Bruno Oetteking was a physical anthropologist born on 2 April 1871 in Hamburg, Germany, where he completed high school and the qualifying exams (Abitur). He studied at several universities and wrote his dissertation on the craniology of the ancient Egyptians, earning his doctorate from Zürich in 1908.  After one year in Argentina, he moved to New York in 1913, where he lived until his death on 17 January 1960. Oetteking collaborated with Franz Boas on the Jesup North Pacific Expedition (1913-1920), taught several courses in anthropology and evolution at Columbia University’s Extension (1920-1938), and in 1921 became the Curator of Physical Anthropology at the Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation.  From 1945 to 1957 he taught anatomy courses at the Chiropractic Institute of New York. Oetteking wrote numerous articles for Indian Notes and Monographs and published in several other scientific journals, including the American Journal of Physical Anthropology and the National Chiropractic Journal. Two major monographs are the nearly 500-page long Craniology of the North Pacific Coast based on his studies of the Jesup Expedition (JNPE), and the textbook Human Craniology, which he wrote during his last professional appointment at the Chiropractic Institute of New York. 
Biographical data about Bruno Oetteking, including a list of his publications, was written as an obituary by Clarence W. Weiant, who was a former student of Oetteking’s at Columbia University and a research colleague at the Chiropractic Institute of New York. In addition to this obit, correspondences can be found in the Franz Boas Papers at the American Philosophical Society online and in the archival holdings of Robert Lehmann-Nitsche held at the Ibero-American Institute in Berlin.  The letters exchanged with Lehmann-Nitsche, who worked as a museum director and anthropology professor in Buenos Aires, concern Oetteking’s efforts to leave Germany and find suitable work in Argentina, which he did in 1912. The following year he and his wife Johanna [Hanna] Brocks moved on to New York. His correspondence with Boas spanning from 1913 to 1936 was mostly of a professional nature. As Della Collins Cook has pointed out, “The extensive literature on the career of Franz Boas is essentially silent on his relationship with Oetteking. One is curious about their long professional association and the issues that led to Oetteking’s dismissal”. 
In contrast to this sparsity, the letters exchanged with Robert Lehmann-Nitsche contain personal information and also offer some insights into the trans-Atlantic networks, which facilitated the hiring of scientists from Germany. For a lucky few, these opportunities would eventually lead to respected positions, in which they were able to build up important museums or found anthropology departments, which both Boas and Lehmann-Nitsche did. Many others, however, did not achieve international status or recognition despite their considerable achievements; Oetteking was one of them.
Unlike his colleagues, whose academic careers started in the sciences, Oetteking initially followed a different trajectory. He first took university courses in musicology (Musikwissenschaft) at the Conservatory in Hamburg. According to Rehm, Oetteking had a natural talent for the violin and “went on to worldwide acclaim as a professor of violin and a concert virtuoso”.  Weiant referred to him as “an accomplished pianist, composer, and teacher”  and in the International Who’s Who in Music and Musical Gazetteer, Oetteking was listed as teacher of piano and theory and composer of several piano sonatas. 
In 1893, Oetteking moved to North America, where he continued his teaching and performances at several institutions, ultimately at the University at Denver, Colorado, where he stayed until 1902.  Once he returned to Germany, he switched his academic pursuits to the physical sciences and studied anatomy, physical anthropology and evolutionary biology at Heidelberg, Leipzig and Zürich.
Correspondence with Robert Lehmann-Nitsche, Buenos Aires
In 1907, Oetteking started to work as a research assistant at the Physical Anthropological Department in the Royal Museum of Dresden, where he first started to communicate with Lehmann-Nitsche. The two men were connected through Rudolf Martin, who supervised Oetteking’s dissertation at Zürich. It was Martin who in 1896 had helped launch Lehmann-Nitsche’s career by negotiating with Francisco Moreno from Buenos Aires about bringing him to La Plata. Lehmann-Nitsche participated in an extensive international scientific network, which expanded as his career advanced. By helping Oetteking get a job at the Universidad Nacional in Buenos Aires in 1912, Lehmann-Nitsche was in a way returning a favor. Referring and recommending up-and-coming scholars were practices which scholars with connections naturally engaged in. Many researchers or research assistants trained in Europe were thus brought to the Americas. However, Lehmann-Nitsche’s assistance went above and beyond professional obligations.
