended the gymnasium in
Dortmund and studied law in Düsseldorf, Heidelberg and Göttingen
from 1806 to 1810. His judicial activities gave him insight into the plight of the poor and he convinced
himself that most crimes were due to poverty and that poverty was due to suffering which in turn was an effect of excess
June 1824, Duden and his traveling companion, Ludwig (Lewis) Eversmann
(1799-1858), an agriculturalist, arrived in Baltimore and then traveled in a wagon to
St. Louis. Duden and Eversmann bought adjoining land in what is now Warren County, near the present day town of Dutzow,
fifty miles west of the Missouri and Mississippi river junction.
Here they built cabins. For the next three years Duden devoted himself
to agriculture and made a careful study of his surroundings, noting such things as weather, temperature, soils, flora
and fauna. These notes, and much more, became his famous Bericht.
In 1827, Duden returned to Germany. Although he remained in Germany,
his book induced thousands of Germans to emigrate. Many settled the
area near where Duden had lived and his farm was long known as “classic ground.” Duden died in Remscheid
(1816-66) was among he first Germans to write on Texas and the Southwest. He was born in Thuringia and emigrated to the
United States by way of Canada. In 1835, he was in New Orleans, where
he joined the New Orleans Greys to come to the aid of Texas. He returned
to Germany and in 1842, was a teacher of English at the University of Halle.
Sometime after 1845, Ehrenberg returned to the United States,
gained wealth and distinction in Arizona and became an influential citizen there. By 1856, he was a member of the Territorial
Convention and later was in charge of the Colorado River Indian Agency. He also engaged in territorial surveying, map-making,
and railroad building and mining engineering. Ehrenberg’s Map of the Gadsden Purchase…1858 clearly showed the various routes between El Paso and Fort Yuma and demonstrated his skill
as a draftsman and as a mapmaker. He was also a close observer of life in Texas and accurately compiled his notes into
a book, Texas und Seine Revolution, Leipzig, 1843. It quickly sold out and was republished
in 1844, as Der Freiheitskampf in Texas in Jahre 1836, and
again in 1845, as Fahrten und schicksale eines Deutschen in Texas.
An English edition appeared in 1935. In 1866, his death was variously
reported as either by drowning in the Colorado River or at the hands
of Indians near Palm Springs, California, or in the Mojave Desert. Ehrenberg, Arizona is named in his honor.
Dr. Heinrich Berghaus (1797-1884) never
visited the United States. His Physikalischer Atlas, created between
1838 and 1849 and published in Gotha, was the most ambitious accomplishment of the Geographische Kunstschule Potsdam, founded
by Berghaus in 1839, as a training center for cartography and geography. The school continued until 1849.
Based on information culled from leading
scientific publications of the time, the two-volume Atlas was the first
of its kind to give a comprehensive view of North America. Through state-of-the-art lithography, its colorful maps, statistics
and tables depicted all aspects of the physical world as von Humboldt had defined them. The Atlas made North America logically accessible and set a new standard in publishing.
Foremost among the German mapmakers was Charles
Preuss. George Karl Ludwig Preuss was born in Germany
in 1803, and died in Washington, D.C. in 1854. Little is known of his
life. Preuss seems to have traveled extensively between 1842 and 1847, and incorporated geographical information he had
gathered on a number of expeditions into the West, including those
of John Charles Fremont, with whom he saw Lake Tahoe as they crossed
Carson Pass in February 1844, into his maps, which were frequently published by order of the United States Senate. Fremont’s
expeditions were mostly secret missions nominally under the direction and control of the War Department and the Topographical
and Preuss’s maps initiated the topographical mapping of the Far West based on field reconnaissance. Preuss’s
map of Oregon and Upper California conveys the incorrect impression that the interior basin of present day Nevada was
encircled by ranges of mountains.
of E. Weber & Co., was the map’s lithographer. Weber, a Bavarian, had studied in Munich with the originator
of lithography, Alois Senefelder. In 1843, Weber set up shop in Baltimore
where his business flourished until 1851. His cousin, August Höhn,
anglicized to Hoen (1817-1886), with his brothers, Henry and Ernest, continued the business as A. Hoen & Co. and became
famous mapmakers in his own right. The firm continued until 1981.
“Balduin Möllhausen was,” so wrote his biographer, P.A. Barba
in 1914, “the most prolific, and at the same time the last great exponent of transatlantic fiction in Germany….
In view of his splendid portrayals of Indian and pioneer life… there is none who deserve so much the title of ‘The
Balduin Möllhausen (1825-1905) was born on a small estate near
Bonn. In 1849, he sailed for America, where he “led the roving
life of a hunter in the region of the Kaskaskia River in Illinois.” On hearing that Duke Paul Wilhelm of Württenberg
was preparing to set out on a scientific expedition to the Rocky Mountains, Möllhausen requested and was granted
the privilege of joining the party. In the autumn of 1851, Duke Paul
and Möllhausen made their way alone to the Missouri and on to
Fort Kearny. En route the Duke fell ill and was picked up by a United States mail coach, leaving Möllhausen
behind to fend for himself. After months of deprivation, Indians rescued him.
In January 1853, Möllhausen was in Berlin. Here,
von Humboldt became his friend and patron. After four months he again
sailed for America, this time with letters of introduction to influential
persons in Washington, D.C. His timing could not have been better.
The United States government was preparing to send out three different expeditions
to chart the best course for a railroad to the Pacific. Möllhausen was assigned as topographer under the command
of Lt. Arniel Weeks Whipple, while the Smithsonian Institution commissioned
him to make physical observations and to act as naturalist on this
venture. With this expedition he made the trek from Fort Smith to Pueblo de los Angeles. Möllhausen published
his adventures and observations as his Diary of a Journey from the Mississippi to the Coast of the Pacific (London: Longman, Brown, Green, Longmans & Roberts, 1858. Two volumes. , 352; ,
397 p. plus 19 plates (some colored), folding map and many woodcuts in the text).
In August 1854, Möllhausen was again in Berlin, the houseguest of von
Humboldt. Accepting an appointment offered him by the United States
government, Möllhausen returned to America as assistant to an
expedition to explore and survey the Colorado River (1857-58). Reisen in die Felsengebirge Nord-Americas bis zum Hoch-Plateau
von Neu-Mexiko (1861), details his adventures and discoveries as a member
of the Colorado-River expedition for which Frederick Wilhelm von Egloffstein (1824-98) was topographer.
Von Egloffstein was born in either Aldorf,
Bavaria or Prussia. He arrived in the United States some time before 1853, and traveled in the West until 1858. He served
with the 103rd Regiment, New York Volunteers during the Civil War, attaining the rank of Brigadier General.
He lived in New York City from 1864 to 1873. His drawings
and steel engravings of western scenes were reproduced in expedition
reports. Egloffstein also developed the first commercial half-tone process of engraving in the United States that he described
in his book, New Style of Topographical Drawing, published in 1857.
