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Keywords:

  • anti-German sentiment;
  • Alexander von Humboldt;
  • Humboldt Centennial Celebration;
  • Humboldt in the United States

ABSTRACT. In the nineteenth century Alexander von Humboldt was acclaimed as “the second Columbus” and “the scientific discoverer of America.” His prestige and fame were such that on 14 September 1869, the hundredth anniversary of his birth, a grand celebration was held with parades, speeches, concerts, and the unveiling of memorials in cities across the country. Humboldt's popularity in the United States endured for the remainder of the nineteenth century, but he dropped from public consciousness in the twentieth century. To account for the eclipse of Humboldt's fame in the United States three hypotheses are discussed: a shift in the character of scientific endeavor; the quality of Humboldt's written work; and the rise of anti-German sentiment with a concurrent rush to “de-Germanize” the United States in the early twentieth century.