Oetteking first wrote to Lehmann-Nitsche while working in the Royal Museum in Dresden.  He was responding to an inquiry about publications and noted that unfortunately, the funds for the museum had been cut back to the minimum and conditions in Germany in general were not favourable. Their professional communications continued after Oetteking started to work for the Anatomical Institute of Heidelberg University, where he worked as a research assistant from 1910 to 1911. Oetteking not only thanked Lehmann-Nitsche for the publications he sent but also lamented that he had not been able to get a job in anthropology, which would have been more fitting.  It is not clear who made inquiries in Argentina and if these were initiated by Lehmann-Nitsche or his colleague Eliseo Canton, dean of the Department of Medicine at the National University in Buenos Aires, but a job offer was forthcoming. In February 1912, Oetteking wrote to Lehmann-Nitsche thanking him for the offer of employment and asking him for a week to make his decision. At this point he was no longer working at the anatomical institute because the institute’s state credit had expired. Given these limited opportunities in Germany, Oetteking seemed excited about the prospect of living and working in Argentina. 
The following week Oetteking wrote to Lehmann-Nitsche that emigrating to Argentina appeared to be advantageous.  From here on, Lehmann-Nitsche negotiated on behalf of Oetteking and Eliseo Canton, who wanted to hire an assistant. The offer had not been specific and Oetteking asked for clarification regarding the job description and contractual obligations. He was also concerned about the compensation and inquired if the sum he had been offered referred to monthly or annual pay. Oetteking also asked if he would have an assistant for the basic work, die groben Arbeiten.  Lastly, he brought up the sum he needed for his moving expenses.
Lehmann-Nitsche did more than just make introductions; he ended up being involved in the logistics of Oetteking’s emigration. The letters from April to August 1912 continue to be concerned with details regarding the move, for example what the exact date of departure would be, which Oetteking wanted to postpone because he had his family affairs to settle and planned to get married. His fiancée, Johanna Brocks, whom he described as pampered, wanted to travel on a more comfortable steam ship, which affected their departure date.  This had to be cleared with Dr Canton through Lehmann-Nitsche, in part because Oetteking was not comfortable with his Spanish skills.
Last but not least, Oetteking asked Lehmann-Nitsche to help him find an apartment, if not too inconvenient, by placing ads in the Buenos Aires newspapers, for which of course he would reimburse him. Along with details about the number and size of rooms, Oetteking noted that they would prefer to have German or English neighbours.  As did other emigrants, Oetteking and his wife depended on information about local conditions and tips on how to navigate challenges. Following Lehmann-Nitsche’s advice, the newlyweds brought a lot of their household items (Ausstattung) and even a Steinway piano, since Oetteking’s wife was a professional pianist. By August 1912, they were crossing the Atlantic and in September, Oetteking reported that he and his wife were looking at apartments.  For the time being there were no more written requests, presumably because Oetteking, who served as the keeper of anatomical collections at the National University, was now able to ask Lehmann-Nitsche in person since both worked at the same university, albeit in different departments.
Unfortunately, the Oettekings did not enjoy their life in Buenos Aires and just a year after they had arrived, Oetteking sent a letter informing Lehmann-Nitsche that they had decided to leave Argentina as soon as possible. His colleagues at the university had already been informed. Once again in the process of transitioning, Oetteking asked Lehmann-Nitsche if he could help him sell his scientific instruments, for whatever price he could get.  Two months later Oetteking wrote from New York City, which seemed to appeal to his wife much more than Buenos Aires had. 
Less than a year after arriving in New York, World War I broke out and Oetteking wrote Lehmann-Nitsche about their personal experiences and political opinions. Like many Germans who had been living abroad, Oetteking felt attached to the German Empire and believed it would win the war. Apparently, he and his wife had spent the summer in Europe, having left in May for an extended period of time at the spa. When the war broke out in July, it wasn’t clear if they would be able to return to New York, but they finally managed to depart out of Rotterdam, after overcoming many obstacles. 
Witnessing the early war fever in Europe, Oetteking not only believed that no one in Germany had wanted the war, he was also convinced that Germany would win, and that England would have to be crushed in the process. He reassured Lehmann-Nitsche that the English were spreading lies and that Germans in South America did not have to worry because German victory was inevitable.  The following year, Oetteking sounded more sombre, writing that the war had claimed his only nephew, who had studied medicine. He then commented that the smear campaign in South America must have been even worse than it was North America.  Five years later, in 1920, Oetteking finally became the Curator of Physical Anthropology at the Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation. He wrote to Lehmann-Nitsche that it was a sign that anti-German sentiment in the U.S. was finally ebbing. 