Möllhausen illustrated his own
publications. The variety of vegetation in his view of a Colorado River valley, for example, shows the plants at various
life stages as they might be seen in the course of one day, but not
in one location (throughout the nineteenth century it was common
to place multiple observations into one scene).
also noted in his journal seeing the Saquaro Cactus, Cereus giganteus,
36 to 40 feet tall in California and New Mexico. He illustrates the plant’s life cycle in a four plant composition,
beginning as a “mighty ball,” and culminating as a tough dried out stalk used by birds and other desert animals
as a home and by man as fire wood. Möllhausen cited von Humboldt as the scholarly source on cacti. He also observed
and drew many Indians, among them Moquis (Hopi), Navajo, Zuni and
Walpays (Walapi) of northern New Mexico (Arizona), as well as Mohaves,
Yuma, Chimehuhuebe (Chemehuevi), and Apaches from the valley of the Colorado River. As in his observations from nature,
he composed these group picturesquely from various sketches made in the field. In 1858, Möllhausen returned to Berlin
and spent the next forty-seven years there as a writer of adventure stories. Aside from his travel narratives and scientific
reports, forty-five works in 157 volumes and eighty shorter novels in twenty-one volumes carry his name. This output places
him among the most prominent exponents of both Indian and emigrant fiction. He died in Berlin in 1905.
In the 1840s, the Mexican-United States
boarder lands were considered of strategic importance for the United States government’s expansionist policy towards
Mexico; the value of Frederick Adolphus Wislizenus’ Journal of his travels through this region was quickly realized
by Senator Thomas H. Benton of Missouri who invited him to Washington D.C. and insisted that the U.S. Senate print 5,000
copies of it, complete with tables and maps. It did this, calling
it Memoir of a Tour to Northern Mexico in 1846 and 1847, Washington D.C.,
1848. Later, it was published in German.
Adolphus Wislizenus (1810-89) was born in 1810, in Königsee, in
Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt and studied medicine at the University of Jena, and later at Göttingen and Würzburg.
As a student he was politically active, and participated in the 1833 Frankfurt am Main disorders. To avoid prosecution
in Germany, he fled to Zurich, Switzerland, where he took his doctorate
in medicine. In 1835, Wislizenus emigrated to New York. He soon moved
to Mascoutah, St. Clair County, Illinois, near St. Louis. Other German university men had already settled here.
The group, inexperienced in cultivation, became known as “die Lateiner” (the Latins). Wislizenus practiced
medicine in Mascoutah for three years. He used his savings for a
trip to the Rocky Mountains. The journal of his 1839, travels along
the Oregon Trail with a group of traders was published in St. Louis in 1840, in German. This account covers the rendezvous
on the Green River, and the return to St. Louis via North Park, Cache la Poudre, Bent’s Fort, and the Santa Fe Trail.
The narrative, with its references to
the various Indian bands encountered, is considered a classic. Later his son translated the journals and in 1912, published
them as A Journey to the Rocky Mountains in the Year 1839.
Upon his return he settled in St. Louis
and entered into partnership with Dr. George Engelmann (1809-84), a doctor and naturalist. The joint practice continued
until the spring of 1846, when Wislizenus set out from St. Louis to
visit the Rocky Mountains and Upper California. His intentions were
scientific. Along the way he studied geography, natural history, and statistics, guided only by a compass and astrological
readings. Wislizenus made extensive collections of hitherto unclassified plants and explored the composition of soils he
encountered to determine their make up and quality for agriculture.
He also visited all the mines he found with the intention of seeing
inside the earth’s crust. He studied the weather, wind, and barometric pressure to ascertain the living conditions
for future farmers. He studied the immigrants to see how well they
had adapted to their new environment. En route he collected plants,
made topographical observations, and kept extensive diaries. He returned to St. Louis, wrote his accounts, continued
to practice medicine, collected flora and fauna and after 1852 never took another trip. He died in St. Louis, 1889.
While others often did the actual field
research, Germans usually did the engraving and lithography of maps and charts. The work of such men as Weber, Hoen, Bien
and Siebert quickly became important statements in themselves. So it was for the Pacific Railroad Surveys.
Since the American West provided one
of the best laboratories in the world for the study of crustal uplift, mountain making, and massive erosion, geology became
the most important science of the day. The U.S. Geological Survey soon became one of the largest and most effective federal
agencies. Its first publication was The Mining Industry, by James
D. Hague and Clarence King in 1870. Hague, an American, had studied
geology in Germany, at the Freiberg School of Mines. The Geological
Survey’s first major survey was to find the best route for the railroad from the Mississippi to the Pacific.
In 1853, Congress funded The Pacific
Railroad Surveys with an appropriation of $150,000.00 to defray the expenses, and all parties were fitted out in the most
complete manner under the direction of the Smithsonian Institution (founded 1846). Captain A. A. Humphreys was in charge
of the Pacific Railroad Surveys Office. The War Department was very
cooperative. The main divisions of the routes were: along the 47th
parallel under Gov. I. I. Stevens, 1853-55; the 38th, 39th and 41st parallel
under Lieutenants Gunnison and Beckwith, 1853-54; the 35th parallel under Lieutenant Whipple; California under
Lieutenants Williamson and Abbot; the 32nd parallel west under Lieutenant Parker and east under J. Pope.
Among the many Germans that took part
in these expeditions was F. Creutzfeldt, botanist under Captain John William Gunnison. Creutzfeldt was the first to identify
the Bristlecone pine while participating in the Pacific Railway survey through Colorado. October 26, 1853: Captain Gunnison,
F. Creutzfeldt and others were part of an exploratory team in a camp they had established between the Sevier River and
Sevier Lake when they were massacred by Pahvant Indians; Dr. W. L.
Dieffenderfer, zoologist under Pope; Adolphus L. Heermann, naturalist
under Parker. Heermann discovered the Kangaroo rat and Heermann’s gull; also extensively explored was the area from
the San Francisco Bay to Los Angeles, and from the Pima villages on the Gila to the Rio Grande. Möllhausen was topographer
and artist under Whipple, while Engelmann served as botanist.
Hundreds of charts and maps were published as a result from these expeditions.
German lithographers of engravers produced many of them. Foremost
among the German lithographers working for the U.S. Government was the firm of Sarony, Major
& Knapp, of New York. Joseph F. Knapp was born in Germany about 1825, and was active as partner in the firm from 1857
to 1867. He then formed the partnership of Major & Knapp. It existed until 1871.
A. Hoen & Co. was another important German run lithography
company. August Hoen was born in Germany about 1825, and came to the United States as a young man. He settled in Baltimore
where his uncle, Edward Weber, had established a lithography shop. About 1848, Hoen took over this firm. A few years later
his brothers, Ernest and Henry, joined him and A. Hoen & Co. was born.
The splendid views of the American West created by F.W. von Egloffstein
(1824-1898), were restricted to government publications, mostly. As
with other government publications, precision was very important. For
example, his “Goshot Passage” shows a 65-mile panorama for the proposed railroad from the desert west of Great
Salt Lake to the Humboldt Mountains take May 20th at 2 p.m. from a peak near Antelope Butte. Another
view shows a 50-mile panorama of the valley of the Humboldt River at Lassen’s Meadows. Von Egloffstein drew it on
June 9th at 3 p.m. from a peak in the Humboldt River Range.
A third view towards the West of the northern slopes of the Sierra
Nevada was drawn June 30th at 9 a.m.
these examples the original drawings were by von Egloffstein, their engraving done by C. Schumann, and the printing
completed by S. Siebert in Washington, D.C.
