Formative Years of Karl von den Steinen
The first two ethnological expeditions to the Xingu river basin in Central Brazil, should be credited to German Americanist Karl von den Steinen (1855-1929), who in 1884 and in 1877-88 went through that region which until then had been considered terra incognita by science. In addition to inaugurating Amerindian ethnography of the South American lowlands as a result of this, von den Steinen formulated the intellectual interests about those indigenous populations that would guide ethnologists for decades, such as language, mythology, and art. His publications are still relevant both as ethnological and linguistic guidelines and as a historical source. The purpose of this biographical essay is to shed light on how anthropology intertwined with this polymath’s life.
Karl von den Steinen came into the world on 7 March 1855, in Mülheim an der Ruhr, Rhineland, located in the westernmost region of the kingdom of Prussia.  He was born into a Protestant family in which the male line was traditionally devoted to medicine. His great-grandfather and grandfather were medical doctors, and furthermore, his father was bestowed with the highly honourable title of Geheimer Sanitätsrat (“privy medical councillor”).  Professionals such as medical doctors and lawyers – as well as civil servants, university professors, and clergy members – belonged to a social class, the Bildungsbürgertum (literate bourgeoisie), that perceived education as the only means of social mobility.  By occupying a growing institutional and academic sphere since the beginning of the 19th century, the literate bourgeoisie found itself at its pinnacle in the Reich, the German Empire, to the point of constituting its intellectual elite. The humanistic capital mobilised by the literate bourgeoisie fostered social renown, underpinning their political and cultural influence and justifying their presence in the various spheres of the state.  The family of Karl von den Steinen belonged to the Bildungsbürgertum and he began to climb the same steps as his forebears.  He spent his youth in Düsseldorf, where his father had moved after being widowed in 1857. He studied medicine at the University of Zürich, in Switzerland, between 1871-72, at the University of Bonn in the following year, and finally concluded his studies at the University of Strasbourg. There he became a medical doctor in 1875, at the tender age of 20, with a dissertation on the psychic influence on the clinical condition of chorea, an abnormal involuntary movement disorder.  After concluding military service, carried out in Düsseldorf and in Dresden, Karl von den Steinen specialised in Psychiatry in Berlin and in Vienna. In 1878, upon obtaining the position of assistant to Professor Carl Westphal at the renowned Hospital of Charité, in Berlin, and having been licensed as a medical doctor, he became the youngest practitioner in all Prussia. 
In the same year, however, the young doctor retired in order to undertake a journey around the world, with the purpose of learning methods of treatment for psychiatric diseases in different nations. From the German city of Bremen he sailed to New York, where he visited various facilities. From there, he departed to Havana, then to Mexico and San Francisco. From the West Coast of the United States he continued to Hawaii. In the guestbook of a hotel in Honolulu, Hawaii’s capital, von den Steinen read the name “Dr Adolf Bastian”, the single most important German ethnologist of his time, who had departed from Germany in 1878 on a trip that would take him to North America, India, and Oceania.  Apart from being an ethnologist, a collector, a traveller, and a medical doctor, Bastian (1826-1905) had founded the Royal Museum for Ethnology of Berlin (Königliches Museum für Völkerkunde) in 1873, one of the foremost institutions of its kind in the world, where he served as director until 1904.
The encounter between Adolf Bastian and Karl von den Steinen added not only objectives to the trip around the world, but altered the young medic’s direction in life and had a decisive impact on the history of ethnology. Bastian convinced him of the importance of his anthropological project, of the necessity of exploring South America’s terra incognita, and of putting together ethnographic collections of the peoples threatened by extinction, in face of the destructive progress of European culture and of capitalism.  As an immediate consequence of that encounter, von den Steinen began to collect ethnographic artifacts in the Samoa Islands, which he reached from New Zealand, in parallel to his clinical investigation.  Sailing from island to island, von den Steinen still passed through Tonga and Fiji, and from Australia proceeded to Java, Singapore, Vietnam, and China, where he got to know Hong Kong, Canton, and Shanghai. From there, he travelled to Nagasaki, Kyoto, and Tokyo. In Japan, he set out on his return home and sailed to Ceylon (Sri Lanka), went across India by land, travelled to Yemen, crossed the Suez Canal and followed the coast of Egypt, from which he reached Italy and, soon after, Germany.
Upon his return to Berlin in 1881, he presented himself again to the psychiatric wing of the Hospital Charité, but also established his first links to the German ethnological circle by joining the Berliner Gesellschaft für Anthropologie, Ethnologie und Urgeschichte (The Berliner Society for Anthropology, Ethnology, and Prehistory). He did not remain much longer on German soil, however, for in the next year he accepted an invitation to participate as medical officer and natural scientist in the First International Polar Year – a scientific expedition bound to the South Pole composed of members of twelve nationalities. The German group reached the island of South Georgia in the South Atlantic.  Von den Steinen only performed auxiliary activities of meteorological and electromagnetic measurements. He devoted himself, though, to zoology, mainly by studying birds and penguins, which he made material in a zoological collection and in a publication in the realm of natural sciences. In 1883, the Polar Year’s German group returned home. On the way back, the ship “Marie” dropped anchor in Montevideo, where von den Steinen remained in the company of physician and cartographer Otto Clauss (1858-91), also a member of the exploration crew.  Von den Steinen, soaked in Bastian’s stimulus and conscious of his ability to realise great projects, was more concerned about the execution of urgent tasks in the field of warm tropic geography than with returning to the routine of cold hospital corridors in Berlin.  Under the guidance of the young von den Steinen, the era of expeditions to the Xingu river in central Brazil began. 
First Expedition to the Xingu River (1884)
Wilhelm von den Steinen (1859-1934), Karls’ cousin, who was returning from a trip to Paraguay, joined the two men as the expedition’s sketch artist. The precise goals of the endeavour were discussed with Bastian during the expedition corps’ travel to Brazil.  The principle adopted by von den Steinen – that for the execution of a scientific project in an unknown land it was mandatory to research its geography, astronomy, and ethnology – reveals his intellectual influences and his methods of enquiry. Among them is the idea of a cosmic connection from Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859), for whom physical phenomena possess a “general influence over the intellectual progress of humanity, we find the noblest and most important result as being the knowledge of a chain of connections, through which all natural forces are bound to one another and become mutually dependent”.  From the idea of the existence of an interconnection between all natural phenomena, including the human mind, two interpretations can be derived. The first is the one by geographer Friedrich Ratzel (1844-1904), according to which the forces of nature act decisively over societies. The second is the one by Bastian : once the human mind is connected to the environment, then, in order to know the mind, it is necessary to investigate the environment. That interpretation was adopted precisely by von den Steinen, who, like Bastian, was a medic and was trained in the sciences of nature. That means that the execution of such an investigative agenda indicates that von den Steinen’s ethnographic research method was based a priori on the epistemology of the sciences of nature : empirical collection of data in the field, classification of data, comparative analysis, and release of results.