During most of the war years, correspondence nearly ceased and once their professional relationships could resume, their exchanges focused on trying to determine what had happened to publications that were mailed from New York to Argentina during the war, but apparently never arrived. Unfortunately, the publications were highly prized, and Oetteking was not able to send replacements.  Several months later, Oetteking responded to a letter he had just received and gave Lehmann-Nitsche several updates, including about the precarious health of Rudolf Martin and his plans for a Festschrift. Regarding the situation in Argentina, Oetteking said it was interesting to see Lehmann-Nitsche was thinking of retiring, but he was hoping for the sake of Argentinian anthropology that this would not happen anytime soon. Lastly, he thanked his colleague for inquiring about his wife Johanna, who unfortunately left him two years prior to fulfil her own purpose in life (Lebensauffassung).  There is no further mention of any close family members in subsequent letters or in his obituary.
Jesup Expedition Cranial Studies and the Franz Boas Connection
In the Franz Boas Papers, correspondence between Oetteking and Boas first appears in 1913, after Oetteking had arrived in New York. On 30 October 1913, Boas sent a letter to Oetteking, officially offering him a job to study the skeletal collection of the Jesup Expedition. Oetteking would be able to do his work at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), and when the findings were published, Oetteking would be listed as author with Boas as editor.  On 1 December 1913, Oetteking replied to Boas, saying that he found the conditions of the offer acceptable.  In late January, Oetteking sent a letter to Lehmann-Nitsche from the AMNH apprising him of the new position. 
Oetteking’s work on the Jesup Expedition involved examining 550 crania, making 65 measurements on each. According to Weiant, these were difficult years, for “though [Oetteking] had lost no time in seeking and obtaining U.S. citizenship, he was by no means spared all of the unpleasantness generated by the widespread anti-German feeling of the World War I period”.  It can be assumed that his financial compensation was not sufficient and Weiant mentioned that as early as 1915, Oetteking started to organize the Department of Physical Anthropology at the American Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation, even though he would not be appointed as Curator of Physical Anthropology until 1921.  Tight budgets had also been an issue for Franz Boas when he first started to work for the AMNH in 1896, an appointment that was only feasible because Boas started to teach at Columbia University the same year.  Income from both institutions was necessary to work and live in New York.
There were other challenges related to Boas’ relationship with the AMNH which would impact Oetteking. Resenting efforts by museum director Hermon Bumpus to micro-manage his work, Boas resigned as curator in 1905. While the actual Jesup Expedition had ended by 1902, the study of the collections was far from complete and museum president Morris Jesup, who had financed the endeavour, was keen on seeing the 12 planned publications of the Memoires of the Jesup North Pacific Expedition finished. He therefore made special arrangements with Boas, creating a separate department and putting him in charge of the “Scientific Work of Jesup North Pacific Expedition and East Asiatic Research”. Boas would report directly to Jesup, rather than being part of the Anthropology Department at the museum. Scientific publications connected to the expedition came under Boas’ purview, which made it possible for Oetteking to work on the collection, even though Boas had resigned as curator eight years prior. Clark Wissler, who had succeeded Boas as curator at the AMNH, believed that this arrangement doomed the completion of the project. 
Importantly, at the time Oetteking started to work on the Jesup materials, the museum administration was no longer whole-heartedly committed. Jesup had died in 1908 and Henry Fairfield Osborn took on the position as president. He had little interest in the project and Wissler had no influence over Boas to push it forward.  In the end Boas managed to get most of the ethnography of the JNPE published, but the work dragged on for years. The final publication, which Boas was supposed to write as a comprehensive analysis of the entire expedition findings, was never completed.
Sources offer little insight into the war years or how Oetteking made a living. Progress at the museum was slow and Boas expressed his concern. The zoologist Frederic Lucas opined that the study of crania had not much to contribute.  Nonetheless, Wissler intended to bring it to completion and in January 1919 he asked president Osborn to offer Oetteking compensation of $100 monthly and clerical support to finish the necessary measurements and tabulations within six months, which he apparently did. However, the extensive monograph, Craniology of the North Pacific Coast, which was Volume 11 in the series, would not be published until 1930. As Cook notes, Oetteking was “meticulously, perhaps obsessively, descriptive” and reluctant to reach conclusions. Even his numerous articles in Indian Notes and Monographs “seldom venture beyond description, and he was notably slow in producing them”. 
These challenges related to the publication of the Jesup findings may help explain why Oetteking’s work received little recognition, even though the Jesup Expedition was one of the most famous of its kind. The materials collected on the Pacific Northwest Coast are still displayed in the museum today. However, exhibits are different from scholarship and also draw distinct audiences. As some critics of the skeletal studies noted, in the end no major conclusions or new theories emerged from the work, which was largely descriptive. Stanley Freed, who was at the AMNH from 1960 to 1999 noted that “measurements, casts and skeletal materials were near the top of the list of the data Boas wanted to collect in the course of the Jesup Expedition” but that they were “near the bottom of the list in terms of their significance for the expedition’s enduring importance and fame”. 