W. von Egloffstein, a topographical draftsman, was born in Prussia about 1824, and arrived in the United States
before 1835. He served as artist to several western expeditions and surveys, including Fremont’s last expedition
to the Rockies (1853-54), Beckwith’s Utah-to-California railroad
survey (1854), and Ives’ Colorado River expedition (1857-59).
His drawings accompanied the reports of these expeditions. During the Civil War von Egloffstein served in the 103rd
Regiment, New York Volunteers, and was brevetted out as Brigadier General. Until 1875, he lived in New York City. His
influential book, New Style of Topographical Drawing, was published in 1857. He died in London,
Selmar Siebert was born 1808, in Lehnin, Prussia. Before 1843, he settled in Washington, D.C. where he established a printing
shop specializing in fine engraving. His work is documented until about 1860.
Lithography allowed for the mass production of images and panoramic views
of the American West in full color. It became very popular. The fines
views of the West were printed by Louis Prang, born 1824 in Breslau,
and died 1909 in Los Angeles. Prang left Germany in 1848. Via Bohemia and Switzerland he arrived, 1850, in New
York and headed for Boston. Here he began a chromolithography business about 1856. By 1860, he had seven presses. In 1867,
he built a factory of 50 presses, the “printery.” Prang’s fame rests on his superb chromolithographic
reproductions, such as fifteen for Dr. Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden’s
folio book, The Yellowstone National Park, 1876. Each view was a reproduction
of a watercolor by Thomas Moran, who had accompanied the geologist
F.V. Hayden 1829-1887) on a U.S. Government exploration expedition to the Yellowstone Valley. Hayden warned the
reader, “So strange, indeed, are the freaks of color which nature indulges in habitually in this wonderful country,
that it will no doubt require strong faith on the part of the reader in the truthfulness of both artists and writer to
enable him unhesitatingly to accept the statement made in the present
volume by the pen as well as by the brush.” Begun in 1874,
and completed in 1876, one thousand sets were printed and sold for $6.00 each.
The first great German naturalist to
visit North America after von Humboldt was Alexander Philipp Maximilian, Prince of Wied-Neuwied, born 1782 in Neuwied,
a small principality near Koblenz. He studied natural history with
Johann Friedrich Blumenbach (1752-1840) at the University of Göttingen.
Blumenbach was then internationally known and had published extensively in the natural sciences and medicine.
The political and military confusion
of the Napoleonic Wars prevented Maximilian from visiting the United States in 1803. Instead, he served in the Prussian
army against Napoleon and rose to the rank of major general. In 1814,
he set out for the United States, but the process of recovery from
the War of 1812 proved an obstacle and Maximilian sailed instead for South America.
For two-years he journeyed along the coast of Brazil,
from Rio de Janeiro to Bahia, observing Indian life and noting the
local flora and fauna. After returning home, he arranged his collections
and prepared his extensive diaries for publication: Reise nach Brasilien in den Jahren 1815 bis 1817. (2 vol. published in 1820, H. L. Brönner (Frankfurt a. M). This work was soon translated
into Dutch, French and English. It quickly established his reputation as a naturalist and scholar.
In 1832, Maximilian again sailed for the United States.
He took with him his trusted assistant David Dreidoppel and the twenty-three
year old Swiss artist Karl Bodmer, to illustrate his journals. In
the spring of 1833, Maximilian received the support of the American Fur Company and took passage on their paddle-wheel
steamer, the Yellow Stone.
Fort McKenzie he began his investigation of Indian life, especially
languages, by collecting vocabularies from the Arikara, Assiniboine,
Blackfoot, Cheyenne, Crow, Mandan and Sioux. En route he took temperature and barometric readings, made astronomical sightings,
and much more. The winter of 1833-34 was spent at Fort Clark on the Missouri making an intensive study of the Mandan. These
studies and Bodmer’s drawings were an attempt to portray Indians not as savages but as civilized individuals with
acquired skills and mores ideally suited for life in their environment.
Maximilian’s detailed ethnographic descriptions became important
after the smallpox epidemic of 1837-38 destroyed several of the tribes he had visited and substantially reduced
the population of others. Many of his collected plants and animal specimens were meticulously described upon his return
to Europe in the summer of 1834. Maximilian never returned to the
Americas; his zoological collections were acquired by the Linden
Verzeichniss der Reptilien (a catalogue of some reptiles observed on
his trip to North America) was published in 1865. He tells his readers that in the past few years the study of fauna has
taken on wholly new dimensions in the United States because of the
planning and construction of the railroad from the Mississippi to
the Pacific, and that government support has immensely expanded knowledge in all fields of the study of nature. He notes
that the reptiles he is discussing and illustrating have been neglected by other scholars and is critical of them for not
studying the living animal, whose colors are quite different than those of a preserved dead one. Maximilian urges naturalists
to be aware of color and offers his lithographs of drawings made directly from living or fresh animals, Bodmer made most
of the drawings. The techniques of famed French explorer Nicolas
Baudin and the naturalist Francois Peron, served as models.
Karl Bodmer accompanied Maximilian on
his North America expedition as the expedition’s artist. He was born in 1809 in Riesbach, Switzerland and died 1893
in Barbizon, France. His drawings, turned into eighty-one lithographs to illustrate Maximilian’s travel account,
were the first important views of the American West to be seen in
Europe. First published in France, 1836, and then in Germany, 1839-41,
they soon became influential and important for the study of Native Americans and for the artistic tradition of reproducing
native peoples and landscapes.
is known today primarily for his lithographs, sketches, drawings and watercolors, and to a lesser degree
for his paintings, of the expedition which survive in the Newberry Library, Chicago, the Joselyn Art Museum, Omaha, and
several other public and private collections.
Although he depicts the American West as he saw it, his
vision was a product of his time. For example, Bodmer renders the
vast ranges of white hills, strange, natural formations and uncommon flora and fauna that lined immense rivers with a
Romantic’s palette and sensitivity. He also follows the Romantic’s notion of the exotic in his Blackfoot Indian
on Horseback, which results in an image that looks authentic yet is a superb example of European Romantic exoticness.
Bodmer also practices the artistic convention of arranging the composition
and altering details to suit his vision. His sketches of the Mandan
Indian’s dog-pulled toboggans or their dance are fine examples of this practice.
One of the earliest Humboldtean explorers
of the American West about whose travels very little is known was Frederick Paul Wilhelm, Duke of Wurttemberg, born 1797
at Karlsruhe, Silesia.
