Karl Nauer, Northern German Lloyd Captain and Ethnographic Collector Karl Nauer, Northern German Lloyd Captain and Ethnographic Collector By Rainer F. Buschmann Karl Nauer (1874-1962) was a prominent member of the colonial community in German New Guinea. He exported well over 3,000 artifacts from the Pacific while serving at the helm of the coastal steamer Sumatra. Nauer is probably the only German whose Pacific collection served as the foundation of a new museum, opened in 2009, dedicated to Oceania in his native Obergünzburg. Nauer, a Bavarian native, developed a passion for oceanic travel at an early age. Following service in the German Navy and on several foreign vessels, Nauer joined the North German Lloyd (NGL) in 1895. In 1901, he obtained his captain's license and, two years later, moved to German New Guinea. Upon arrival, he became a high-ranking officer on the governmental steamer Seestern (Starfish). By 1906, Nauer finally obtained his desired post as captain of the NGL steamer Sumatra. Karl Nauer By 1905 the NGL had contributed its part to solving the intermittent ship traffic within, thereby increasing their influence in German New Guinea. With the completion of more extensive wharf facilities at Simpsonhafen (later Rabaul), the shipping company sought to increase its presence in the territory. NGL officials reached an agreement with larger commercial companies--such as Hernsheim, E. E. Forsayth, or the New Guinea Company--about internal colonial shipping. The settlement enabled the NGL to employ designated steamers to transport cargo and mail to and from all essential ports throughout the Bismarck Archipelago, the German Solomon Islands, and the German part of mainland New Guinea (Kaiser Wihelmsland). In return, commercial companies would reduce their fleets to small schooners and commit their imports and exports to NGL shipping. The Sumatra (584 tons) maintained a regularly scheduled service within the Bismarck Archipelago, the German Solomon Islands, and the Kaiser Wilhelmsland. However, it became obvious very quickly that the steamer had overextended itself. Thus, after only a few months of service to New Guinea, the Sumatra remained on schedule for the Bismarck Archipelago and the Solomon Islands only. The routes took the vessel to many hotspots of the ethnographic collection networks in German New Guinea: Bougainville, Buka, New Britain, New Ireland, the Admiralty Islands, and the western isles of the Bismarck Archipelago. The Sumatra, Südsee Sammlung und Historisches Museum, Obergünzburg As captain, Nauer collected many artifacts along the side of his ship. Passengers on board also partook in this activity. For instance, globetrotter Bessie Pullen-Burry, who traveled on the Sumatra to the Admiralty Islands, reported that whenever the vessel “approached the shore of these islands for trading purposes, long canoes shot out from the coast, each carrying from twenty to fifty natives in the highest excitement, keen to exchange their copra and native commodities for knives, beads and other European articles.” Trading with Admiralty Islanders, Südsee Sammlung und Historisches Museum, Obergünzburg Admiralty Islanders offering obsidian-tipped weapon for exchange alongside the Sumatra, Südsee Sammlung und Historisches Museum, Obergünzburg In addition, he made long-standing friendships with essential players featured in the present Provenance section: Franz Boluminski, Richard and Phebe Parkinsons, Wilhelm Wostrack, Max Thiel, and Governor Albert Hahl. Nauer was cautious about revealing his collection sources in his correspondence with ethnographic museums, but a great deal of suggestive evidence supports the exchanges following the Sumatra arrival at a particular port of the territory. Nauer did not only aid the interest of other colonial residents, but he also served his concerns very effectively. When Bremen director Hugo Schauinsland visited German New Guinea in 1906, the captain started to develop a close relationship with the museum official. Nauer vowed to collect natural scientific and ethnographic collections for the museum, while Bremen officials would forward duplicates of the collection to the captain’s hometown of Obergünzburg. Nevertheless, gathering ethnographic and natural scientific duplicates was hardly enough for the captain. Fearing for his job, Nauer, for instance, asked Schauninsland to intervene on his behalf with the NGL when the captain was drafted to serve a tour of duty for the German Navy. The increasing cooperation between Nauer and the Bremen Museum would result in two collecting missions to German New Guinea, where the captain would actively support Bremen-based curator Ludwig Cohn in this activity. One venture went to Bougainville between the years of 1908 and 1909 and another to the Admiralty Islands between 1911 and 1912. In between these essential collecting endeavors, Nauer called in a second favor. When the captain found out that a new governmental steamer, the Komet, was bound for German New Guinea replacing the Seestern, which vanished on the open ocean in 1909, Nauer inquired with Ludwig Cohn whether or not a designated captain had been found to helm the streamer. If a captain had indeed been found, then the matter was settled. However, if the esteemed gentlemen were still looking for a suitable person for the Planet, Nauer wanted Schauinsland to once again put in a good word in support. The reason why Nauer wanted to switch his command was not “because of love to Hahl or the government.” On the contrary, he was toying with the idea of investing in a plantation in the territory, and the less than regular schedules of the governmental vessel were more suited to maintain his sideline business than the schedule-ridden routes of the Sumatra. Despite his attempts to switch employers, Nauer continued to captain the Sumatra until 1913, when he left German New Guinea. Exhausting his favors with the Bremen museum, Nauer turned his attention elsewhere. Probably inspired by