The Jesup Expedition could never be replicated today, in part because collecting the skeletal remains of groups of people for the purpose of anthropological analysis is no longer considered to be ethical or legal. Some of the remains that Oetteking was examining had been excavated from grave sites, sometimes with and sometimes without the consent of local indigenous people. The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), which was enacted in the United States in the 1990s, requires federal agencies and institutions that receive federal funding (including museums) to make available a database of their collections and to return cultural objects and skeletal remains to descendants of tribes. It also established rules for planned excavations and inadvertent discovery on tribal or federal land. Legal norms and ethical standards have evolved considerably since the Jesup Expedition.
Despite the frustrations related to the Jesup Expedition’s publications, Boas continued to help Oetteking. Boas had increased his stature at Columbia, having started as a lecturer in 1896, becoming its first Anthropology Professor in 1899 and establishing the Department of Anthropology in 1902. After World War I was over and Oetteking had completed his measurements of the Jesup crania, Boas hired him as a lecturer to teach physical anthropology through Columbia Extension Teaching in 1920.
Most of the correspondence with Boas is work-related and little personal information can be gleaned; however, in a few letters Oetteking does engage in politics. In a letter from 31 August 1917, Oetteking asked Boas what he thought of the recent political proclamations, to which Boas responded a few days later that “Politics is a subject hardly worthwhile discussing in letters now”.  At this point, Boas had already alienated some colleagues because of his pacifism and pro-German statements. He told Oetteking that if he wanted to know his opinion, he should read the recent letter he published in the Atlantic Monthly. In December 1919, Boas would even be censured by his colleagues because of a letter he had written to the editor of The Nation about anthropologists who were supposedly working as spies. Fortunately, Boas had enough status and collegial support to overcome this politically volatile period. 
During the 1920s and early 1930s the two anthropologists made some travels in Europe together and Oetteking seemed to remember this fondly.  During several trips to Europe when Oetteking was traveling alone, he would send frequent letters to Boas, updating him on what colleagues were doing, how research or writing was progressing and what had happened at professional conferences. In 1932, they saw each other in Berlin and in June, Oetteking felt compelled to respond to an article in the Berlin propaganda paper Der Angriff, which had maligned Boas. In his letter to the editor, Oetteking tried to explain the importance of Boas’ scientific contributions and also reminded him that after World War I, Boas had established an aid society to raise emergency funds for German scholars. In short, a man of Boas’ stature should not be attacked for political reasons. Oetteking then included a copy of the original article and his response in a letter to Boas.  There is no evidence that the editor ever replied. In Nazi Germany, Boas was not only targeted because of his Jewish background but especially because of his theories, which were diametrically opposed to the ideology of racial superiority. His books were burned.
The only letters that extensively discussed politics were penned by Oetteking from Germany in 1933, a few months after the Nazi take-over. In his letter from 24 June 1933, Oetteking noted that he had been in Germany for three weeks now and could write down some reflections. Oetteking seemed very impressed with the new order (Ordnung) of things and how it had suffused all aspects of political, economic and cultural life. Some of his statements are ambiguous and open to different interpretations. Oetteking believed that people could disagree about the value of the current changes, and that no reasonable person (vernünftiger Mensch) would, or should, agree with the racist gestures coming from the current government.  He also noted that numerous people they knew were losing their jobs or being forced to resign. Yet, Oetteking also felt that one had to understand how the hardships that followed World War I led to an increased nationalism, and that to him seemed justified. Lastly, he was fascinated by the völkish dimension of these developments in Germany and thought that Boas would be interested in that as well. “It would be my deepest wish that you could see the current conditions for yourself”. 
None of these sentiments appear in later correspondence. In a letter penned 17 September 1933, Oetteking lists numerous individuals who lost their jobs, one of them because his great-grandmother was not Aryan. Since Boas did not leave any written responses, it is not known how he reacted or if it had any bearing on his attitude about his colleague. Interestingly, when Oetteking returned to Europe in 1934, Boas entrusted him with a letter to be delivered to his sister in Berlin. It does not appear that the two men associated much in New York outside their work.
Teaching at Columbia University and the Chiropractic Institute of New York
While Oetteking taught courses at Columbia University Extension, he kept an office at the Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation. According to Weiant, Oetteking was the only person on the museum’s staff to continue getting paid during the Great Depression, but eventually that funding dried up as well. Much to Oetteking’s distress, after 18 years of teaching, Columbia University let him go in 1938. Little information is available about his dismissal and in the Boas Papers no correspondence exists between Oetteking and Boas, who had become professor emeritus in 1937. Oetteking did not have a professorship but had taught his five courses as a lecturer and was now 67 years old. His contract may simply not have been renewed. There seems to be no actual letter of dismissal in Columbia University’s archives. 