Well-educated by a pupil
of the French naturalist and zoologist Georges Cuvier (1769-1832) at the Stuttgart Gymnasium, and later a student
of von Humboldt himself, Duke Paul had traveled extensively in the Near East, Algeria, Russia, the Caribbean, and was a
recognized geographer-naturalist before he visited America. He held
membership in most of the scientific societies of Europe. On 16 October
1822, he sailed from Hamburg to North America. This trip took him to New Orleans, then up the Mississippi and its various
tributaries, including the Red River, the Yazoo, and the Ohio. From St. Louis began an extensive tour of the fur-trade
country, going west to the Platte and the Kansas rivers and up the
Missouri past Council Bluffs. Along the way he made extensive collections
of plants, animals, and Indian artifacts, taking great care to identify and classify his flora specimens according to
the canons of Linnaeus. This first expedition lasted two years. Its
account became the Erste reise nach dem nördlichen Amerika in
den Jahren 1822 bis 1824. Stuttgart und Tübingen, J.G. Cotta. 1835 CHECK DATE!!! (First English translation, First
Journey to North America in the Year 1822 to 1824, by William Beck, Pierre:
South Dakota Historical Society, 1938).
all Duke Paul made three journeys to the New World. He entered the United States in 1823, two times in between
1829 and 1830, and three times between 1849 and 1856. Little is known of these expeditions. During 1829-30, he traveled
up the Missouri River to the Mandan Villages and Fort Clark; then
continued on to the Rocky Mountains and the Three Forks country,
where he studied the Blackfoot and Assiniboine and spent some time in Sioux villages.
Most of 1831, he spent in Mexico, returning to Germany
via New Orleans, Cincinnati, Lake Erie, Buffalo, Niagara Falls, and
the East Coast. In the fall of 1850, Duke Paul was again in New Orleans.
In March 1851, he traveled once more to St. Louis and then visited the Great Lakes, the upper Mississippi, and the
Falls of St. Anthony. In February 1853, he left from New York for Brazil and Uruguay, returning to North America by October
to visit the Mississippi Valley. He was in Europe in July of 1856, and immediately set off for Australia and the Orient.
By spring of 1860, he was home again in Bad Mergentheim, where he
died in November of that year.
his lifetime of travel, Duke Paul Wilhelm had seen more of the American
West than any other foreign explorer and he had recorded it all. At his death his papers, diaries and journals
were left as he had written them, unsorted, and his enormous collections remained mostly crated. Many of his journals and
much of his collection were destroyed during Word War II.
he never published his journals and is known only through H. Lichtenstein’s 1838 article, “Beiträge
zur ornithologishen Fauna von Californiau,” in the Abhandlungen der Akademie der Wissenschaften, Berlin, Ferdinand Deppe (1794-1861) traveled along the coast of California, the Baja Peninsula,
and Northern Mexico, between 1829 and 1837, as a trader and collector
of birds. On one occasion Deppe followed the flight path of the humming
bird (Trochilus rufus) up the coast of California to Sitka, Alaska. Deppe may have been the first scientific
explorer of Lower California and Lichtenstein’s reference to his noting the lack of reptiles and insects in Baja
gained wide acceptance. He gave his collection of birds to the Museum
of Natural History in Berlin.
Dr. George Engelmann, born 1809 in Frankfurt
am Main, was a physician, meteorologist and botanist, who had received a doctorate of medicine from the University of
Würzburg in 1831. He arrived in St. Louis in February 1833. The
next two years he lived on a farm twenty miles east of the city. Here
he prospected, studied the region’s botany, minerals and rocks. After a journey through the Southwest, he returned
to St. Louis to practice medicine and soon became the city’s
most important doctor, introducing the use of obstetrical forceps
and the use of quinine to treating malaria. In 1840 he visited Germany and in Berlin argued successfully for a Prussian
Consulate in St. Louis. In Kreuznach he married Dorothea Horstmann, a cousin. They settled in St. Louis.
Engelmann’s scientific contributions
were many. He founded the St. Louis Academy of Science in 1865, the first of its kind to be established west of the Allegheny
Mountains, and was a member of thirty-six scientific societies. He studied the tapeworm, opossum and squirrels. He was
also the first to scientifically note the adaptation of the Pronuba
moth for pollinating the Yucca; as well as discovering the immunity
of the American grape to the Phylloxera, a genus of plant lice.
In 1836 he began keeping meteorological records, which he continued until the day before his death in 1884. A mountain
in Colorado bears his name, as do many plant species as well as three
plant genera. And he helped organize Das Westland, a newspaper whose
main purpose was to untie the pioneer settlers and to give information
to those in Germany who contemplated emigration.
American West provided many hitherto unknown floras to be examined and catalogued, especially for medical purposes,
both here and in Germany. By mid-century plant collecting had become an important business, and large collections were
established at several Universities, Harvard and Berlin among the
the use of plants for medicinal purposes had a long tradition and
was very common. Dr. Constantin Hering, born in 1800 in Oschatz, Saxony, introduced Homeopathic medicine into the United
States. Dr. Hering arrived in Philadelphia in 1832 and in 1833 founded,
with Dr. Wesselhoft, the “Hahnemann Society” and “North
American Academy of Homoeopathy Healing Art”, a homeopathic teaching institution in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
It soon failed. Hering continued his teaching by writing and translating German texts into English. By 1860 there were
homeopathic Colleges in Philadelphia, New York, Cleveland, and St.
Louis. Dr. Hering died in 1880.
Bien (1826-1909) is now considered the first American cartographer of
the nineteenth-century, yet his most imposing work is not a map. Bien was born in 1826 in Kassel, studied art in Frankfurt
am Main and emigrated to New York 1849. Though left unfinished, Bien’s chromolithographic edition of Audubon’s
Birds of America defined the crafts capabilities. Begun in 1858, seven
years after Audubon’s death, using Robert Havell Jr.’s aquatints as a guide, Bien worked for years completing
one volume of 15 numbers, 105 plates showing 150 species before abandoning the project. The paper size is 27 x 40 inches
and some images required more than thirty different passes through
showed nature as exotic and pristine appealed to nineteenth-century
Europeans. So the new sights and subjects seen in the American West were usually represented in terms of European artistic
conventions resulting in views that were primarily an extension of the manner of Poussin, Lorraine, Delacroix, Turner,
Constable, Friedrich, the Barbizon School, numerous painters of the
Swiss and Tyrolean Alps and painters of European historical scenes.
In 1846, Heinrich Berghaus and Alexander
von Humboldt published the Ethnographische Karte von Nordamerika. Nach Alb. Gallatin, A. von Humboldt, Clavigero,
Hervas Vater, &&&c. bearbeitet von Potsdam, Juni 1845.
Gezeichnet in der geogr. Kunstschule zu Potsdam. Gestochen von W.
Alt in Ohrdruff. 8te Abtheilung: Ethnographie No 17. Gotha, bei Justus Perthes. 1846. An ethnographic map in his Atlas shows the distribution of the native population of North America as they
had been described by the great scientists of the late eighteenth
and early nineteenth century, among them von Humboldt. An insert shows
the distribution of Europeans and Africans. The inclusion of Blacks in demographic studies was rare at the time.
Among the objectives of Maximilian’s
studies was for Bodmer to portray many Indians. Portraits, such as the one of Mexkemauastan, an Atsina/Gros Ventre chief
and medicine man, were very popular in Europe. Today, these portraits
are often viewed as accurate representations of Indians and their
culture. It is not until the preliminary stages of the finished work are seen together, from the original drawing
done in the field, to the intermediate study and the final lithograph that significant changes, based on artistic interpretations,
of Indians have remained almost unknown. Among these is Friedrich August Ferdinand Pettrich, born 1798 in Dresden, who
studied sculpture first with his father and then in Rome. In 1835
he emigrated to the United States, settling in Philadelphia. Here
he gained attention through a number of tombs for Laurel-Hill Cemetery and other sculptures Washington D.C. and further
in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In the U.S. Pettrich is know as: Friedrich
August Pettrich, Ferdinand Frederick August Pettrich, Frederick Augustus
Ferdinand Pettrich, Frederick August Pettrich and Frederick August Ferdinand Pettrich.
