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MOLLHAUSEN, HEINRICH BALDUIN

MÖLLHAUSEN, HEINRICH BALDUIN (1825–1905). Heinrich Balduin Möllhausen, artist, diarist, and writer of Western tales for German audiences, the son of Heinrich and Elisabeth Möllhausen, was born near Bonn, Prussia, on January 27, 1825. His middle name is misspelled in the American version of his diary. His father was a Prussian military officer and civil engineer, and his mother was the Baronesse von Falkenstein. Three trips to the United States in the 1850s gave Möllhausen the material and experiences he used to produce illustrations, diaries, and fiction for nearly fifty years. His works made him enormously popular with Germans of all ages and classes, and he has become known as "the German Cooper."

Diary of a Journey from the Mississippi to the coasts of the Pacific with a United States Government Expedition
Diary of a Journey from the Mississippi to the coasts of the Pacific with a United States Government Expedition, by Heinrich Balduin Möllhausen. Image courtesy of the University of North Texas. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.
Zuni, New Mexico
Illustration, Zuni, New Mexico, by Heinrich Balduin Möllhausen in Diary of a Journey from the Mississippi to the coasts of the Pacific with a United States Government Expedition. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

After arriving in the United States in 1849 and working in the Midwest, in 1851 Möllhausen traveled through the Plains to Fort Laramie with Prince Paul of Württemberg. He returned to Germany in 1852 with a shipment of wild animals for the Berlin zoo and met Alexander von Humboldt. He soon became a favorite of the old explorer and, bearing a recommendation from Humboldt, returned to the United States, where he joined Lt. Amiel Weeks Whipple's Pacific Railroad survey of the Thirty-fifth parallel as "topographer or draughtsman." The party traveled from Fort Smith, Arkansas, to Pueblo de los Angeles in 1853–54. Möllhausen made several illustrations in the Texas Panhandle that appear in Whipple's report. Afterward in Germany his success with Humboldt continued, and he married Humboldt's secretary's daughter, Carolina Alexandra Seifert, on February 6, 1855. Möllhausen wrote about his trip with Whipple in Diary of a Journey from the Mississippi to the coasts of the Pacific with a United States Government Expedition (1858), which offers a diagram entitled "Geological Section of the Llano Estacado" and other illustrations of the Panhandle. The diary discusses his experiences on the Canadian River and the Llano Estacado of Texas. Humboldt honored Möllhausen with his preface to the two volumes. In 1857 Lt. Joseph Christmas Ives recalled him to America to join his party, which was "to ascertain the navigability of the Colorado [River] and investigate the area of the Grand Canyon." Möllhausen received from the secretary of war the appointment of "artist and collector in natural history." The illustrations in the Ives report are some of the first ever published of the Grand Canyon.

Reisen in die Felsengebirge Nord-Amerikas bis zum Hoch-Plateau von Neu-Mexico
Illustration, Reisen in die Felsengebirge Nord-Amerikas bis zum Hoch-Plateau von Neu-Mexico, by Heinrich Balduin Möllhausen. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

After the Ives expedition Möllhausen returned home for good, on September 1, 1858. From his sketchbooks of the expedition he made watercolor illustrations that he sent back to Washington for use in the report. He wrote a prodigious number of novels and serials based on his adventures in America. Möllhausen wanted to go beyond merely presenting a tale; he wanted to provide "more effective descriptions of nature and more plastic presentations of the customs and manners of peoples in the new world than were otherwise possible." Writing mostly from memory, he consulted Smithsonian Institution reports when his stories called for historical and scientific information. He also published a diary of his journey, the Reisen in die Felsengebirge Nord-Amerikas bis zum Hoch-Plateau von Neu-Mexico (1860), which features some of the same scenes published in Ives's report. Möllhausen's fictional works about Texas include Der Meerkönig, 1867, and Das Hundertguldenblatt, 1870.

Möllhausen had two sons. He died in Berlin on May 28, 1905. In addition to the Whipple and Ives reports and his diaries published in German, English, Dutch, and Danish, his works can be seen in the Smithsonian Institution, Washington; the Oklahoma State Historical Society, Oklahoma City; the Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth; and the Staatliches Museum für Völkerkunde, Berlin.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Preston Albert Barba, Balduin Möllhausen, the German Cooper (Menasha, Wisconsin: George Banta, 1914). Baldwin Möllhausen, Diary of a Journey from the Mississippi to the Coasts of the Pacific with a United States Government Expedition, trans. Mrs. Percy Sinnett (2 vols., London: Longman, Brown, Green, Longmans, and Roberts, 1858; rpt., New York and London: Johnson Reprint Corporation, 1969). Robert Taft, Artists and Illustrators of the Old West, 1850–1900 (New York: Scribner, 1953; rpt., Princeton University Press, 1982).

Kathleen Doherty

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Handbook of Texas Online, Kathleen Doherty, "Mollhausen, Heinrich Balduin," accessed December 08, 2016, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fmobt.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on April 27, 2016. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.