Franz Boluminski, whom Nauer called a close friend, the NGL captain started investing in decorations, which he could not obtain from Bremen since this city, like the other Hanseatic states, did not spot a decoration system. His first chance at a state decoration was a meeting with Ernst Sarfert, who, as curator for the oceanic division at the Leipzig museum, accompanied the Hamburg South Sea Expedition on its second year through the island world of Micronesia. While transitioning through the Bismarck Archipelago, Sarfert attempted to recruit colonial residents for the Leipzig institution. The initially courteous interchange between the ship captain and the Leipzig curator started to cool when Sarfert questioned Nauer's collection methods. Finally, the Bavarian captain wrote to Leipzig: "[w]ith this shipment I am hoping to have gone closer to fulfill my desire, a decoration from the Kingdom of Saxony. I would not be upset if this matter does not work out. I simply ask you in this case kindly to forward my ethnographica to the Linden Museum in Stuttgart." By 1913, however, Nauer had been targeted by another museum located in the Bavarian capital of Munich, which ultimately led to his coveted state decoration. Nauer, certainly somewhat upset and certainly exhausted about Sarfert’s never-ending nitpicky inquiries, found himself in luck. The collections he had forwarded to his hometown came to the attention of Bavarian Crown Prince Ruprecht, who inspected the artifacts while overseeing military maneuvers in the region. Ruprecht wrote to ethnographic museum director Lucian Scherman, who had recently assumed this job and wanted to expand the collections under his directorship. Scherman wrote to Nauer and reached an agreement about the collection, where the Munich museum would obtain duplicates from the Obergünzburg collection. Unfortunately, when museum officials arrived at Josef Nauer, the captain’s father, doorstep, they took a great deal more to Munich than agreed upon. Josef Weiss, a childhood friend of Karl Nauer, persuaded the captain to retain at least part of his collection at the Natural History Museum of Obergünzburg. That collection ultimately led to the creation of an independent museum dedicated to Oceania in that very town. Nauer’s part of the collection that ended up at the Munich museum would yield him the much-desired decoration: The Order of St. Michael fourth class, which he would receive in December of 1914 with the Great War raging in Europe. Meanwhile, under a new captain, the Sumatra attempted to flee Rabaul for neutral Timor following the outbreak of the Great War. However, when confronted with the Australian cruiser Melbourne, its crew surrendered on 13 September 1914. Australian authorities continued to employ the vessel until 1923, when it sunk in a storm off Port Macquarie, New South Wales. During the Great War, the captain served, as one would expect, in the German Navy. Nauer would see action in the Baltic, the Mediterranean, and the North seas. Following the conflict, with the loss of the German colonial territory, he had to surrender his plantation participation, and he attempted his hand in several business endeavors. By 1923, Nauer rejoined the NGL and served on several vessels. Most prominently, he captained the large steamer Sierra Morena that connected Germany with South America until retiring in 1935. A year before, author Otfried von Hanstein published Nauer's somewhat embellished memoirs on his time in New Guinea under the title of Anker Auf! (Raise Anchors). Uli figure displayed on the Sumatra, Dieter Klein Collection As mentioned before, Nauer provided little detailed information on his collection activity. What we do know, however, is that he collected artifacts from the board of his ship, and he traded them with prominent colonial residents while in port. In addition, in at least two letters, talking about New Ireland and Buka, the captain mentioned that indigenous people were performing collecting activities on his behalf while Nauer busied himself keeping up with shipping schedules. His widely cast collection net also earned him criticism from German ethnographers. Leipzig-based Ernst Sarfert, for instance, took issue with Nauer's many uli figures: "It seems that the natives are transitioning to the modern fabrication of the [uli] figures. All smaller figures never crossed beyond the toddler age and were therefore produced in the very recent past. Fortunately, the lovely Prussian blue [an industrial colorant] can only be detected on a few figures and in only a few spots." Uli figure supplied by Nauer to Leipzig, now at the Saint Louis Art Museum. In Hamburg, F. E. Hellwig, who had ample experience acquiring objects in German New Guinea, even went so far as to question the authenticity of the captain’s Nissan masks: I regard these masks as mere curiosities, as they certainly are not authentic, otherwise the local white traders would have reported about them earlier. Nissan Island after all has been in contact with the outside world of over twenty years. This means that [these Masks] were either directly imported from Neu Mecklenburg [New Ireland] or they were taken to Nissan by numerous indentured workers from this island. Indeed a great many of these masks bear a resemblance with their New Mecklenburg counterparts. Perhaps Capt. Nauer has done you a great favor by ordering the manufacture of these artifacts? Nauer did probably not commission artifacts from the indigenous peoples he contacted. Instead, the ethnographer's statements were indicative of the rapid changes that were taking place in German New Guinea in the early twentieth century. Iron tools, for instance, found rapid entrance in the manufacture of indigenous material culture, as did industrially sourced colorants and European beads and cloth. Nauer was less discerning--for him, the objects became a means to an end--than his ethnographic counterpart and thus introduced artifact changes into European museum collections.