It is also possible that Oetteking’s teaching style was considered rigid. Weiant, who had studied with him at Columbia, noted that Oetteking was known for his “erect bearing, austere demeanor, sense of academic dignity, and Old World formality”. He was meticulous and exacting and always insisted on “rigidly technical, scientific terminology”.  Apparently physical anthropology was not greatly appreciated by students. Keating, who had studied with him at the Chiropractic Institute echoed these sentiments, saying Oetteking “was a stickler on pronunciation [who] would have the entire class, in unison, pronounce the anatomical words properly”.  Nonetheless, both Weiant and Keating greatly admired Oetteking and thought him a great teacher. Unfortunately, over the course of his professional career, Oetteking was often financially insecure, and his meagre income had not enabled him to save for retirement. For some time, he became dependent on the city’s public welfare.
A major change came for Bruno Oetteking in 1944 when he started to work with Weiant, who held several top positions at the Chiropractic Institute of New York. The following year he began teaching courses in anatomy and physical anthropology, and by 1947, Oetteking’s publications listed him as Associate Research Director. He also headed the Department of Comparative Anatomy. At the Chiropractic Institute Oetteking taught for more than a decade and published numerous articles in the National Chiropractic Journal. His course on craniology was required for all freshmen, inspiring him to write a textbook. In 1957, his monograph Human Craniology, which he considered to be his “crowning achievement” was published. The same year, illness forced him to retire from the institute, although he continued to work on translations. Weiant notes that while Oetteking had switched his academic career from music to the physical sciences, “music remained, almost to the end of his life, the principal delight of his leisure hours”.  In 1960, Oetteking died in New York at the age of 88.
Even though Bruno Oetteking collaborated with Franz Boas by studying the Jesup Expedition’s cranial collection and taught at Columbia University at a crucial moment when Anthropology was still a young discipline in the country, he has remained relatively obscure. Several reasons may account for that. The importance of the Jesup Expedition can hardly be overstated, even if Oetteking played a minor role. It was the first landmark research project at the AMNH’s Division of Anthropology and is considered by many to be the foremost expedition in the history of American Anthropology. It tried to examine the connection between indigenous peoples of North America and Siberia, to determine where the first inhabitants of the New World had originated from. While some of the findings and conclusions of authors have been challenged over the last century, the expedition’s scope has never been replicated. The collection significantly contributed to the establishment of the museum’s reputation and of the development of anthropology. Yet, the cranial study ultimately did not yield results that were conclusive regarding the question of migration. Many of the crania were also deformed, so it was difficult to reach conclusions. While over the decades cultural artefacts and knowledge became increasingly important to scholars, the cranial study did not get the reception Boas had hoped for.
Oetteking was a respected morphologist and meticulous scientist even if he lacked innovation. He was also an important instructor at Colombia University, where Boas was famously establishing the four-field method, which includes physical anthropology, archaeology, cultural anthropology and linguistic anthropology. Oetteking taught courses in physical anthropology as well as evolution and it would be hard to imagine that Boas, who headed the department, would retain him if there were serious disagreements over teaching content. While solid in the classroom, however, Oetteking seemed to make few theoretical contributions to the development of Anthropology and he did not conduct substantial field research on his own. Several of Boas’ students, on the other hand, became major field researchers and prolific authors, who shaped the discipline’s theories and methodologies.
Another important point is that Oetteking was only hired as a lecturer at Columbia’s Extension Teaching and never became a tenured professor; he therefore had little clout at the university. In that sense he thus shares the fate of more than half of the college instructors in the United States today, who teach as part-time, contingent or adjunct faculty with comparatively little standing at their institutions. From the very beginning, academia in the United States and Europe was a dual-tiered system, in which a few renowned researchers gained financial support and prominence while many remained obscure. The institutional setting is therefore an important factor to consider when it comes to the visibility or invisibility of faculty members.
Ultimately, Oetteking has also been little studied because of the sparsity of primary sources. Unlike the Boas Papers or the Nachlass of Robert Lehmann-Nitsche, to my knowledge there is no collection of Oetteking’s personal correspondence held at a specific archive. He certainly had professional communications with other scientists and department heads at museums, who often exchanged artefacts and scientific publications. It is likely that more information about Oetteking’s professional work is included in the correspondence of other contemporary anthropologists, some of who left a treasure trove of literature in the archives.