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 Heinrich Balduin/Baldwin Mollhausen  (1825 - 1905)



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Lived/Active: Arizona/California / Germany      Known for: topographical drawing and painting

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Baldwin Mollhausen is primarily known as Heinrich Balduin/Baldwin Mollhausen

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
A German explorer artist and writer who made three extensive trips to the American West, Heinrich Mollhausen was inspired by America and subjects including "Indians, the plains, Utah and the Mormons, gold and California, the Santa Fe trail, the Civil War, the South, the Great Lakes and the sea." (23)  He was born near Bonn, Germany.  His father, who collected copper engravings, died when Mollhausen was young, and he then lived with relatives who enrolled him for schooling at Bonn.  He showed early talent for drawing but had no special training.  After several years in the military, he became one of the many German immigrants who moved westward across the United States.

Mollhausen's trips to the United States were between 1849 and 1858, and resulted in his making substantial contribution to the pictorial history of the American West.  He is interchangeably called Balduin and Baldwin Mollhausen, and seldom used the first name of Heinrich.

On his exploring trips he wrote personal narratives and did many sketches from nature.  However, he was primarily a man of letters, writing forty-five novels with some of them five and six volumes each.  Although many of these writings were fiction and the characters were stiff and stylized, they were based on narratives of personal experiences that conveyed historical truths.  Most of his original work burned during the conquest of Berlin in April, 1945, but the National Museum in Washington DC has eight pen and ink drawings and one water-color sketch.

On his first trip, 1849 to 1852, he lived for a time in Belleville, Illinois near St. Louis and spent much time hunting along the Kaskaskia River in southwestern Illinois.  Hearing that Prince Paul of Wurttemberg was planning an expedition across Nebraska to the Rocky Mountains, he applied and received acceptance to join.   However, the trip terminated in the fall of 1851 because of Indian problems, and Mollhausen, losing a draw with Prince Paul, had to stay on the trail in a camp by himself from November to January, 1852,  He nearly lost his life, but a band of Otoe Indians saved him by taking him to their villages at the mouth of the Platte River at the Missouri.  He then re-outfitted at the trading post of Peter Sarpy at Bellevue, and stayed about three months before going south to New Orleans where he joined Prince Paul.  He returned to Germany on January 6, 1853 with a consignment of animals for the Berlin zoo, a request made by the German consul in New Orleans.

In Berlin where he stayed four months before returning to America, Mollhausen became friends with Alexander von Humboldt, the famous geographer, who gave him recommendations for his future travels.

On his second journey to America, beginning with his arrival May 3, 1853, Mollhausen went immediately to Washington DC, and a week later received the appointment to the Whipple Expedition, which was part of the Pacific Railroad Surveys to find a westward route.  Amiel Whipple was the leader of this railway mapping survey, which was through the Southwest along the 35th parallel from Arkansas to California.  They left Fort Smith Arkansas on July 15, 1853.  Their route with the destination of Los Angeles went across Indian Territory, across Llano Estacado of Texas, through New Mexico territory to Albuquerque, into Arizona through the Petrified Forest, south of the San Francisco Peaks, across the Colorado River and through the Mohave Desert.  They arrived at the Peublo de Los Angeles nine months later, on March 21, 1854, a crossing of 1,892 miles. 

Referring to himself on this trip as the German Naturalist, Mollhausen recorded his experiences, which were later published in his Diary, but it was also a composite of earlier experiences he had in the West.  The extent of Mollhausen’s formal training in natural science is unknown, but in the formal expedition report of this trip and a succeeding one, it is obvious that his chief interests centered on Native American tribes.  Pencil sketches by him were made of individuals and genre scenes of “Choctaw, Creek, Cherokee, Shawnee Delaware, Wichita, Comanche, Kiowa, Zuni, and Mohave” and “constitute important ethnographic records for the present day.” (26-27).  Twenty-four drawings and nine paintings by Mollhausen on this Whipple Expedition are in the collection of the Oklahoma Historical Society, and it is likely that many of the drawings were used for lithographic reproductions for the published expedition report.  Although Mollhausen was the principal illustrator with drawings of Navajos, Mohaves, Fort Smith and San Francisco Mountains, three other artists had entries as well: Albert Campbell (1826-1899), John Tidball (1825-1906) and Fielding Meek (1817-1876).