From Montevideo, the group travelled to Buenos Aires and Assunción, from where, in February 1884, von den Steinen communicated to a colleague the choice of his research route : “In the study of the Province of Mato Grosso conditions, the route Cuiabá-Amazonas has been naturally compelling as an ideal project and, above all else, the Xingu river comes up as a beautiful dream that might be realised.”  The general goals of the expedition were then set : gathering of elemental thoughts through the investigation of areas favoured by Bastian : mythology, language, and assembling an ethnographic collection. The Xingu river region was considered terra incognita for the sciences, for the river had never been descended by boat throughout its extension and the existing travel accounts were incomplete. For that reason, the cartography of the Xingu river and its tributaries were added as expedition tasks, as well as the understanding of the human occupation in the river basin.
On 20 March, the expedition corps left Assunción, passed through Corumbá and reached Cuiabá by river on 30 March.  Their arrival in Brazil saw them entangled in a thick web of political relations and strategic interests, formed by complex historical processes which created a field of political and symbolic disputes.  In 1884, Brazil was an empire in decline ruled by Dom Pedro II (1825-91), a sovereign respected worldwide for his intellectual inclinations but more interested in science, linguistics, literature, ethnography, and art than in political activities.  Therefore, the regional economic elites, represented politically at the provincial councils, actively imposed an agenda of acquisition of indigenous territories based on skewed interpretations of imperial laws, but foremost on massacres.  The pioneering research by Karl von den Steinen on the Xingu thus placed itself in an area of political negotiation and of strategic interests through which the Emperor sought to further instil his fame of a patron of arts and “magnanimous” ruler. Furthermore, the regional politicians intended to appropriate the geographical and ethnological results of the expedition, for apart from the assessment of viability for constructing a road between Cuiabá and Belém, they needed to know the indigenous peoples and their location, aiming at the expropriation of their lands.
As promised by the imperial government, Manuel de Almeida da Gama Lobo Coelho d’Eça (1828-94), the Baron of Batovy, president of the province of Mato Grosso, arranged a military outfit for the expedition. Von den Steinen noticed then the risk of his group being composed mostly of military personnel without scientific qualification and ignorant of the ethnological mission, as he reveals to his professor : “I know full well that this may become an unfortunate factor on our account, but with only our limited means we have no conditions to hire the necessary staff, here called ‘camaradas’”.  The group remained in Cuiabá in April and May 1884, busy with the preparations for the expedition. The funding came from private circles, which made the acquisition of equipment, animals and materials difficult, apart from the hiring of staff.  It was settled with the Museum of Berlin that upon the conclusion of the expedition Karl von den Steinen would receive 1500 German marks that would be transferred to him from the Ethnologisches Hilfskomitee (Committee of Ethnological Assistance). 
On 27 May 1884, the corps left Cuiabá. It was composed by Otto Clauss, in charge of geographical measurements and astronomical observations, Karl von den Steinen, tasked with collecting ethnographic material and anthropological and ethnological studies, and Wilhelm von den Steinen, to whom was assigned the task of registering the expedition with art. They were accompanied by two servants, a few strong men, thirty armed soldiers, twenty-four oxen carrying cassava flour, meat, salt, beans, and cachaça – a local hard liquor – a few mules, and six dogs.  At the beginning of June, the group had reached the “Bakaïri” people on the Novo river, one of two villages of “pacified” Indians (or, as they were classified at the time, meek [“mansos”] Indians), and at the end of the month they had reached the peoples of the Paranatinga river, a tributary of the Teles Pires river, which forms the larger Tapajós river.  In the following month, they entered the first village of an uncontacted people, also Bakairi, but this time located on a corner of a river christened as Batovy by von den Steinen.  There, he gathered information on the other peoples inhabiting the region. The expedition corps bid farewell to the Bakairi and followed their journey through the Batovy river, soon reaching the first dwellings of the Kustenau, only inhabited by seventeen people. The expedition carried on through the Batovy, Ronuro, and Xingu rivers, where they came across a group of forty three Trumai men, divided in fourteen canoes. Following the river course, they reached the Suyá people by the beginning of September.  When the expedition corps got to the “Yuruna” people, in the second half of September, all of its members had already suffered from intense fevers, shivers and dysentery, and were being administered quinine by von den Steinen – an alkaloid substance with analgesic and antipyretic effects to counter malaria.  On 12 October, the corps left indigenous territory definitively, carrying with them an ethnographic collection and thirty-three live animals. Following the course of the Xingu river, which flows into the Amazon river, they arrived at the town of Belém on 30 October. There von den Steinen received the allotted 1500 German marks from the Committee of Ethological Assistance.  The cousins Karl and Wilhelm were stricken by a strong bout of fever (most likely malaria) and were anaemic. From the province of Pará they travelled to Rio de Janeiro, where they were received with a feast by the Geographical Society in which the emperor Dom Pedro II himself learned about the expedition’s outcomes. On that occasion, Dom Pedro II bestowed upon von den Steinen the title of “Explorer” and Antônio, a Bakairi Amerindian who accompanied the entire expedition as translator, was particularly “overindulged”.  On 20 January 1885, Otto Clauss, Wilhelm, and Karl von den Steinen arrived in Lisbon.  By mid-February, von den Steinen had arrived in Berlin in order to give a lecture at the Geographical Society (Gesellschaft für Erdkunde zu Berlin).
Despite having spent only a few days in each Amerindian settlement, von den Steinen gathered a collection evaluated by him at six thousand marks. It was sold to the Ethnological Museum of Berlin for 4,500 marks, which, in addition to the 1,500 marks previously received, amounted to the value originally requested by the ethnologist.  In recognition for the expedition, he was granted the title of doctor honoris causa by the traditional Institute of Philosophy at the prestigious University of Halle, as well as the Carl Ritter medal by the Berlin Geographical Society. 
In the following year, Karl von den Steinen published his first monograph : Durch Central-Brasilien. Expedition zur Erforschung des Schingú im Jahre 1884 (“Through Central Brazil. Expedition to Explore the Xingu River in 1884”) in which he presented an account of his expedition and released its scientific data. The literary challenge he imposed on himself was to produce a work with scientific validation, but that could also be appreciated by the literate bourgeoisie, either with a background in other areas of knowledge or just enlightened citizens, though often part of a lay audience. It seems that von den Steinen aimed at creating for ethnology a literary and scientific milestone such as the one inaugurated by Alexander von Humboldt for the natural sciences. This had to be done at a time when the disciplines of human sciences were still in a process of constitution and maturation, attracting and repelling each other simultaneously, competing and collaborating in each one’s respective realm of expertise. In order to bring together scientific certification and extra-academic renown, it was paramount for the work’s analytical method to be systematically established, its research subject to be neatly enclosed, and the presentation of results to be constructed by a single literary style, capable of uniting at the same time scientific rigour and a captivating narrative. The book presents a first person narrative, approaching the expedition events in chronological order, in the fashion of a fieldwork journal, fundamentally embedded in travel literature. Ironies, cheerful passages, and criticism of other people’s ways of conduct are characteristic not only of this work, but of his academic and personal writing. The final chapters encompass the ethnological, linguistic, geographical, and anthropological findings of the expedition. Its contribution to those fields – besides the merit of having founded modern Americanist studies – was widely recognised in a review of his essay Durch Central-Brasilien written by important anthropologist and sanitarian Rudolf Virchow (1821-1902) in Zeitschrift für Ethnologie (Journal of Ethnology). Apart from these achievements, Virchow praises von den Steinen’s narrative : it is possible “to feel the observer’s immediate impressions, to see, and to listen, as it were, with his sensorial organs”.  His only caveat refers to the absence of anthropological data, especially considering that in the field, von den Steinen had been in possession of a craniometry device invented by Virchow. 