President Tyler invited Pettrich to Washington, D.C. and
commissioned him to do four sculptures of America’s history
for the base of the Statue of George Washington. Pettrich completed the
maquettes and while waiting for Congress to allocate the funds for the casting and Italian rival attempted to assassinate
him. His patron, President Tyler, had him cared for by his own physician. Congress denied the funds and Pettrich left
the United States in 1845 to become court sculptor to Pedro II (“the
Magnanimous”), the emperor of Brazil. By 1855, Pettrich was
in Rome working under the patronage of Pope Pius IX. Here his sculpture for the base of the Washington Monument
were realized and cast in bronze. They can now be seen in the Vatican Museums.
Balduin Möllhausen illustrated many of his books with subject matter
he had seen and studied on his travels. These drawings he later reworked,
composed and edited to make a point in his narrative. His depiction
of Mohave Indians from the Valley of the Rio Colorado in full body ornamentation is an example of this practice
of creating a composition that has the appearance of reality through careful placement of elements observed but not found
together. Indian body ornamentation was rarely illustrated prior to the Civil War.
Reading about adventures alone, did not satisfy many armchair
explorers, adventurers and just curious. They demanded artifacts.
The result was that governments, learned societies, universities and men of wealth
established museums throughout the nineteenth century. Curiosities from around the world were gathered, ordered, housed,
and studied in all the capitols of Europe, including Berlin, and in
centers of commerce such as Leipzig, Bremen, Hamburg, and Dresden.
Other collections, such as those of von Humboldt and Duke Paul Wilhelm’s, were all encompassing and private,
having not been assembled with the intention of creating a museum. As noted by a contemporary, Duke Paul Wilhelm’s
collections were “in extent an content inferior only to a few
large public collections and surpassed most of them.” They encompassed
geological, ethnological, botanical, mineralogical, and antiquarian material, all housed at his residence of Mergentheim.
At his death in 1860, Duke Paul Wilhelm’s may have been the largest collection of Americana privately held.
Collecting the works of primitive cultures
was spurred by the realization that civilization was rapidly destroying the objects of interest. “Collect now before
it’s too late,” became the motto.
special interest to German museums was the Northwest coast. This interest was underwritten in the later 1870s,
early 1880s by Paul Schulze, a German, who as the president of the Northwest Trading Company had collected artifacts,
through his Alaska agent, for the Museum für Völkerkunde
in Berlin. The Museum also sent out Captain Jacob Adrian Jacobsen
in search of ethnological materials. Although Jacobsen, born in 1853, died 1947, was Norwegian, he carried out expeditions
of the American Northwest Coast for Carl Hagenbeck (1844-1913), owner of the famous zoo and circus in Hamburg. In 1879,
Hagenbeck and Jacobsen bought a small ship, equipped it for polar
voyages, and in 1881 accepted a request from the Berlin Royal Museum
to undertake an expedition of several years duration to the Northwest Coast of America to obtain ethnological specimens.
Jacobsen traveled and collected extensively throughout southwestern
Alaska. In the summer of 1882, in company with a party of prospectors,
he ascended the Yukon as far as the Tanana and then drifted downriver collecting specimens and making ethnographic observations
along the way.
bankers, joined together into an “Ethnological Aid Committee,” underwrote expenses. Jacobsen returned from
this expedition with nearly seven thousand artifacts. He had hoped
to bring to Berlin Eskimos for exhibition, but at the last minute
lost their confidence and he returned to Berlin without them. Jacobsen made several more voyages bur never published his
findings. It was left to Adrian Woldt to convert Jacobsen’s
notes, diaries, photographs, and lecture notes into a publication
entitled Capitain Jacobsen’s Reise an der Nordwestküste Amerikas 1881-1883. Leipzig, Max Spohr, 1884 (Alaska
Voyage, 1881-1883: An Expedition to the Northwest Coast of America,
translated by Erma Gunther, University of Chicago Press, 1977).
Drs. Aurel and Arthur Krause were geographers
and instructors in the natural sciences at a Gymnasium in Berlin. They were sent by the Bremer Geographische Gesellschaft
(Geographical Society of Bremen), which, as the Vereins für die Nordpolarfahrt (club for polar travel), had established
a reputation for the support of polar and sub-polar research expeditions. This was the third arctic expedition undertaken
by the Society and it was to follow up on the work done by Nils Adolf Erik Nordenskiold (1832-1901) on the Chukchi Peninsula
in 1878 and 1879.
the Drs. Krause visited Haines, near the head of Lynn Canal, now the Klukwan Indian Reservation, Alaska. Here they collected
178 items, mostly clothing, spoons, knives, bowls, paintbrushes, rattles, and other musical instruments. Their prize items
were five Tlingit armor suits and helmets. Many of the pieces from the Krause collection are still housed in the Bremen
Museum, while other items are now in Hamburg and Berlin.
Aurel worked intensively with the Tlingit, settling
in Klukwan, a Native American village in southeastern Alsaka.
Because of the date of the writing of Die Tlingit Indianer: Ergebnisse einer Reise nach der Nordwestküste
von Amerika und der Beringstraße ausgeführt. Im Auftrag der Bremer Geographischen Gesellschaft in den Jahren
1880-1881. Jena, Hermann Costenoble, 1885, and its comprehensive coverage,
this book retains its importance in the literature of the Northwest
The book was
written for the membership of the Bremen society in a direct, non-technical German, but retained its
author’s scholarship. Chapter one gives a resume of the history of Alaska with reference to the Tlingit, much of
it based on documents no longer available, from the earliest Russian
exploration to the purchase of the territory by the United States,
and pictures the immediate consequences of the change brought about by the changes in administration.
The Drs. Krause also collected some
80 sub-artic birds in the Yukon that contributed significantly to the understanding of ornithology in that region.
Berlin’s Prussian Museum für
Völkerkunde was the focal point of all ethnological collecting done in Germany. Its director, Adolf Bastian (1826-1905),
a polymath who contributed significantly to the development of ethnography and anthropology as scientific disciplines,
was an obsessive collector who traveled frequently, published numerous
articles, founded the journal Zeitschrift für Ethnologie, and helped organize the Berlin Society for Anthropology, Ethnology,
and Prehistory. The American west, in all its aspects, was of special interest to Bastian and he bought extensively. His
great achievement was the building, between 1880 and 1886, of the
Museum für Völkerkunde, the world’s first major museum
dedicated solely to anthropology and ethnology. By the end of the century this museum contained the largest ethnographic
collection in the world and possibly a greater number of specimens than any other two museums combined.
