Wednesday, August 30, 2017

On his Life in John Bartram's Own Words

"I find by thy letter thee supposeth I was born in England but I asure thee I was born in Pensilvania & never been out of sight of land since & I believe hath taken more pains after the study of botany & the operation of nature than any other that was born in English America notwithstanding my low fortune in the world which laid me under the necessity of very hard labour for the support of my family having now a wife & seven small children whose subsitance depends on the produce that is raised on my farm which is scituate on A navigable river near Philadelphia but I have had ever since I was 12 years of age A great inclination to botany & natural history but could not make much improvement therein for want of bookes or other instruction until I entered into Correspondence with my good friend Peter Collinson."

In a similar vein, Bartram later wrote to Collinson in 1764: "I had always since 10 years ould A great inclination to plants & knowed all that I once observed by sight tho not thair proper names haveing no person or books to instruct me."

Throughout his life, Bartram remained proud of his intellectual accomplishments. He also realized his interests were unique among Americans. He wrote: “our Americans hath very little taste for these amusements I cant find one that will bear the fatigues to accompany me in my peregrinations.”

Historic American Landscapes Survey - John Bartram House and Garden by Joel T. Fry

Monday, August 28, 2017

John Bartram in 1803 Dobson's Encyclopedia

In the early-19C, William Bartram prepared several short biographies of his father for publication in Philadelphia. The first appeared in the supplement to Dobson’s edition of the
Encyclopædia (1803).

BARTRAM (John) a celebrated self-taught philosopher & botanist, was born near the village of Darby in Chester county, Pennsylvania, in the year 1701. His grandfather John Bartram with his family from Derbyshire in England, came over with the adherents of the famous William Penn, when he established the colony of Pennsylvania in 1682. He, very early in life, manifested an ardent thirst for knowledge; but the great distance from Europe, then the seat of arts & sciences, & the infant state of the colony, rendered it difficult to obtain even a moderate education: however the resources of his own mind, & the most intense application surmounted the difficulties of his fituation. Associating with the most respectable characters, he obtained the rudiments of the learned languages, which he studied with extraordinary application & success. So earnest was he in the pursuit of learning that he seldom sat at his meals without his book, often his vićtuals in one hand & his book in the other. He had an early inclination for the study of medicine & surgery, & acquired so much knowledge as to administer great relief to the indigent & distressed in his neighbourhood; & as most of his medicines were drawn from the vegetable kingdom, this furnished him with opportunity for prosecuting the study of botany which was his favourite object, together with natural history. Bred a husbandman, he cultivated the ground as the principal means of supporting a large family, he prosecuted his avocations as a philosopher, being attentive to the economy of nature, & observing her most minute operations. When ploughing or sowing his fields or mowing his meadows, his inquisitive mind was exercised in the contemplation of the vegetable system & of animated nature. He was the first American who conceived & carried into effect the design of a botanic garden for the reception & cultivation of American vegetables as well as exotics, & of travelling for the acquisition of them: & for the purpose of accomplishing this scheme he purchased a plantation in a delightful situation on the banks of the Schuylkill, about 5 miles from Philadelphia, where he laid out with his own hands, a large garden, containing 6 or 7 acres comprehending a variety of soils & fituations, which he soon furnished with a great variety of the most curious & beautiful vegetables, collečted in his various excursions...he was the greatest natural botanist in the world. His progress in botany, natural history & philosophy, attracted the notice & esteem of the principal literary & eminent charaćters in America, among whom were James Logan, Esq. Dr Franklin...Dr Colden of New York & Dr Clayton of Virginia, & introduced him to the correspondence & friendship of Peter Collinson, Esq. which continued for nearly fifty years & terminated only with life; Lord Petre, Dr Dillenius, Sir Hans Sloane, Mr Catesby, Dr Fothergill, Dr Hill, Gronovius, Linnaeus, Profassor Kalm, M. Wrangle, &c. who furnished him with such books, philosophical apparatus, &c. as his genius & situation required, thereby lessening the difficulties with which he had to struggle in a newly settled country, & promoting the object which his benevolent mind had contemplated in communicating his discoveries & collections to Europe. These communications occasioned him to be employed in collecting whatever was new & curious to furnish & ornament the European gardens & plantations with the productions of the New World. His industry & success in the pursuit of science procured him fellowship in many hiterary & scientific societies in Europe, as those of London, Edinburgh, Stockholm, &c. And at last he was appointed American Botanist to his Britannic Majesty George the Third, in which appointment he continued till his death in September 1777, in the 75th year of his age. He employed much of his time in excursions through the provinces then subject to England; chiefly in autumn, when his agricultural avocations least required his presence at home. The object of these journeys was to collect curious & non-descript vegetables, fossils, &c. His ardour in these pursuits was such that at the age of 70 he made a journey into East Florida to explore the natural produćtions of that country. His travels among the Native Indians were attended with much danger & difficulty, & the different parts of the country, from the shores of Lakes Ontario & Caiuga to the source of the river St Juan in E. Florida, contributed through his hands to enrich & embellish the gardens & forests of Europe with elegant flowering shrubs, plants, & useful & ornamental trees. He was an ingenious mechanic, several monuments of which still remain at the house in which he lived which he built himself, after quarrying the stone; & he was often his own mason, carpenter, black-smith, &c. And generally made his own farming utenfils. His stature was rather above the middle size, erect & slender, a sandy complećtion, cheersul countenance, with an air of solemnity, his manners modest & gentle, an amiable disposition & liberal mind, a lover of charity & social order, he was never known to enter into a litigious contest with any one, active & temperate, but always maintained a plentiful table, & annually on new year’s day he made an entertainment at his own house, consecrated to friendship & philosophy. He was an advocate for liberty, & for the abolition of Negro slavery, & gave freedom to an excellent young African whom he had brought up...Engraved by himself on a stone in the wall over the front window of his own apartment. "Tis God alone, the Almighty Lord, The Holy One by me ador’d."