Second Expedition to the Xingu (1887-88)
Due to the favourable results from the expedition to the Xingu, and considering the possibility of further, more promising achievements in the realms of physical anthropology, ethnography, and linguistics, and above all in face of the possibility of contacting more isolated peoples – as predicted by a Suyá informant – Karl von den Steinen had been preparing since 1886 for a second expedition to the same research area. This time, though, he had no family resources at his disposal and thus depended on other financial sources.  His application to the position of secretary-general at the Berlin Geographical Society may have had the purpose of garnering funds for the expedition, but von den Steinen was not selected. Despite his successful scientific accomplishments, he feared he might have to resume his practice as a psychiatrist.  At last, von den Steinen obtained funding from the Carl Ritter Foundation of the Berlin Geographical Society (Carl-Ritter-Stiftung der Gesellschaft für Erdkunde zu Berlin), apart from more than seven thousand marks from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (Alexander-von-Humboldt-Stiftung) with the assistance of Virchow and famous scientist Emil du Bois-Reymond (1818-96), founder of experimental electrophysiology. Therefore, the budget for the second expedition greatly exceeded the overall expenditures of the first one.
Hence, von den Steinen departed from Germany at the beginning of 1887, followed once more by his cousin Wilhelm. Joining them were Peter Vogel (1856-1915), who von den Steinen had met in the expedition to South Georgia and who would be in charge of astronomical and cartographic observations, and Paul Ehrenreich (1855-1914), in charge of anthropological measurements and photographic records.  The latter had most likely been vouched for by Virchow, who had been thrilled with the anthropological and photographic outcomes of Ehrenreich’s expedition to the Doce river in 1885. Vogel obtained financial support from the Carl Ritter Foundation of the Berlin Geographical Society and Ehrenreich financed himself. His arrival in the group shows that von den Steinen understood the need to present more consistent anthropological data and to keep pace with technology in service of science as well.
In February 1887, the expedition corps arrived in Rio de Janeiro, where it met with Brazilian government authorities and intellectuals. In the town of Petrópolis, Karl von den Steinen was received by the emperor himself in his palace.  The Brazilian imperial government kept following the steps of von den Steinen’s enterprise attentively, and he was thereupon invited to deliver a lecture at the Geographical Society’s main office, in which he presented the geographical, ethnological, and linguistic results from his first expedition to the Xingu.  From Rio de Janeiro the expedition corps travelled to the south of the country, where von den Steinen assembled a collection comprising three boxes of “stone tools, fragment samples, skulls” and one of “bows and arrows” from the “Bugre” Indians.  In order to cover the travel expenses, von den Steinen – who in a letter to Adolf Bastian stressed he was a “voluntary agent for the museum” – asked one thousand marks for the four boxes.  From there, the expedition corps proceeded to Cuiabá via Montevideo, Buenos Aires, and Asunción. On 28 July 1887, the corps, comprising twelve people – including two gaucho “camaradas” of German descent and the interpreter Antônio Bakairi – set forth on the journey.  The objective was not only to explore the areas next to the Xingu river, but the systematic research of the area surrounding the Coliseu river, which flows into the Kuluene river, an eastern tributary of the Xingu river by its turn. The group visited various Bakairi settlements and carried on until reaching the Nahukwá. In the company of only a Bakairi guide, von den Steinen decided to meet alone with the Mehinako. He stayed in their settlement for a few days, assembled a beautiful ethnographic collection and carried on to the Aweti, from where he proceeded until he reached the Yawalapiti settlement. They stayed there for two days, then returned to the Aweti and three days later were already on their way to the Kamaiurá, where they arrived on 21 October.  Four days later, the expedition corps began the return journey towards the Yawalapiti people and, on their way, came across the feared Trumai people, with whom, however, they met in a friendly manner. On 13 November, the expedition corps came back to an outpost, set for resting on the inbound journey. From there they proceeded on foot until Cuiabá, where they arrived on the last day of the year 1887. 
Von den Steinen still wanted to study the Bororo and the Paresí peoples.  As these two peoples were located too far away from each other, he petitioned a request to the provincial president asking for some Paresí to be sent to Cuiabá. The Americanist met with them in the village of Diamantino. From the twelve people present, four considered themselves Paresí, four “Waimaré”, and the rest “Kaschinití”, which would later be identified as being two Paresí subgroups. In March 1888, von den Steinen, Ehrenreich, Antônio Bakairi, and a few “camaradas” moved forward to the Bororo people. The five decades of extermination campaigns organised by the imperial and provincial governments – known at the time euphemistically as “pacification wars” – culminated in the surrender of the Bororo and on the establishment of two military settlements for catechism, “Isabel” and “Thereza Chistina”. The expedition corps headed towards the latter.  Thereza Christina possessed approximately fifty officials and staff, such as soldiers and guards, and two hundred Indians, including children. The corps remained there for almost a month. On 18 April, the expedition left the colony and marched to the Bakairi village on the Paranatinga river, from where it carried on until Cuiabá. Antônio brought with him a Bororo widow and her five- or six-year-old son. For the Americanist, the expedition could not have had a more auspicious ending than the reunion of two of the groups to which he dedicated himself most : the Bakairi and the Bororo.
In a missive to Bastian, he made a detailed account of the enormous ethnographic collection assembled in Brazil. It comprised an impressive 1235 objects of Bakairi, Nahuquá, Mehinako, Aweti, Yawalapiti, Waujá, Trumai, Paresí, and Bororo origin. In short, “the collection comes from hitherto unknown tribes, which still live in the pre-Columbian stone age”.  He calculated the expedition cost him thirty-six thousand marks and offered the collection for fifteen thousand marks to the Ethnological Museum of Berlin. Finally, the collection was sold for thirteen thousand marks to the Humboldt-Stiftung (Humboldt Foundation).  Von den Steinen and Ehrenreich further put together a zoological collection that was also sent to Berlin.
From Cuiabá the two cousins moved to the south of the country, where they stayed for a month conducting research, visiting people, and resting. In addition, von den Steinen acquired a small ethnographic collection from the Jesuit mission of São Leopoldo. From there they proceeded to Rio de Janeiro, where the ethnologist once again presented the results of his expedition to the Geographical Society. From Rio de Janeiro, Peter Vogel, Karl, and Wilhelm von den Steinen returned to Germany. Not only the expedition, but also the two books published by von den Steinen based on the fieldwork material, became milestones in the ethnology of South American lowlands indigenous peoples.
Die Bakaïri-Sprache (“The Bakairi Language”) was published in 1892 and Unter den Naturvölkern Zentral-Brasiliens (“Among the Natives of Central Brazil”) two years later.  The former consists of a thorough study of the Bakairi language, the latter is a detailed monograph of the second expedition to the Xingu. Die Bakaïri-Sprache comprises a German-Bakairi/Bakairi-German dictionary, a grammatical and morphological analysis of the Bakairi language, its pronunciation, and a comparison with other Karib languages, as well as a set of phrases in Bakairi with interlinear translation into German. In these phrases the myths have a central role : legends of creation, myths about animals, and myths about the demiurge twins Kemi and Keri were transcripted in Bakairi. More than four hundred pages long, Die Bakaïri-Sprache is the first work ever devoted in its entirety to a Non-Tupi indigenous language in the Brazilian territory and to mythical texts transcripted ipsis verbis.