Collecting Indian artifacts was not
exclusively German. In North America an important collection was assembled and exhibited by Joseph Dorfeuille, born Joseph
Dorfel, 1790, in Swabia. He traveled widely in Egypt, Syria and the Near East collecting curiosities that he then brought
to New Orleans to exhibit. About 1820 he arrived in Cincinnati and became Curator of the Western Museum, which had been
founded by public minded citizens. By 1823 he had become owner and
operator of this museum that now specialized in exhibiting archaeological
remains and various “curiosities.”
documented some of his finds in the Ohio River valley as watercolors, now in the Newberry Library’s
collections. The most noteworthy of these is a three-headed vessel dug up within an ancient temple situated on a fork
of the Cumberland River, Tennessee. Two views of this vessel were
reproduced in Josiah Priest’s American Antiquities and Discoveries
in the West, Albany, 1833. Dorfeuille died in 1840, in Cincinnati.
Anthropology as we now conceive it,
developed in the course of the nineteenth century and the American Indian played a pivotal role in those theories which
tried to explain the stages of human progress. Considered savages,
American Indians seemed to represent either an early stage of human
progress or degeneration from a higher civilization. The first representation emphasized progress and natural law or
evolution; the second moral and physical corruption.
forerunner of anthropology and the scientific study of the mind was the science of phrenology. From the early
1830s until its peak in the late 1850s, phrenology captured America’s imagination. Invented by Franz Joseph Gall
(1758-1828) German doctor and brain researcher, and promoted in America
by his dynamic student Johann Caspar Spurzheim, born in 1776 in Trier,
phrenology acquired tens of thousands of instant followers after Spurzheim first lectured on it in Boston, 10 November
1832. Spurzheim coined the word phrenology to identify this new science which “…will prove itself to be the
true science of the mind.”
of skulls was essential to phrenology and its great popularity increased their value. They soon became an important commodity.
Collected around the world, skulls were compared in size and shape to European crania. The latter were considered the
ideal since they revealed the “highest moral standards and civilizing
characteristics.” Sun tanning, exercise and diet were endorsed
by phrenologists and the followers of phrenology have left their mark on our treatment of insanity, the penal
structure and concepts of criminality, learning disabilities and physical handicaps, education and health. At its height
in the 1850s, America’s leading phrenology journal sold well
over 20,000 copies per month.
the help of phrenology and the new academic interest, both in the United
States and in Europe, in the human skull collecting Indian skulls and skeletons was an important and profitable
business for much of the nineteenth century.
and religious sites, such as Bodmer’s documentation of a Mandan skull circle, were sought out by skull
collectors to meet the demand of scientists for crania to measure and evaluate.
As late as 1888 Franz Boaz (1858-1942), the German-American anthropologist,
wrote, “…we found a complete skeleton without a head. I hope to get another one either today of tomorrow…It
is most unpleasant work to steal bones from a grave, but what is the use, someone has to do it…I hope to get a great
deal of anthropological material here…I wrote the Museum in Washington asking whether they would consider buying
skulls this winter for $600; if they will, I shall collect assiduously.”
Until the very end of the nineteenth century,
no writer had trained in anthropology. The thorough general knowledge
of science and the scientific method of inquiry as it was taught in German universities allowed
the educated traveler to interpret, in readable and accurate fashion, most often in letter/diary format, contacts and
observations made of native cultures.
never visited North America, in his Anthropologie der Naturvölker (1860)
and Die Indianer Nordamericas, Leipzig, 1865, Theodor Waitz (1821-64)
argued against the then widely held notion that people living in the “wild” were not civilized. He maintained
that Indians had the same intellectual capacity of Europeans and that Indians have adapted to their environment in the
same way Europeans have to theirs.
Waitz, born 1821 in Gotha, Thuringia studied philology
in Jena and philosophy and mathematics in Leipzig. At the age of
twenty he traveled to Rome and Paris to study Aristotle’s works. A highly regarded critical edition of Organon (1844) resulted in his being appointed Professor of Philology at the University of Marburg
at the age of twenty-three.
important contributor to the new science of anthropology was Dr. Emil Ludwig Schmidt, born 1837 near Querfurt,
visited the United States in 1869-70 and again in 1876. Here he met with leading anthropologists and visited a number
of museums. Schmidt died in 1906.
North America was the ideal land in which to study the origins of man because it was so sparsely inhabited and had not
yet been altered by civilization. His importance lies in his effort
to establish for North America a parallel prehistoric chronology
with Europe. Schmidt published a number of skulls found near Rock Bluff, on the Illinois River, in Die Vorgeschichte
Nordamericas im Gebiet der Vereinigten Staaten, Braunschweig, 1894, and argued that both phrenology
and the current study of skull by anthropologists was of little value because so few skulls were dated of had a
documented find location, and that a systematic separation of natural and deformed skulls needed to be undertaken before
the study of American native craniums could be conclusive and valid.
Among the great bone collectors of the nineteenth
century was Albert C. Koch, born 1804 in Roitzsch, Saxony. He came
to sudden public attention in January 1836 when he announced in the Missouri-Republican, the opening of a “museum” in St. Louis. There, for only twenty-five cents, the
curious could gaze on an Egyptian mummy with sarcophagus, an Indian mummy from a cave in Kentucky, such notable figures
as the Siamese Twins, Jim Crow, and Zip Coon, as well as a large
collection of stuffed birds and animals. Koch was also a passionate
amateur paleontologist. On hearing of a deposit of bones in Gasconade County, Missouri, October 1838, Koch rushed to disinter
the remains of animal the size of an elephant. Six months later, twenty-two miles south of St. Louis, Koch dug up more
prehistoric remains. The next spring he dug in central Missouri and
found two skeletons of a super mastodon he named “the Missourium.”
Koch wrote, “This gigantic skeleton measured 30 feet in length and 15 feet height…. The bones were found
by me near the shores of the river La Pomme de Terre, a tributary
of the Osage River, in Benton County, in the state of Missouri, latitude
40 and longitude 18.”
followed this with a discussion of the different strata he encountered in the dig and the local Indian traditions:
“It is perfectly true that we cannot with any degree of certainty, depend on Indian traditions; but it is equally
true that generally these traditions are founded on events which have
actually transpired…and in absence of any better method of
perpetuating them, are transmitted with great care in their legends from generation to generation; but in the course of
time, as might reasonably be expected, these traditions lose much in correctness and minuteness of detail….”
Associating Indian traditions with physical finds led Koch to conclude that man must have lives at the same time as the
large creature. His contemporaries flatly rejected this conclusion.
made some errors in assembling his fabulous animals, but, in 1843,
the British Museum bought his reconstruction of “the Missourium.” It can still
be seen in the Museum today correctly restored as a mastodon. To the Royal Museum in Berlin he sold the skeleton of a
“Zeuglodon,” another of his finds. His work as an amateur
paleontologist was a major contribution to the understanding of prehistoric America.
Koch died in 1867, in Golconda, Illinois.
noted the changes brought by the European eagerness to collect artifacts from exotic cultures. In 1884 Adrian
Woldt wrote, “Year by year ethnologists are becoming increasingly aware that European culture is engulfing and destroying
the native peoples left in the world. Their customs and habits, legends and memories, weapons and artifacts are rapidly
disappearing and there will soon be new and different developments
in a large part of the human race. The oral history of theses people
will be lost and scientific knowledge in philosophy, medicine, and natural history will suffer from it.
Mankind must therefore make every effort
we are watching while the basic information is allowed to be destroyed…. The ethnological museums…should
send collectors out to…salvage what can still be saved.
