J.M.G. Umlauff was a prominent Hamburg-based dealer of ethnographic material, it also had its own museum. The firm operated from 1863 to 1974. Their records are now kept in the Völkerkundemuseum Hamburg.

They also produced and sold model figures of different peoples of the world, and offered entire ethnographic presentations for shows and museums.

Umlauff bill 1900


A bill of the Umlauff family, dated 1900.
Museum am Rothenbaum Kulturen und Künste der Welt accession number 101-1-1195_8.





Founded by Johann Friedrich Gustav Umlauff (1833 - 1889). He worked as a seaman and had sold curiosities he brought back from his travels. In 1863 he married Caroline Hagenbeck (1839-1918) who was the sister of animal dealer Carl Hagenbeck. They ran a successful trading company at Spielbudenplatz 8-15 in Hamburg. They purchased from a network of traders, collectors, and scientists, some traveled on order. He also founded a museum, the "Umlauff'sches Weltmuseum" on the premises with displays of model figures, stuffed animals and ethnographic objects.


The Umlauff taxidermy room.


The Umauf taxidermy area. Two figures have writing on/near them:
H.U. is probably Heinrich Christian Umlauff.


After he passed away in 1889 the business was taken over by Caroline Umlauff, supported by her brother Carl Hagenbeck and J.M.G.'s eldest son Heinrich. In 1912 eldest son Heinrich Christian Umlauff (1869-1925) took over the ethnographic part of the firm, the "Ethnological Institute, and Museum" and was joined by his mother Caroline until her death in 1918. When Heinrich passed away in 1925, his widow Bertha Umlauffs took up the management with the help of their children.

During the Second World War, most of their ethnographic stock was destroyed in a bombing raid. The final owners were the two daughters of Bertha Umlauff, Käthe and Thea, who continued the trade until the death of Käthe. The business disappears from the trade register soon thereafter in 1974. 


In prominent collections

Items with Umlauff provenance are present in many notable museums.

2830 objects in the Penn Museum in Pennsylvania

124 in the British Museum in London.

3 objects were bequeathed to the Metropolitan Museum in New York by Nelson A. Rockefeller.



Mandarin Mansion inventory

I sold a Chinese dadao with Umlauff inventory markings in 2023.

Markings on late Qing dadao



L 1065/915.

China. Umlauff."




Heinrich Umlauff (1869-1925) and the Historical and Ethnological Museum St.

Angela Hess; Revisiting the Relationship between Indigenous Agency and Museum Inventories: An Object-Centered Study of the Formation of Lübeck's Jacobsen Collection (1884/1885) from the Northwest Coast of America. Available online.

Heinrich Umlauff

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Large and heavy example with the notable Umlauff provenance.


Collected by a Russian prince from the hill peoples of central Vietnam in 1892.


Signed: Ricky Milnes, India 44, Burma 44, Ramree 45.


Russet iron, one-piece construction with decorative grooves.


Ryutaro was the son of Fukutake Ichirō (1928-2002).


With a very fine Nepalese blade, but kard-like hilt and scabbard.