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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Otto Kratz   12 July 1871


July 12th. 1871

Charles Darwin | M.A., F.R.S. etc. | England

Dear Sir,

If I take the liberty of intruding upon your valuable time, my only excuse may be, that the object of my letter is of sufficient importance to offer an equivalent.

The inclosed photographs are copies of the original photographs taken at the place. They represent the pictures of a man, a woman and a child. The woman is easily recognised by the ring on her finger. An ordinary magnifying glass will convince you at once that these must be photographs taken from living beings.1

All the facts I have been able to gather about them are the following:

Captain Bosse of the British Ship “Sawely Chludow”2 who left here (New-Orleans) on the 24th. of May 1871 for Cork Ireland, there to wait for orders, told me the following:

He was ordered to go to Bassein on the Bassein-River on the Southwest coast of Birmah3 to take a cargo of Rice. The vessels go up Bassein-River to the Landing and Lading Place Bassein, where the Rice mills are located, which prepare the rice brought by the natives (in the husks), for shipment. He saw there himself on board of his own vessel, these hairy people, who had brought rice down from the mountains, where this tribe lives in numbers, to sell it at Bassein. A Photographer happened to be on board another English vessel, who took the originals of the pictures, whose copies (taken here in New-Orleans) you find inclosed. He further stated, that they were an amiable, hospitable kind of people, rather advanced in culture and very pleasant to come in contact with. But that now this was or would soon be over as “The missionaries had got amongst them” “Ipsa verba”4   The wife of Captain Bosse a very intelligent woman (German)5 has given me a good many details respecting these people, but as they are not pertinent, I have to omit them.

Two things are certain to my mind:

1st. These are the very hairy people we want as one of the connecting links and

2ly. I have never seen them mentioned before.

I own I have hesitated notwithstanding, a good many days, before thus trespassing on you, but in the interest of a branch of science I dearly love and out of regard for a man I so highly estimate, I have run the risk of being intrusive.

If this communication has really any value, you would very much oblige an old german Darwinian, by an acknowledgment of its safe reception.6

As the American Publishers (Appleton) of your work have not even had the politeness to give the name of your English Publisher, I have to use a circuitous route, to make this reach its adress.

With the highest consideration I have the honor to sign | Very Respectfully | Your obedient servant | Otto Kratz M.D.

140 Canal Street | New-Orleans | La.


The photographs have not been found, but see the letter to Otto Kratz, 8 September [1871] and n. 2; they were of unusually hairy members of a Burmese family. CD had mentioned them in Variation 2: 327–8, and Descent 2: 378, although in Descent he described them as being Siamese. On the family and their history, see Bondeson and Miles 1996.
Captain Bosse of the Sawely Chludow is mentioned in The Times, 26 July 1872, p. 11, as appearing in response to a summons for failure to pay a seaman’s wages; he has not been further identified.
Ipsa verba: the words themselves (Latin); i.e. his own words.
Captain Bosse’s wife has not been identified.


Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.


Sends photographs of very hairy Burmese natives; suggests they may be the "missing link".

Letter details

Letter no.
Otto Kratz
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
New Orleans
Source of text
DAR 169: 101
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7862,” accessed on 10 June 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 19