In Unter den Naturvölkern Zentral-Brasiliens there is a division between the travel narrative and the presentation of its results. The work’s subheading already reveals the analytical categorisation proposed by von den Steinen : Reiseschilderung und Ergebnisse der zweiten Schingú-Expedition 1887-1888 means “Travel Description and Results from the Second Expedition to the Xingu, 1887-1888”. By separating the description of the expedition from the analysis of the results, which he had already done in his previous work, he definitively consolidated the German Americanist model of ethnography, in which the detailed account of the gathering of data in the field precedes its meticulous investigation. The chapters address both issues demanded by the German academia and his own intellectual pursuits : material culture, mythology, art, and language. Von den Steinen’s book created not only the method of south-Americanist fieldwork but also the standard of presenting the analysis of data, which would be profoundly influential in specific fields as well, such as on mythology and above all on theory of art. 
Germany and into the Field, Once Again
In 1889, Karl von den Steinen married Rosa Eleonora Herzfeld (1867-1944) and qualified for habilitation professorship (Habilitation) at the Institute of Philosophy of the University of Berlin. In his habilitation thesis, Erfahrungen zur Entwicklung des Völkergedankens (“Experiences for the Development of Ethnic Thought”), von den Steinen sought to underpin Adolf Bastian’s hypothesis with ethnographic material from the Xingu.  It probably consists of an expansion on his quasi homonymous lecture of 1889, Erfahrungen zur Entwicklung der Völkergedanken (“Experiences for the Development of Ethnic Thoughts”).  One of the examining committee members for his habilitation thesis, hermeneutic philosopher Wilhelm Dilthey (1833-1911), was critical of von den Steinen’s comparative methodology and of the specificities of ethnology regarding other disciplines of human sciences. According to philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer, Dilthey claimed to have underpinned the philosophical research – and more broadly, all human sciences, the so-called sciences of the spirit, Geisteswissenschaften – through a rigorous epistemic appropriation from the natural sciences.  Allegedly, it would then be possible to appreciate empirical data from the spiritual world with scientific objectivity, as a text to be read in which all letters and words possessed meaning, which, finally, would lead to general truths.  Such a supra-subjective comparative method lies, however, beyond the practical and epistemic limits of ethnography.
In the following year, von den Steinen moved his habilitation process to Philipps-Universität of Marburg, where he completed it and assumed the Völkerkunde (“ethnology”) chair. In this quiet town, he would be able to “assess the travel outcomes with calm” and write up his two works based on the material from the Xingu, Die Bakaïri-Sprache and Unter den Naturvölkern Zentral-Brasiliens.  In Marburg, von den Steinen taught in courses concerning the origin of art and geometric ornaments among the peoples of the Xingu – both topics strictly related to his fieldwork in Brazil. In 1890, the couple’s first son, Helmut von den Steinen (1890-1956) was born in Marburg.
Two years later, however, the Americanist resigned from his position at the university, claiming that the existence of an anthropological museum would be a determinant factor to the scientific endeavour in his field. In his resignation letter he wrote to the university council : “as I have gradually learned, fruitful ethnological work is not possible [...] without material from a museum”.  He then returned to Berlin, where his second son, Wolfram von den Steinen (1892-1967), and his first daughter, Herlinde von den Steinen (1893-1967) were born. In 1893, he became the Americanist section’s director-assistant at the Royal Museum for Ethnology of Berlin and, motivated by his interests in the North American Indians and on the occasion of the Chicago World’s Fair, he made a trip to the United States.  The Americanist pursued various activities in the field of geography : he was editor of the journal Das Ausland, in 1894 he was admitted to the board of the Gesellschaft für Erdkunde (Geographical Society), and in the following year he represented the German Geographical Society at the international conference in London.  In 1896, his son Rainar von den Steinen (1896-1914) was born and soon after his second daughter Runhilt von den Steinen (1897-1976).
In 1897, von den Steinen left Germany again for an expedition commissioned by the Ethnological Museum of Berlin to the Marquesas Islands, in French Polynesia. The desire to travel to the South Pacific was long held. In 1885, even before publishing the results of his first expedition to the Xingu, Karl von den Steinen had already envisioned travelling to the islands of New Guinea or New Ireland, in case he was given the task by the Ethnological Museum of Berlin, as revealed in a letter : “For such a passion for the South Pacific islands I share with the sailing captains, who also do not feel better anywhere else than among the Kanaka”.  This passion thrived precisely on that first trip around the world between 1879 and 1881.
On 27 March, he departed from Liverpool, England, to Quebec, in Canada.  From there he travelled to Vancouver and to San Francisco, where he arrived on 1 August and left again on a ship bound to Nuku Hiva, the largest of the Marquesas Islands.  The empirical research conducted by von den Steinen in the South Pacific made him go island to island and village to village for six months. So, although regarding another geographical region – which implies distinct ethnographic discussions – von den Steinen still favoured an ethnography of flux, as was the case in the Xingu, which, while it avoided stationary periods on the one hand, also rendered it possible to understand the connections between social groups and individuals, eliciting exchanges, transformations, and appropriations of material goods, immaterial culture, language, and myths, on the other hand.
The return journey to his home country took him again to the United States, where he visited ethnographic museums, some of them recommended by his friend Franz Boas (1858-1942).  In 1900, the ethnologist travelled to Paris to participate in the Conference of Americanists held there. As a result of a conflict in the international conferences timetable, few scholars participated in the conference. The contributions by North American colleagues, however, were vital.  The connection between von den Steinen and the United States became ever more intense. In order to attend the Conference of Americanists in New York, of which he was appointed honorary chairman, he travelled two years later to that city. At the end of the meeting, von den Steinen visited the ethnographic museums of New York and Philadelphia, as well as the Field Museum in Chicago, the National Museum in Washington, DC, and the Peabody Museum in Boston. Both the conference and the visits to the museums had an intellectual impact on von den Steinen, the repercussions of which are apparent in the articles he wrote reporting on his North American experiences. 
He reported that European Americanists had not employed all means possible, so the future of the studies on that region would transfer to the United States. The collections would migrate there, together with all the knowledge that could be apprehended from them. He wondered until when it would make sense to host conferences in Europe, given the number of scholars residing in North America. He also made a detailed account of the “Jesup North Pacific Expedition” (1897-1902), led by Boas. That expedition had already impressed the Americanist even before its conclusion, and he thereupon wrote to Boas inviting him to deliver a lecture at the German conference of geography, as well as to Jesup reaffirming the expedition’s importance.  By comparing the ethnological researches and the North American museums with their German counterparts, von den Steinen stressed how the only advantage German institutions enjoyed was that they possessed more complete collections from more areas of the world. Nonetheless, in terms of organisation and structure, German museums and German ethnology were lagging so much behind the United States that merely taking place on American scientific debates would be beneficial to German intellectuals, for the state of the art of the American academic world was beyond the Germans’ powers of comprehension.
