Tuesday, April 26, 2011

April 26th - Birthday of John James Audubon

Audubon in 1826
Today marks the 226th anniversary of the birth of famed naturalist John James Audubon, whose footprints can still be traced across the American South.
Born in what is now Haiti (then the French colony of Saint-Domingue) on April 26, 1785, he fled with his family to France just three years later when a slave revolt broke out on the Haitian sugar plantations. He was educated in France and remained there until he was 18, when he boarded a ship for America using a false passport to avoid conscription in the Napoleonic army.

He contracted yellow fever as he arrived in New York and was nursed back to health in a boarding house run by Quaker women, who taught him English and assisted in his relocation to a farm near Philadelphia where he developed a passion for American birds and wildlife. His business interests eventually took him west to Missouri and Kentucky, where he continued to expand his studies.

Oakley Plantation in Louisiana
Audubon, of course, went on to travel through much of the South and his ground-breaking bird paintings are among the finest ever done in North America. His travels are the focus of much attention in historical and birding circles and markers and historic sites across the region note his presence.

An excellent place to learn more about Audubon's work is at Audubon State Historic Site in St. Francisville, Louisiana. The park preserves Oakley Plantation, where he completed many of his bird paintings and which he described as "almost supernatural" in its beauty. To learn more, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/audubon.

Ruins of Elizabeth Female Academy
A little more than an hour north near Natchez, Mississippi, are the ruins of the Elizabeth Female Academy, where Audubon taught drawing in 1822. To learn more, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/natchezelizabeth.

The Audubon Society, of course, is a great place to learn about the life and contributions of John James Audubon. The Society maintians an online version of his groundbreaking book, Birds of America, at http://web4.audubon.org/bird/BoA/BOA_index.html.

No comments: