Hermann Voogdt, Ship Captain and Ethnographic Collector in German New Guinea Hermann Voogdt, Ship Captain and Ethnographic Collector in German New Guinea By Rainer Buschmann Hermann Voogdt was a prominent ship captain and ethnographica collector in German New Guinea who stood at the helm of the Senta and Siar, two vital recruiting vessels for the New Guinea Company. Voogdt was a native of Papenburg, a northern German city located along the river Ems with a rich shipbuilding tradition. It is not clear when the captain arrived in the colony, but by the 1890s he commanded the New Guinea Company’s sailing schooner Senta, which was recruiting laborers for the company along the northeastern corner of New Guinea (then called Kaiser Wilhelmsland) and the Bismarck Archipelago. In 1899, Voogdt left German New Guinea only to return in 1900 at the helm of the Eberhard, Bruno Mencke’s steam yacht that brought the First German South Sea Expedition to the colony. Mencke and his secretary Ludwig Caro were killed in an indigenous attack while camping on the beach on a collecting trip to the St. Matthias Islands (Mussau) in 1901. The disbanding of the expedition that followed triggered a return of Voogdt to his native Papenburg from where he addressed the German Colonial Division of the Foreign Office about the need to improve the shipping situation in the territory. The introduction of the steamship Siar in 1902 sought to ameliorate the obvious shipping shortfalls. The same year, Voogdt would return to German New Guinea to take on the helm of the steamer. Voogdt was in rotation with at least two other captains, Alfred Knoth and Carl Haug, who were also avid collectors of ethnographic artifacts. According to my estimates, these captains took no less than 6,000 artifacts out of German New Guinea. Voogdt near Friedrich Wilhelmshafen 1902, Dieter Klein Collection. When exactly Voogdt initiated his ethnographic collecting is not entirely clear, although captaining the ethnographically minded Eberhard venture may have been influential in this regard. His extensive recruiting trips on the Siar, and on the earlier sailing vessel Senta, also provided ample opportunity for acquiring indigenous artifacts. Because Voogdt carried out limited correspondence with German ethnographic museums, evidence of Voogdt’s collection activity has to be pieced together from several sources and an important encounter with Georg Dorsey, the ethnographic curator of the Field Museum in Chicago. Between the years of 1902 and 1908, Voodgt seemed to have sold or traded ethnographica with local colonial residents including, besides other ship captains, the colonial surgeon Curt Danneil. In 1906, Bremen Museum director Hugo Schauinsland was introduced to Voogdt on his brief trip through German New Guinea. According to Schauinsland, Voodgt resided with his wife near Friedrich Wilhelmshafen (contemporary Madang). The Siar anchored off Stephansort, Dieter Klein Collection Already before encountering Dorsey, Voogdt acquired the reputation of collecting rare ethnographic objects and charging high “apothecary” prices for his prized possessions. With easy access to the newly opened Sepik River basin, Voogdt not only encountered a rich recruiting field but also a seemingly endless supply of much-searched-after ethnographic artifacts. Since Voogdt was among the first to operate in this region, he had access to seemingly pre-contact era artifacts and was quickly acquiring a keen eye for outstanding specimens. Edgar Walden, an ethnographer associated with the German Naval Expedition, encountered the captain in early 1908 and reported that he had in his possession a large Garamut drum made entirely without iron for which he rejected offers of 500 marks. Similarly, he held an ancient heirloom headrest and hoped to fetch a minimum of 1000 marks from its sale. To put such high costs in some sort of context: the average price paid for an artifact from German New Guinea in the early twentieth century varied between 5 to 15 marks an object, depending on provenance. Voogdt found a willing purchaser of his costly artifacts in Georg Dorsey who would arrive in German New Guinea in the summer of 1908. In August of 1908, the American curator traveled with New Guinea Company official Georg Heine and captain Voogdt on board the Siar from Madang to close to the Dutch border, including a short journey up the Sepik River, for an inspection tour of company outposts. On the journey, labor recruiting would frequently take precedence over ethnographic collection, and, given the rushed conditions on the steamer, Voogdt and Dorsey often found themselves competing over artifacts. However, there is also indication that they both learned from each other since there is a marked resemblance in their collections. Despite the competitive atmosphere, Dorsey and Voogdt struck up a very close friendship as Dorsey had very complementary things to say about the captain. Siar in front of Potsdamhafen with Manam Island in the distance, Dieter Klein Collection Robert Welsch, who inspected Voogdt’s objects at the Field Museum in the 1990s, points out that the captain’s collecting practices were rushed, generally performed from the deck of the ship and that the crew of the Siar assisted the captain in this activity. Welsch further surmised that the captain probably instructed Dorsey about what western items to employ in the barter exchanges with the local population and what constituted a “prized” artifact. In return, Dorsey may have informed Voogdt about what artifacts could fetch high prices on the museum market. Welsch concluded that the symbiotic relationship between captain and curator also explained the high degree in similarity between their ethnographic collections at the Field Museum. Voogdt’s friendship with Dorsey exceeded the American’s brief period in the German colony. In May 1909, for instance, while on his way to Germany, Voogdt made special arrangements to visit Chicago and vowed to continue his collection efforts for the Field Museum. In 1912, Dorsey purchased a collection from the German ethnographica company J. F. G. Umlauff, which was partially attributed to Voogdt. This purchase also illustrated that the captain was more likely to sell his collection to a merchant specializing in this commodity rather than taking his chances in negotiating with hard-nosed curators that characterized the German museological landscape.