The criticism made by von den Steinen towards German museums is grounded not only in his expertise as an official at such an institution, but also in his experience visiting museums around the world, conducive to building comparative knowledge. Furthermore, the Americanist discussed the situation of museums in Germany and elsewhere with colleagues. For example, von den Steinen asked Boas for details on the planning of the museum – general layout, pictures, details of the rooms – that his German colleague intended to build in the United States.  In turn, Boas questioned his friend on the financial livelihood of the museum in Berlin.  Thus von den Steinen built the possibilities for internal and external critical assessment of museum institutions. The criticism by von den Steinen of the museums and their administrators also broached financial aspects and the entanglement of power relations between local government, directors, and museum officials – all aspects well analysed by H. Glenn Penny.  In a missive to Boas, von den Steinen complained of the Ethnological Museum of Berlin’s financial conditions : “our miserable annual budget is barely enough to purchase a single decent collection”.  He also denounced Count Karl von Linden (1838-1910), who had allegedly used the 1904 Conference of Americanists, held in Stuttgart, as a means of propaganda for his own museum of anthropology, thwarting any financial flow to other museums insofar as in Stuttgart “nobody moves a finger either to pay or to work”. 
In a certain way, the 1904 Conference of Americanists crowned von den Steinen’s undertakings in this field of studies. This was so despite the fact that he had already been appointed as honorary chairman in a previous meeting, or that he had been an illustrious attendee at any anthropological or geographical event, and that his first expedition to the Xingu – though dating back a decade earlier – was still considered an epistemological benchmark. It was so in spite of his Americanist production being considered fundamental as well, his lasting impact on the theory of art, or of him being the president of the organising committee – of which were also part Mesoamericanist Eduard Seler (1849-1922) and Count Karl von Linden – and also in spite of the conference having consolidated his reputation as the greatest living expert in the field of studies of indigenous peoples in the South American lowlands. With the purpose of internationalising the conference, von den Steinen asked for Boas’ collaboration, which was in fact relevant for organising it : the latter pointed out to his colleague institutions in the United States, Canada, and Russia that could send representatives to the conference, cited researchers by name who were inclined to travel to Stuttgart, and handed out pamphlets and programmes to his peers in North America, where he also coordinated diplomatic support.  Together with von den Steinen and Seler, Boas also discussed plans for convening the next events, one of them two years later in Quebec, Canada, the other in 1910 in Buenos Aires. Apart from members of the nobility – as Karl von Linden himself and Princess Therese of Bavaria (1850-1925) – important figures in world anthropology besides Boas and Von den Steinen attended the conference, such as Theodor Koch-Grünberg (1872-1924) and Alfred Kroeber (1876-1960).  Von den Steinen performed the role of host of the event : omnipresent, either in person or as a citation.
As chief of the Americanist section at the museum in Berlin, von den Steinen was responsible for expanding its collection – by means of purchase, exchange, or funding of expeditions – as he was for its communication. Thus, he strived to fill regional or ethnic gaps, on the one hand, and advertised the new additions to the museum’s collection through publications in anthropological journals, on the other.  In the transition between acquiring objects and advertising it to the public, lies the museum exhibition. The latter was also of responsibility and interest of von den Steinen and that is precisely why he asked Boas for help, who provided an inventory of American museums worth visiting, museological ideas, and ethnographic items as well. He also helped supervise ethnographic expeditions to South America, such as the one by Koch-Grünberg to the Negro and Japurá rivers between 1903 and 1905, and the participation in committees to garner funds for expeditions. In addition, he was one of the people in charge of communicating to the public the state of the art of the ethnographical and archaeological enterprises supported by the museum.  In parallel with working in the Americanist section of the museum, Von den Steinen published articles and reviews of his colleagues’ books, above all in Globus and Zeitschrift für Ethnologie. 
Karl von den Steinen was particularly active in the Berliner Gesellschaft für Anthropologie, Ethnologie und Urgeschichte, the Anthropological Society of Berlin. In its meetings he gave lectures or attended them, participated in debates, and circulated newsletters. From 1897 on, he was a committee member on the journal produced by the society, the Zeitschrift für Ethnologie, and in 1904 he became part of its editorial board. From 1904 on, the Americanist held the office of the society’s deputy president and in this capacity he presided over numerous meetings, some of them attended by Boas.  In 1904, he was elected president of the society, but had to resign from the office before being inaugurated. In the following year, he returned to his activities as deputy president and member of the journal’s editorial board, both positions which he held in the next years. 
In the same year, von den Steinen resigned from the University of Berlin and became director of the museum’s Americanist section, of which he was already chief. He devoted himself again to indigenous languages, publishing the Shipibo-Spanish-German dictionary and an article on Polynesian languages.  The decision to resign from the university was not taken, however, in a context of a lack of doubt concerning his professional future. He believed he was being deprived of any possibility of ascension in the academic career, for the most important positions would be taken by other scholars well-connected to the academic circle in Berlin, such as Mesoamericanist Eduard Seler, ethnologist Paul Ehrenreich, or anthropologist Felix von Luschan (1854-1924). Even Boas, who since the beginning of the century had been at odds with the American Museum of Natural History’s administration, could secure a position for himself at the university if he wanted, von den Steinen thought, provided he was willing to answer publicly to a “delicate question”, that is, on his religion.  In a missive to Boas, von den Steinen confessed : “I should know, so people keep saying me, whether you are baptised or you will eventually be so. Please write to me about it as soon as possible, since I cannot consult with Richthofen, which is so important to me, without knowing whether here Althoff’s regulation represents a thoroughly insurmountable obstacle”.  As he received no reply, a month later von den Steinen addressed Boas again, further detailing his perception on the academic scene he and his colleague were in. On the subject of a position at the university :
In order to achieve it, with the given forces presently, an unfathomable, unknown skill is necessary. Luschan goes to the Antropolog., Seler is going to succeed in holding the chair with the Loubat scholarship, and Ehrenreich is bound to become at most associate professor. For this reason alone, it is a danger should this renewal occur now, most certainly no true progress would be possible. You also only stand a chance if the tiresome religious question did not exist. Once I have written to you about that, you should also know that all the other points consist only in difficulties, but this one means an impossibility. Therefore, I shall content myself with your silence on this matter and with your delay towards the other ones. To hell with all prejudices, yours and mine as well ! 
Boas’s reply is indisputable regarding the preservation of his personal sphere’s privacy, as well as the definitive assignment in American territory :
It is absolutely out of the question that I should manifest myself in any way whatsoever in regard to my personal circumstances posed by your question. Once I completely restrained my activities to the American territory nineteen years ago, whilst you, Seler, von Luschan, Ehrenreich, etc., have striven here, I would deem it highly unacceptable should I do anything that could produce an impression that I would like to reap the fruits of your labour. In my opinion, you, better than anyone else, can inaugurate a future for the discipline at the university. Maybe you should rely a little more on Dilthey, Stumpf, Schmoller than on Richthofen, once the aforementioned philosophers have an avowed understanding of the general philosophical aspect of anthropology, while Richthofen’s interests lean towards geography. You should position yourself between both groups and come closer to the New World rather through discussions than by means of approaching colleagues systematically. Try it out ! Our success in NY is due only to the intimate contact with philosophy and sociology. I was not able to achieve the desired contact with history because of our historian’s stupidity. [Take advantage of the situation and come up with a tenured professorship. ] I believe that in the aforementioned philosophers, you shall find an interest in the creation of a tenured professorship in anthropology, which is becoming a necessity. 
