Since its discovery, America has held tremendous attraction for Europeans. German interest was strongly awakened by the American Revolution, and strengthened during the period of Romanticism. In the nineteenth century many Germans experiencing a feeling of Europamüdigkeit found relief and diversion in the exotic world of the American Frontier and among American Indians as presented in the works of James Fenimore Cooper and others. Numerous Germans journeyed to the American West to experience the country first hand. Balduin Möllhausen belongs to the circle of nineteenth century expositors of America. He distinguished himself as an explorer, artist, diarist and novelist of the American West during the second half of the nineteenth century. Möllhausen made three journeys to the American West. During each of these journeys the Prussian's experiences and travels helped shape his image of the American West.
Möllhausen first came to America in 1849. After spending a year along the Missouri and Kaskaskia rivers, he met Duke Paul of Wwürttemberg in 1851 and traveled with him that year over the Oregon Trail to Fort Laramie. During the return journey, Möllhausen became stranded on the prairies by winter snows. After several weeks of solitude, Möllhausen was rescued by a band of Oto Indians and traveled with them to the Missouri River and civilization.
Möllhausen returned to Germany in 1852. There he became a good friend of Alexander von Humboldt. The aging scientist encouraged him to return to America. In 1853 he returned to America. With Humboldt's letter of introduction he secured a position as artist and collector of natural specimens with a government expedition under the command of A. W. Whipple, sent to survey a railroad route on the thirty-fifty parallel. During this survey Möllhausen visited the Great Plains and became well acquainted with the Southwest.
Möllhausen returned to America in 1857 to participate in a government survey of the Colorado River and Grand Canyon. This expedition was commanded by Joseph C. Ives. On this survey he served as artist and naturalist. He and his countryman, Baron von Egloffstein, became the first artists to sketch Grand Canyon.
Möllhausen returned to Germany in 1858. He published his diaries covering his second and third journeys to America and launched a literary career. Between 1861 and his death in 1905 he wrote over one hundred volumes of fiction, many of which concerned the American West. He became an important exponent of transatlantic exotic American frontier fiction. Möllhausen probably experienced more of the mid-nineteenth century American scene than any other German writer. He viewed western America through the eyes of a romantic and adventurer. His travel narratives breathe with freshness and excitement, with enthusiasm and optimism. But he was not blind to America's faults or the inconsistencies of the American experiment. As a novelist Möllhausen belongs to the Cooperian tradition.
He is best known in America for his art, much of which illustrated government reports. While his sketches and paintings do not have great artistic merit, they rank with his literary accounts as important documents in interpreting nineteenth century western America.
Level of Degree
First Committee Member (Chair)
Donald Colgett Cutter
Second Committee Member
Robert William Kern
Third Committee Member
William Miner Dabney
Miller, David H.. "Balduin Möllhausen, A Prussian's Image Of The American West." (1970). https://digitalrepository.unm.edu/hist_etds/306