Upon the completion of the Whipple Expedition, Mollhausen and the others boarded a steamer to San Francisco, and then he and five others took the steamer, Oregon, to New York via Panama, and reached their destination on April 28, 1854.  He spent several months in New York and Washington, “presumably in completing his sketches for the official report” (30), and then returned to Berlin.  There he re-met Alexander von Humboldt, who was very impressed by Mollhausen’s sketches of the Whipple Expedition, and arranged a meeting with King Frederick, who then “appointed Mollhausen custodian of the libraries in the royal residences in Potsdam, a title which Mollhausen held until his death in 1905.”   It was a job with virtually no duties but carried a stipend.  During this time, Mollhausen married the daughter of Humboldt’s secretary, readied his Diary for publication, and accepted an appointment from Lt. J.C. Ives, who had been on the Whipple Expedition, to join him as an assistant on a survey of the Colorado River to determine the extent of its navigability.

For this third visit to America, Mollhausen left Berlin on August 12, 1857, landed in New York on September 1st and then joined expedition members Dr. John Strong Newberry (1822-1892) and Frederick von Egloffstein (1824-1898), a Bavarian topographer, for the trip by steamer from New York to San Francisco.  They met Ives, and the entire party of about 45, convened at Fort Yuma, near the Mexico and U.S. border, on January 9, 1858.  They assembled their small steamboat, called the Explorer, and left January 11.  By March 23, they had reached what became known as the Grand Canyon.  The trip was treacherous and included a harrowing attempt to climb within the Canyon and exploration by foot of the Canyon.  On May 6, 1858, the group divided into two parties, with Mollhausen going to Fort Defiance, about 190 miles west of Albuquerque.  Ives and a second group joined them a week later, and on May 14, the expedition officially ended. Mollhausen and John Newberry returned to New York via riverboat and train, and on September 1, 1858, Mollhausen sailed for Berlin, “never to return again to the United States.” (33) Illustrations by him appear in the Ives report including 12 full-page tinted woodcuts.  Among the illustrations in the report are “the first pictorial records of the Grand Canyon” by white person exploring the area.  The artists were Mollhausen and Frederick von Egloffstein.

Returning to Berlin, Mollhausen spent the remainder of his career as a writer, using his experiences in the American West as a major source of subject matter.  In 1904, the year before his death, he wrote:  “Even in extreme old age these recollections make the blood run faster and with renewed enthusiasm through the veins . . .When one thinks of those days, one wishes to be up in the clouds or beyond them, even higher, so that he could embrace with a single glance the old familiar hunting ground from the icy North down to the blue Gulf of Mexico, from the moving Mississippi to the long range of the Rockies” . . .(35)

Robert Taft, Artists and Illustrators of the Old West, 1850-1900, pp. 22-35

Written by Lonnie Pierson Dunbier

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born near Bonn, Germany in 1825. Möllhausen made three trips to the U.S. between 1849-58. On his second visit he served as topographer for the Whipple Surveying Expedition along the 35th parallel from Arkansas to California, arriving in Los Angeles in 1854. He was again a member of an expedition which explored the Colorado River in 1857-58. He later was custodian of the royal libraries at Potsdam where he remained until his death in 1905. Most of his drawings burned in Germany during WWII. In: NMAA; CHS (Mission San Diego); Amon Carter Museum.
Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
Artists and Illustrators of the Old West (Robert Taft); Drawings & Illustrations by Southern California Artists (Wall Moore, Nancy Dustin, et al; Laguna Beach Museum of Art); First 100 Years of Painting in California (J. Van Nostrand); Artists of the American West (Samuels); New York Historical Society's Dictionary of Artists in America (Groce, George C. and David H. Wallace).
Nearly 20,000 biographies can be found in Artists in California 1786-1940 by Edan Hughes and is available for sale ($150). For a full book description and order information please click here.

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Baldwin Mollhausen is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
Painters of Grand Canyon

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