As powerful as
were the changes of the Stone Age and the Iron Age, they seem minor compared with this period when the whole world
is populated by the carriers of modern culture….”
As the ethnographic areas of the world became absorbed by Eurocentric civilization,
the realization of the universality of certain myths as outlined for
Germany by the brothers Grimm became apparent.
the first to realize the universality of myth was Johann Georg Kohl born
1808 in Bremen and died there in 1878. He attended university in Göttingen, Heidelberg, and Munich and then traveled
to Latvia and Russia where he studied the effect of topography on the movements of people and trade. He published his
findings in a number of books, which sold well. In 1849 Kohl wrote,
“In the chilling context of the political atmosphere one hears
of a new world, of a distant place, of a country of the future, and always one thinks here of America. ‘The train
of world history goes west’ is being proclaimed.”
Kohl arrived in Philadelphia September 26, 1854, moved to New York City and
quickly arranged a journey to Canada where he met his first Indians,
and gathered enough notes to write a two-volume work entitled, Reisen in Canada und durch
die Staaten von New York und Pennsylvanien, Stuttgart 1856, and as Travel
in Canada, and through the States of New York and Pennsylvania, London
1861. In New York Kohl gave talks before the New York Historical Society
and the New York Geographical Society. He met Washington Irving and
had discussions with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. In 1855 Kohl signed a contract with D. Appleton and Company to
write a book on the state of the upper Mississippi. Lacking first-hand knowledge of this part of the country, he planned
a three-month trip that stretched to six and took him among the Dakota
Indians of Minnesota and the Ojibway Indians of northern Wisconsin
and Michigan. Kohl was impressed with what he saw. The recession of 1857 dissolved his plans for its publication.
After four years in the United States Kohl returned to Germany, never to return.
Settling in Freiburg im Breisgau, Kohl worked over his notes on life among
the Ojibway of Lake Superior and published them in German as Kitchi-Gami in 1859. The English edition, much abridged,
followed in 1860.
As with other European travelers, Kohl
saw and recorded his observations with a European bias that differed sharply from American observations. Kohl wrote in
the preface of the German edition, “I only take credit for having
endeavored to understand them (the Ojibway stories and ways of life)
correctly and to present them “clearly.” In his later years Kohl served as librarian in Bremen.
Kitchi-Gami is Kohl’s account of his stay with various bands of Chippewa or Ojibway Indians (Kohl spelt them Ojibbeway)
along the south shore of Lake Superior, the Great Lake, or Kitchi-Gami in the Ojibway language. American sovereignty over
the Chippewa was then recent.
1822 the United States had established a military post and an Indian agency at Sault Ste. Marie. The agent in
charge was Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, famed for his discovery of the source of the Mississippi River and for his writing
on the American Indians. Schoolcraft’s two-volume work on the
Chippewas was very influential and was one of the sources for Henry
Wadsworth Longfellow’s Song of Hiawatha, first published
talent for observation and detail made Kitchi-Gami very popular. It
was applauded as a work free of sentimentality and exaggeration. The
bibliophile Thomas W. Field announced that, “Mr. Kohl had given
one of the most exhaustive and valuable treatises on Indian life ever written.” Kohl considered the Ojibway
tales comparable to the Arabian Nights and transcribed many of them.
For example, Kohl transcribed several
songs (in the form of illustrations) from birch-bark scrolls as explained to him by Kitagiguam (The spotted Feather) at
the Protestant mission. Among the songs reproduced are images for:
“This is a wigwam and I sing the following words: ‘I
enter into the wigwam of the Mides, the temple, and bring, singing, a fine sacrifice.’ I sing the following words:
I have come to pray thee that thou wilt give me this animal, the
bear. I will walk on the right path for it, the path of life.”
And, “I soon saw, very nearly the story of Menaboju’s deluge. The earth, called Aki. Menaboju, in his entire
military splendor. Menaboju’s wigwam in which he lived, sometimes
with one squaw, sometimes with two. Anecdote about Menaboju, of how
he was once caught between two trees… Two islands which Menaboju made: a little one which did not bear his weight;
and then a larger one, which supported him, and afterwards became the new world.”
Kohl also transcribed “A hunters Dream” by
Amongs (The Little Way). “The dreamer, lying on a bed of moss
and grass. His guardian spirit, or the person who spoke to him in
his dream. The dreamer sees the sky expand above him, full of birds and animals. It is a hunter’s sky. The dreamer
fasted nine days on account of this dream. ‘Me’ with a big heart, ‘courage to endure a nine day fast’.”
Another collector of myths and stories
was Karl Knortz (Garbenheim, Rhenish Prussia, 1841- Tarrytown, New York in 1918), a writer, translator and educator who
arrived in the United States in 1863 after completing studies in philology,
philosophy and theology at the University of Heidelberg. He first
settled in Detroit. Here he taught at the German-American seminar; then from 1868-71, he was Professor of Latin at
the high school of Oshkosh, Wisconsin. During these years he collected many stories and myths by North American Indians,
which he translated into German. These translations contributed significantly
to German interest and scholarship in comparative Indian literature
and mythology, which by the end of the century led to a universal theory of myth. In 1871 Knortz moved to
Cincinnati, Ohio. Next he became the pastor of the German Independent Protestant Congregation in Johnstown, Pennsylvania.
IN 1881, he moved to New York City. Here he wrote and translated for the next ten years. He then moved do Evansville,
Indiana. Knortz died in Tarrytown, New York in 1918.
Besides his contributions to the study of mythology,
he also wrote books in German and English on American Indians and
their customs, on insects, reptiles and birds of North America and on popular American folklore. He translated into German
works by Longfellow, Thoreau, Whittier and Whitman; and into English he translated the Nibelungenlied and works of F.
W. Nietzsche. Further, he was instrumental in popularizing German
pedagogical ideas to the American public, especially the Kindergarten.
Franz Boas, born 1858, in Minden, dies
1942, in New York, was very influential in the reorientation of anthropology in the United States. He made important contributions
to the formulation of problems and methods of human growth, linguistics, folklore, art and ethnology of North American
a doctorate in physics, at the age of twenty-three, Boas set out in
June 1883 for Cumberland Sound, Baffin Island. This expedition was crucial in turning him to anthropology. He grew
to admire the arctic people, and to realize that mental processes rather than geographic forces were the prime determinants
of human behavior. In 1887 he moved to New York. Here he became the assistant editor of “Science,” and met
F. W. Putnam and G. Stanley Hall who invited him to lecture in anthropology
at Clark University. Boas lectured there until 1892, when he accepted
Putnam’s invitation to become his assistant for anthropology in charge of exhibits at the Columbian
Exposition, Chicago. That year he also directed the first Ph.D. in anthropology, A. F. Chamberlain.
In Chicago, after the Columbian Exposition,
Boas assisted Putnam, who had become the director of the Field Museum of Natural History. It housed many of the ethnological
exhibits from the Exposition. In 1896, Boas accepted the post of curator of ethnology and somatology at the American Museum
of Natural History, New York. This appointment led to a lectureship in physical anthropology at Columbia University followed,
in 1899, by a professorship. In 1937, Boas retired from Columbia. He died in New York in 1942.