“Bartram, John,” Supplement to the Encylcopædia, or Dictionary of Art, Sciences, and Miscellaneous Literature, vol. 1 (Philadelphia, 1803), 91-92. 
Virtually the same text was reprinted in The Cyclopaedia, or, Universal Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, and Literature, vol. 4 (Philadelphia, 1807)

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Sketch of John Bartram in 1892 Popular Science

SKETCH OF JOHN BARTRAM from The Popular Science Monthly, Volume 40. 1892

DURING the century which preceded the American Revolution the science of the colonies, like their commerce, was tributary to that of the Old World. Fabulous reports in regard to the natural resources of America had been brought home by European voyagers, & the cultivators of all sciences & arts were looking to that vast unexplored region for products which should increase the knowledge of the naturalist, the resources of the physician & the agriculturist, the profits of the merchant, & the enjoyment of the man of leisure. The function of those colonists who inclined to natural history was that of explorers & collectors, & among the earliest & most notable of these American collectors were the subjects of this sketch.

The grandfather of the elder Bartram, also named John, came from Derbyshire, England, to Pennsylvania in 1682. He brought his wife, three sons, & one daughter, & settled near Darby, in Delaware (then Chester) County. The third son, William, was the only one who married, his wife being Elizabeth, daughter of James Hunt. Both families belonged to the Society of Friends. The children of William were John (the botanist), James, William, & a daughter who died young. The second William went to North Carolina & settled near Cape Fear; John & James remained in Pennsylvania.

The date of John Bartram's birth was March 23, 1699. But little is on record concerning his early years. Like the majority of boys in the colonies, he was brought up to a farming life, & his education was only such as the country schools of the time afforded. After reaching adult years he studied Latin a little, so as to be able to pick out the descriptions of plants in the Latin works of European botanists. In a sketch of John Bartram, written by his son William, it is stated that he had an inclination to the study of physic & surgery & did much toward relieving the ailments of his poor neighbors. In January, 1723, he married Mary, daughter of Richard Morris, of Chester Meeting, by whom he had 2 sons—Richard, who died young, & Isaac, who lived to old age. His wife Mary died in 1727, & in September, 1729, he married Ann Mendenhall, of Concord Meeting, who survived him. John & Ann Bartram had nine children, 5 boys & 4 girls. Of these the third son was William, he & his twin sister, Elizabeth, being born February 9, 1739. The ground on which John Bartram laid out the first botanic garden in America was on the west bank of the Schuylkill River, at Kingsessing, near Gray's Ferry (now within the city limits of Philadelphia), & was bought by him September 30,1728. "Here he built with his own hands," says William, "a large & comfortable house of hewn stone, & laid out a garden containing about five acres."

Nearly all the extant information concerning the lives of the two Bartrams has been embodied in the Memorial of John Bartram, by William Darlington, published in 1849. This volume contains the sketch of John Bartram by his son William, with some additions by the editor, & over four hundred pages of correspondence. About a fourth of these letters are from his friend Peter Collinson; the others are from eminent botanists in Europe & America, & from Bartram to these various correspondents. Darlington also reprinted a sketch of John Bartram, which appeared in the Letters from an American Farmer, by J. Hector St. John, published in London soon aftei Bartram's death. The " letter" describing Bartram purports to be written by a Russian traveler, who is evidently a myth, although in all important respects the account represents the botanist as he was. As to how Bartram's interest in botany was aroused, the "Russian gentleman" has a very pretty story, telling of a sudden conversion after the botanist had married; but Bartram himself is better authority, & he writes to Collinson, May 1, 1764, "I had always since ten years old a great inclination to plants, & knew all that I once observed by sight, though not their proper names, having no person nor books to instruct me."