Despite Boas’ incentives, von den Steinen chose to devote himself to the Ethnological Museum of Berlin and to his studies. That, notwithstanding, did not exclude the supervision of students. Boas, for example, asked von den Steinen if he, Seler, or maybe Luschan, could supervise one of his PhD students, Alexander Goldenweiser (1880-1940), who, having a background in sociology, lacked basic knowledge in anthropology.  In the end, the assignment was taken by von den Steinen.  Still in 1905, the ethnologist became a member of American institutions : the New York Academy of Sciences and the Anthropological Society of Washington.  Amidst these institutional changes, his last three children were also born : Diether (1903-54), Ursula (1904-87), and Marianne von den Steinen (1906-97). The cooperation between Boas and von den Steinen extended beyond the exchange of information on museums, supervision of students, or mutual reading of their work : each ethnologist directly intervened in the other’s texts. Just as von den Steinen proofread an article by Boas on the American linguistic types, the founding father of American cultural relativism was responsible for publishing his friend’s Marquesas trilogy. 
In the same year, Adolf Bastian passed away, the premier name in German anthropology. Von den Steinen, as the other fellow officials at the museum, was used to the old master’s somewhat random personality. In the year before, por example, von den Steinen had written to Boas : “Bastian is back”, which was indeed a sudden event.  Just as Bastian concealed himself from the museum, he disappeared for his expeditions around the world. “About fourteen days ago, Bastian really vanished again. He took a stenotype and typewriter with himself, so that he should feel comfortable wherever he might land. He himself did not know more precise information on his travel destination. He had the ‘equator’ in mind”. 
On one of such unexpected returns, von den Steinen told Boas, Bastian “already gave me a lecture on the soul, not our psyche, but Aristotle’s Ψ. αἰσθητικη, as we call it.”  It concerns in a way a reinterpretation of a fundamental point of Bastian’s anthropological philosophy. Known for having acknowledged the physical unity of the human species, in opposition to the racist pseudoscientific conceptions of the turn of the century, Bastian also upheld a concept that united humanity transculturally and ahistorically. His conception of Elementargedanken, the elementary thoughts produced by the mind, presupposes the existence of a single way of rational operation and immanent to the functioning of the mind, which would transform itself into cultural differences through “ethnic thoughts”, Völkergedanken.  What unites men, therefore, is the logic intrinsic to the mode of rationalising some fundamentals present in all mental constitutions – a logic liable to transformation and exposed in ethnic expressions of thought. The idea that human unity expresses itself in cultural diversity and that diversity is rendered possible by the unity of the human mind was apprehended by Bastian from German philosopher Johann Gottfried von Herder (1744-1804). The ethnography of salvation heralded by Bastian – according to which it was necessary to collect as many objects as possible throughout the world, given that the traditional peoples would disappear in face of the power of capitalism and of European culture, but also its eagerness to compile indexes of elementary thoughts, revealed in numbers and myths, among other cultural expressions – became the research agenda for the ethnologists at the Museum of Berlin, like von den Steinen himself. The research results by former pupils, such as Franz Boas, continued to draw Bastian’s interest for its potential. Von den Steinen remarked to his friend Boas : “He enquired warmly about you, he loves you very much. Your Eskimos have a bunch of elementary thoughts”.  That means that Bastian’s “lecture” on the human soul engages one more element to the complex conceptual array that characterises his thought. The concept of Ψυχή αἰσθητικη, psiqué aisthetiké, is brought to light in the very complicate Aristotelian writing De Anima. In short, almost heedlessly, De Anima is a natural philosophy treatise in which Aristotle delves into the principle of life of the animate being, a being endowed with psykhê and opposed to the inanimate being.  Among the beings endowed with a soul, Aristotle includes – in addition to humans – plants and animals, for he understands that the nutrition of the self is at the basis of manifestations of life.  Each one of these classes of beings, humans, animals, and plants, corresponds to certain characteristics of the soul, given that the latter is potentiality and its attributes are the capabilities of the beings. With “Ψυχή αἰσθητικη”, psiqué aisthetiké, Bastian refers to one of the soul’s potentialities, that is, that of αἴσθησῐς, aisthêsis, which can be translated as “sensitive perception” and is the acquisition of knowledge through the senses.  The concept of sensitive perception is central to the Greek philosopher’s notion of soul and body, apart from being relevant for understanding the capabilities of the one who perceives and the capabilities of the one who is perceived. Thus, for Bastian, what is universal and therefore natural in the human genre is not only the functioning of the mind, but its capability of generating cultural distinctions, as well as certain attributes of the soul. It would rest upon the researchers of Bastians’s work to find Aristotle’s influence in his late writings and, when necessary, re-examine some of his theoretical provisions in the light of Aristotle’s natural philosophy. Besides, according to von den Steinen, the a priori conception of the human adopted by Bastian originates in Aristotle : man is a political animal. 
Even though von den Steinen had definitely been aligned with Bastian’s intellectual undertaking and had implicitly dialogued with it throughout his life, the German Americanist made explicit his interpretation and adaptation of the Bastianian architecture on two occasions : in his habilitation thesis, defended in 1886, and in his obituary tribute to the old master. In his habilitation thesis, von den Steinen analysed South American ethnographic material in the light of Bastian’s theories. In an article of almost the same title as the thesis’, named Erfahrungen zur Entwicklungsgeschichte der Völkergedanken, “Experiences for the developmental history of the ethnic thoughts”, the Americanist departed from the assumption of general understanding regarding a “single descendance unity of our species”.  All humanity is connected not only by its way of thinking but by the outcome of its mental capabilities, and it is the ethnologist’s task to find out, to collect, and to examine the “fundamental thoughts”.  Von den Steinen thus understands in this manner the advent of language, thoughts both mythical and of the soul, Amerindian concepts of nature, and interspecies transformations discovered by him. Although the Americanist still classified the indigenous peoples as belonging to the Stone Age, a categorisation later abandoned, he sees poetical power in their mythology. Von den Steinen hence develops Bastian’s hypothesis by proposing that humanity shares a few basic mental principles – the elementary thoughts – that originate ethnic thoughts, which, in their turn, evolve into cultural thoughts : “The simple ethnic thought, which is the same everywhere, gives place to the infinitely variable cultural thought”.  The ethnologist would be responsible, therefore, not only for investigating local ethnographic issues, but also for understanding the connections between men and their thoughts.
In his posthumous tribute to Bastian, the Americanist revealed anecdotes on the old master’s withdrawn personality and unusual habits. He listed his travels and books, and did not refrain from pointing out the obscure and complicated writing that characterises his vast and sometimes confused work.  Bastian’s eccentric allure was capable of winning over young scientists to anthropology, as von den Steinen himself had once been. Bastian was not only decisive in altering von den Steinen’s life path, but made a significant impact on him. More than a decade after the old master’s death, von den Steinen wrote emotionally to Boas : “The day before yesterday Bastian would have turned ninety. Who still thinks about him ? Apparently his gravestone seems quite neglected”. 