Throughout his long and influential career, he observed
and studied the native peoples of North America. Boas’ great
contribution was the concept of cultural relativity; that different
cultures were neither inferior nor superior and that they must be considered in terms of their environment.
His signal contribution to anthropology
was his earnest attempt to make the discipline a rigorous and exact science. No one pressed more vigorously for abandonment
of uncritical inferences and comparisons. By 1930 two of his students, Ruth Benedict and Margaret Mead, were learning
how cultures stimulate the development of unique personality types.
Franz Boas died in New York in 1942.
was among the first to transcribe native North American songs such
as “The Elk Hunter,” and show that they, too, had universal meanings.
The study of ethnomusicology was an
outgrowth of the German interest in their own tradition of songs and singing which reached a peak in the “Lied,”
seen as yet another uniquely human activity that was universal. For Boas, the “Cat’s Cradle” was a form
of narrative, too.
Industrial Germany had a great appetite
for the romance of nature, for the adventure of creatures, human or animal, on fields of life unmediated by civilization.
Numerous writers and scientists fed these needs. After their encounter with the American West many German travelers became
something about the enormity of its space; the flood of immigrants and the abundant opportunities for financial success
with caught their imagination.
German author to carefully portray American life was Charles Sealsfield, a name Karl Anton Postl (born in Popice, Moravia,
1793, died 1864, in Solothurn, Switzerland) gave himself when writing on America. A number of his immediate successors
identified themselves strictly with America. Gerstacker, Möllhausen
and Strubberg are the important representatives of this group. Their
books helped serve up an image of America based on facts and personal experience and were very popular in Germany. In
translations they sold very well in England and the United States.
Freidrich Armand Strubberg was born in 1806 into a wealthy tobacco merchant
family in Kassel. After a quarrel and duel over a love rivalry he fled Germany. In October 1828, he made sketches of the
Niagara Falls. Little else is known of this trip to North America.
He returned to Germany in 1829 to find the family
fortune waning - within eight years it was gone. Strubberg returned
to the United States. From New Orleans he traveled slowly by rail and river to New York, arriving in 1840. Here a love
affair and duel sent him to Cincinnati where he adopted the name Mr.
Frederick. From Ohio he went west. Near Louisville his steamboat
sank and he lost all his possessions. While waiting for replacements, he made the acquaintance of a German professor,
identified simply as “der Professor,” convinced Strubberg
to stay in Louisville and study medicine. After two years of study
at a local college, Dr. Strubberg continued his travels, unaccompanied, to Little Rock and across the Red River into the
Texas Territory. Starting from Austin he explored near present day
Dallas and San Antonio. When he reached the Leona River he built a
more expeditions, including one to the Rocky Mountains, Strubberg returned to Germany 1854 and published, under the name
Armand, his first book, that included twenty four sketches from his
American travels, Amerikanische Jagd-und Reise Abendteuer, 1858.
In 1854, with the help of von Humboldt, Robert
von Schlaginweit (born in Munich, 1833, died Giessen, 1885) and his
brothers, Adolf and Hermann, secured a commission from the Prussian King and the British East Indian Company to undertake
a scientific expedition to India. In 1859 the brothers were knighted in England.
In 1868 and again in 1880 Robert traveled through the American Southwest.
He documented these trips and published them as immigrant guides to
the far West.
He was also
a collector, specializing in Southwest Indian artifacts. His collections
were housed in Munich and made accessible to the public in 1885.
Since most post-Civil War immigrants crossed the American continent by rail
von Schlaginweit provided them with a guide that gave special mention to the wonders of nature to be seen along the way.
He illustrated and described a number of tunnels through which immigrants would pass on their way to California.
A windows into the earth, tunnels and caves fascinated German scientists,
explorers, and travelers.
Prairies had been described as oceans of grass with buffalo as its
fish by the early German explorers. To the immigrants of the 1870s the prairie meant farmlands along the railroad’s
right of way. Buffalos were an awkward reality, picturesque only as chromolithographs and useful only as robes on winter
1860 Friedrich Gerstacker, born 1816 in Hamburg, had replaced Gottfried
Duden as the source of authentic information on America. In his 43 novels he warned the
prospective emigrant against American practices and the numerous pitfalls that waited him there. Gerstacker’s works
were based on first-hand observations gathered on sojourns of lengthy duration, and under all kinds of circumstances.
travels at mid-century gave his audience a comparative picture of conditions in the United States for the years
1837-1867. He unfolded his narrative against actual events, historical and personal, and landscapes, vast and dangerous
yet suggestive of change. He did not write for the entertainment of
the general public.
lure of adventure, the West and the Indians continued unabated in Germany
well into the twentieth century. Some stories were abridged others were retellings. Some were designed for youth,
such as Franz Schneller’s retelling in adventure story format of Prince Maximilian’s expedition. Others were
by popular authors who never left Germany or visited the United States
only after achieving fame for their “American exploits,”
basing their adventure stories on the experiences of others. Such was Karl May (1842-1912) and his best know characters,
Winnetou and Old Shatterhand.
too, had a profound influence and played an important role in creating information that helped the scientific community
and the interested public to understand North America.
Although Henry Lewis, born in Kent, England in
1819, immigrated to St. Louis in 1836, was not German or a scientist
he was a cabinetmaker and is included here because of his longtime residence in Düsseldorf where he trained many artists,
some of whom became influential in America.
by Bodmer to do a painting of the Mississippi valley, Lewis discussed his plan with three fellow St. Louis
artists, who immediately took up the project. A canvas 440 yards long was produced. It was exhibited all over the United
States too much acclaim. Two panoramas 625 and 500 yards in length
to be outdone, Lewis began his panorama at Fort Snelling in May 1846. He
drifted in a crude houseboat as far as Prairie-du-Chien, sketching along the way. That winter, in St. Louis, he worked
on the sketches, and the next summer drifted down the river to New
Orleans. In May and June of 1848 he spent 48 days on the river and
made a continuous sketch of the entire course of the Mississippi. On his return to St. Louis, Lewis began to paint and
when he stopped, a year alter, he had a two-part canvas, 12 feet high. St. Louis was the divide. The upper river was 825
yards in length - the lower 500 - a total of 1325 yards.
The work was exhibited in all the major cities
of the United States and was visited by President Tyler. Lewis then
took his work to England and Germany. In 1851 he settled in Düsseldorf, Germany
where he became a very influential Professor at the Art Academy. During the 1850s “Düsseldorf” meant high
style and technical competence. Although the Academy’s style fell on disfavor in the course of the nineteenth century,
it produced many first-rate artists. Some of who were German and became closely associated with the American West. Albert
Bierstadt was one.
The fate of
the panorama remains unknown. Some of the views of cities along the Mississippi survive as lithographs copied from Lewis’
original sketches. Three of the most broadly distributed and known are, view of New Orleans, view or St. Louis and an
artist’s encampment along the Mississippi.
Most of the German scientists, writers, artists
and explorers who traveled the American West remain almost unknown.
A rare commemoration of their efforts is the monument designed by Guta von Freydorf-Stepamnow, depicting Prince Maximilian
carrying a rifle, Karl Bodmer with a sketchbook and the Mandan Chief Mato Tope looking west erected in 1987, in Neuwied,
Rolf Achilles, revised and corrected July/August