In 1905, von den Steinen also resigned from his position at the museum in order to devote himself to analysing his expedition material, to researching at European ethnographic museums that possessed pieces from the Marquesas Islands – which led him to visit practically all institutions on the European continent and the most important ones in the United States – and, lastly, to writing his trilogy on Marquesas art.  His progressive distancing from the university and from the museum also derived from his physical condition. From the Karlsbad sanatorium – where in previous years his wife went to treat strong “gallbladder attacks” and would go again – von den Steinen confessed to Boas that “afflicted by gout” his “work capacity” had “considerably” diminished, and because of this “I unfortunately handed in my resignation on 1 April. People still resent me for doing that”. 
The First World War (1914-1918) and the Post-War Years
Up to the beginning of the First World War (1914-1918), von den Steinen alternated between periods of intense participation in the Anthropological Society and its journal and pauses due to his health condition. In 1908, he was elected president of the Berlin Society for Anthropology, Ethnology, and Prehistory, the Berliner Gesellschaft für Anthropologie, Ethnologie und Urgeschichte, a position that he held for three consecutive years, besides actively attending conferences not only on anthropology, but on geography as well.  Since a further re-election would violate the society’s regulations, in 1911 he took office again as deputy president, as well as being a member of the journal’s commission.  His collection of accolades gained a remarkable addition : the Rudolf Virchow Plaque (Rudolf-Virchow-Plakette), the highest honour in the German Society of Anthropology.  By the end of that year, however, he needed to resign from participating at the board of directors of both the society and the journal for the next year, due to health issues, restraining his activities to the committee. In 1912, according to ethnologist Konrad Theodor Preuss (1869-1938), he had a nervous breakdown, forcing him to leave his position at the Society of Anthropology. He began to avoid people as much as he could.  The ethnologist became increasingly depressed and, for a year, was so dejected that he could not even work.  That was hard to believe even for his colleagues, such as Preuss, who knew his vigour : “He gives me a completely different impression from the previous one and does not make himself noticed as before”.  In the next year, he was able to resume some of his activities by representing the Geographical Society in the board of directors of the Rudolf-Virchow-Gesellschaft, the Rudolf Virchow foundation, and met with Boas in Berlin for academic purposes. 
In the year of the outbreak of the war, the Americanist returned to the committee of the society and to the editing board of the journal.  He also participated in the first conference of ethnology and ethnography at the University of Neuchâtel, in Switzerland.  But it was precisely in this year that von den Steinen suffered the first personal loss that would befall him during the Great War. Paul Ehrenreich, his friend and companion from the expedition, passed away on 4 April 1914, at the age of 59, victim of a heart attack.  Karl von den Steinen experienced the war through his three sons, Helmut, Wolfram, and Rainer, called up to fight in the front.  In August 1915, the Americanist recounted to Koch-Grünberg that “they unleashed the boys on the Russians”.  By the end of the year, Wolfram was sent to another place and Helmuth “came back home to undergo surgery on both sides of the belly.”  Dismissed from military service, he was then able to move to the Balkans, since he had learned Bulgarian and Turkish, and was certified as a translator.  Indeed, in the next year he went to study ancient languages in Sofia.  After spending a considerable time in the east, Wolfram enrolled in a course for non-commissioned officers. Rainer, however, never came back home. For the already frail von den Steinen, the news of his 18-year-old son’s death had a devastating effect. 
The ethnologist kept more and more to himself and during the war limited his participation in the journal and in the anthropological society to the editorial board.  He would not even watch the inflammatory debates there. Still, he published an article on Polynesian mythology.  He was so depressed that he would spend long periods not even replying to colleagues’ and friends’ mail.  He confessed to Boas that he was simply unable to summon forces in order to write a letter : “You do not know how difficult it is for me.”  It weighed on him, apart from the social and human tragedy brought about by the war and that converged on his home with his son’s death, there was the progressive deterioration of his health. In face of so much suffering and so much human loss, “there is no serious man among us that in his inner self would not be shaken”.  Von den Steinen had not been stricken by the war fever that affected so many of his countrymen, but the military conflict influenced his patriotism, as well his disappointment towards enemy nations, especially the United States, which, though only joining the conflict in the last two years, had not been an ally to the Kaiser’s nation before that. He revealed his dissatisfaction to Boas, a German living in America, as many thousands more : “A resentment against your United States has accumulated inside me, precisely because I loved and honoured them, and against that struggles to no avail the most reasonable of ethics, which says we should seek an ever closer union with our brave countrymen over there”.  The noticeable interruption in international friendships and the positioning on opposite sides of partners who had previously contributed for a common ideal, as well as the catastrophic effects of that on anthropological science, further increased the Americanist’s dismay.  Removed from academic life, von den Steinen abandoned his routine of studies and only read newspapers.  To Boas he confessed that he “lived as secluded from the world”, like the old Bastian in his time. 
Apart from the article on Morpheu, he did not produce academic texts for a long period of time – even the review of the first volume of Koch-Grünberg’s great work “From the Roraima to the Orinoco” was not written by him, but by Eduard Seler.  Von den Steinen not only sought refuge in his home, or in his long silences, but also in a world of fantasy : he sent to Boas a little essay, an opusculum that he wrote, a story in which it would be possible for men to possess the moon’s magic for a short time. 
After the end of the war, von den Steinen resumed some of his administrative activities at the anthropological society and at the journal. In 1919, he became the second president of the Rudolf Virchow Foundation and in the next year he again represented the German Geographical Society for that organisation, a position that he held for the next four years. In 1920, he took office again as a member of the journal’s committee, and two years later became its chief.
Although the Americanist had resumed his academic activities, health problems and the slow crumbling of his financial affairs due to the economic crisis precluded him from devoting himself entirely to anthropology. After more than two months waiting for a reply from his friend, Boas complained to him : “If you knew how anxious I am to have direct news from you, you would write to me”.  The post-war period was also of great difficulties for the ethnologist. In a letter to Swedish Americanist Erland Nordenskiöld (1877-1932), he revealed how during the years of conflict it was possible “to preserve, between good and bad days, a healthy optimism”. With Germany’s defeat and the conditions imposed by the Treaty of Versailles, the impact on the German economy was harsh, which “now still shatters and strangles us, after we became deplorably weakened by chronicle malnutrition, and which took us to a state of exhaustion, fever, and delirium”.  If von den Steinen had previously confessed to Boas that he hated the United States – precisely because he loved it and that was an unrequited love in national terms – after the Great War he later wrote : “I cannot deny an unforgiving bitterness towards America, both as a neutral country and as an enemy”.  He deemed Germany was becoming a “colony of the Entente”, in which German society was so violently impoverished that even “a hitherto well-to-do family, such as ours, has not known a baked ham for years. We are by no means starving, but we are unfortunately constantly hungry. Then we dance, go out for a stroll, and chat as never before. An utmost state of exhaustion. To write in such a state of spirit – and how many times I tried it – is repulsive”.  He lost his faith in humanity and in justice and believed that Americanism would not recover from the ordeals imposed by the war. Therefore, von den Steinen’s personal and intellectual trajectory reveals how academic positions are entwined with relations of affection personal preferences and social contexts. More abstractly, it reveals how the anthropological craft, and science in general, is interwoven in social webs historically constructed and subjectively maintained.
After the war, von den Steinen’s family needed to move from the house that had been built in 1905 in Steglitz – in order to be a temple of knowledge, and in which he was the high priest – to a more humble and far-off residence, in Wilmersdorf.  To Boas he revealed his feelings regarding the relocation : “To me it became infinitely difficult to give up my beautiful house and my beloved garden in Steglitz” and that “the library built there with a gallery, as well as almost all Americanist books” were sold and rented to the museum of ethnology.  Von den Steinen was not the only intellectual in Berlin who needed to sell his books and his pieces of art in order to afford domestic expenditures : half of Luschan’s library was acquired for approximately 1.5 million marks – a sum rapidly consumed by hyperinflation.  The difference between the rent he received from his house in Steglitz and what he paid in Wilmersdorf became his main source of income.  This income, however, was rapidly eroded by inflation. Von den Steinen needed, for example, to pay more than all his annual income for a good typist.  In 1921, when scientific activities in Berlin had already resumed, he found himself deprived of them because after almost a year of sickness he needed to undergo serious surgery on his bladder.  Brokered by Franz Boas, von den Steinen wanted to sell out his private ethnographic collection of the Marquesas islands to a an American buyer, but did not succeed.  The melancholy that dominated his life was described in a letter to Boas : “In the last weeks my tension dissolved. I recognise, it is not possible otherwise : with all the work it is only possible to achieve a fraction of what one wishes to achieve”.  Then he pronounced : “The will to live has diminished”. 
Through the collective effort of a small circle of ethnologists, above all Boas, Nordenskiöld, Koch-Grünberg, and Paul Rivet (1876-1958), in 1924 the first post-war conference of Americanists was held. Part of the activities was held in the Netherlands, but the main ones happened in Gothenburg, in the museum of which Nordenskiöld was director. Karl von den Steinen, who was still one of the great names of Americanist ethnology, refused to participate in the conference arguing that it would not be possible to ignore the imposed peace by the winners of the war and that the French also took many years to reconcile with the Germans after the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871.  Von den Steinen was convinced to participate by his colleagues, who appealed to the international nature of ethnology and to the fundamental contribution that he could offer to its reconstruction. His travel was financed by the organising commission, as well as that of other relevant figures in the field, such as Mesoamericanist Caecilie Seler-Sachs (1855-1935) or young researchers, such as the assistant to ethnologist Max Schmidt (1874-1950).  The encounter between Rivet and von den Steinen represented the unity of scientists, overcoming differences of nationality and the conflicts in which their countries were involved. Even though von den Steinen had gone to the conference in Sweden in the role of a patron of Americanism, his private life was still falling apart. He was depressed, his wife was gravely ill and his family patrimony practically extinct. 
The Americanist had still not been able to publish his Marquesas trilogy. Due to the financial difficulties prevalent in all sectors of German society, including research institutes, scientific societies, and publishing houses, he was unable to raise the necessary funds. He confessed to Boas that had his brother-in-law Ernst Vohsen (1853-1919) been alive – a consul and chief representative of a German colonial organisation, and editor in chief at the publishing house Dietrich Reimer in Berlin – he would feel safer, for certainly his books would then see daylight.  In spite of that, von den Steinen maintained his activities at the society and at the journal of anthropology. From 1925 on, and for the next three years, he held the position of editor-in-chief at the journal of anthropology and in that year he also became a member of honour of the society. 
Karl von den Steinen only managed to publish his Marquesas trilogy between 1925 and 1928, when his old friend Franz Boas and his Emergency Society for German and Austrian Science, as well as “an old friend”, Capistrano de Abreu (1853-1927), brokered a deal.  Boas’ Emergency Society funded not only the publication, but also granted a research scholarship to von den Steinen that lasted for a period until after the publication of the third volume.  The Americanist gave Boas full discretionary powers to solve financial matters involving the books and the scholarship. Nevertheless, aware that the unfolding of their relationship in a further aspect could potentially overshadow their mutual affection, von den Steinen wrote in order to reassure him : “the preservation of our old friendship is worth ∞ times more to me than any commercial matter”.  He had resumed his work routine, which progressed more than it had in years. 
However, by the end of his life, cataracts consumed his eyesight and he had to dismiss the secretary in charge of reading for him.  In 1927, von den Steinen sold his beloved house in Steglitz. The rental contract had expired, but the former tenants’ employees refused to vacate the house, forcing von den Steinen to take costly legal action. Such enormous stress made the old ethnologist sick : “I became very ill with that, and have never seen life in a darker light”.  In the following year, Karl and Eleonora moved from Berlin to Kronberg im Taunus, in the Frankfurt am Main region. For the first time in almost forty years, the couple would dwell in a new house without sharing it with at least one of their offspring.
Karl resisted the idea of leaving the German capital, but Eleonora longed for the surrounding peace of nature in the twilight of their lives. He gave in to his wife’s wishes and, finally, managed to build a quiet routine, as he described in his last letter to Boas : “Meanwhile I chat everyday with you, when I, returning home from my strolls, enjoy quite comfortably a few dozen pages of Am. Anthropology ; doing it like that, peu à peu, brings a special happiness, such as is the case with good drugs. Ergo – thank you very much”.  On 4 November 1929, at the age of 74, the “doyen of South American ethnographic explorers”, as coined by Nordenskiöld in his obituary, succumbed to a fatal stroke. 
EM Bln = Ethnologisches Museum Berlin (Ethnological Museum of Berlin)
Acta betreffend die Erwerbung der Sammlung 1. Karl von den Steinen 2. Paul Ehrenreich. Pars I.B. Litt : K.
(“Folder concerning the acquisition of the collection 1. Karl von den Steinen 2. Paul Ehrenreich”)
ES Mr = Nachlass Theodor Koch-Grünberg. Ethnographische Sammlung der Philipps-Universität Marburg (Theodor Koch-Grünberg collection. Ethnographic Collection of the University of Marburg)
A1 – A37 : Wissenschaftliche Korrespondenz (“Scientific mail”)
APSL = American Philosophical Society Library. Philadelphia.
Franz Boas Papers
GU = Göteborgs Universitetsbibliotek (Gothenburg University Library).
Brevsamling (“Collection of letters”).
BASTIAN, Adolf (1871). “On Cultural Evolution”. In : KÖPPING, Klaus-Peter (1983). Adolf Bastian and the Psychic Unity of Mankind. The Foundations of Anthropology in Nineteenth Century Germany. Münster : LIT Verlag, 2005.
BASTIAN, Adolf (1881). “Ethnology and Psychology”. In : KÖPPING, Klaus-Peter (1983). Adolf Bastian and the Psychic Unity of Mankind. The Foundations of Anthropology in Nineteenth Century Germany. Münster : LIT Verlag, 2005.
BASTIAN, Adolf (1893-1894). “The folk Idea as Paradigm of Ethnology”. In : KÖPPING, Klaus-Peter (1983). Adolf Bastian and the Psychic Unity of Mankind. The Foundations of Anthropology in Nineteenth Century Germany. Münster : LIT Verlag, 2005.
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