He was encouraged to study systematically by James Logan (founder of the Loganian Library, in Philadelphia), who gave him several botanical works. In order that his explorations, begun at his own expense, might be extended, Bartram's friends prompted him to seek the patronage of some wealthy & influential person in the mother-country. Accordingly, a quantity of his specimens & a record of some of his observations were sent to Peter Collinson, a Quaker merchant in England, who was greatly interested in horticulture. Bartram's consignment secured his interest, & led to a correspondence, which lasted nearly fifty years. The first letter in Darlington's collection is from Collinson, under the date January 20, 1734-35, & refers to letters from Bartram of the preceding November; hence this correspondence probably began when Bartram was about 35 years of age. In his early letters Collinson makes many inquiries about American plants & requests for specimens. He sends Bartram seeds, roots, cuttings of trees, vegetables, & flowering plants cultivated in England, packages of paper in which to preserve specimens, & gives him directions for collecting & drying plants. From time to time he sends presents of cloth & other articles for the use of the botanist or his family. For Bartram's " improvement in the knowledge of plants " he early offers, if duplicate collections are sent, to " get them named by our most knowing botanists, & then return them again, which will improve thee more than books." In this way the learning of Dillenius, Gronovius, & other eminent men was brought to the aid of the humble colonist. Collinson obtained for Bartram many orders for seeds & roots of American plants, & early secured for him the patronage of Lord Petre, whose gardens & hot-houses were probably the most extensive in the kingdom. This noble amateur ordered quantities of seeds from time to time, & when Bartram asked for a yearly allowance to enable him to extend his explorations, Lord Petre agreed to contribute ten guineas toward it. As much more was obtained from the Duke of Richmond & Philip Miller, & the twenty guineas were paid each year till 1742, when Lord Petre died. The first expedition that Bartram made with this assistance was an exploration of the Schuylkill River. He transmitted his journal of the trip & a map of the river to his patrons, & with both of these Collinson reported Lord Petre to be much pleased.

Besides plants, Collinson asks Bartram at various times to send insects, birds, & their eggs & nests, terrapin & other turtles, snakes, shells, wasps' & hornets' nests, & fossils, which last were then regarded as "evidences of the Deluge." "My inclination & fondness to natural productions of all kinds," he writes, "is agreeable to the old proverb, 'Like the parson's barn—refuses nothing.'" During the second year of his allowance Bartram complains that it does not recompense him for his labors, & he also finds fault with Collinson for giving him seeds & cuttings that he has already, & for not having answered some of his letters. Collinson, in a business-like reply, shows that Bartram's complaints are due to his ignorance of commercial affairs & the difficulty of transatlantic communication, & to his exceeding the commissions of his patrons—whereupon the botanist promptly apologizes.

In 1738 Bartram made a journey of five weeks through Maryland & Virginia to Williamsburg, then up the James River, & over the Blue Ridge Mountains, traveling in all about eleven hundred miles. Most of the botanist's expeditions were made without any scientific companion. "Our Americans," he writes to a correspondent, "have very little taste for these amusements. I can't find one that will bear the fatigue to accompany me in my peregrinations."

In an undated letter, written probably in 1739, to Colonel Byrd, of Virginia, Bartram reports that he had been making "microscopical observations upon the male & female parts in vegetables." He had also made, he says, "several successful experiments of joining several species of the same genus, whereby I have obtained curious mixed colors in flowers, never known before." To this he adds: "I hope by these practical observations to open a gate into a very large field of experimental knowledge, which, if judiciously improved, may be a considerable addition to the beauty of the florist's garden." It was in this "field of experimental knowledge "—namely, cross-fertilization—that Darwin afterward won a share of his fame. Bartram evidently discussed this subject with Collinson, for the latter writes in 1742: "That some variegations may be occasioned by insects is certain; but then these are only annual, & cease with the year." Permanent variegations, he says, are produced by budding—a sort of inoculation.

That Bartram had a hostility to superstition, tempered with much considerateness for persons, is shown by a letter in which he tells of a visit to Dr. Witt, of Germantown, another of Collinson's correspondents. He says: "When we are upon the topic of astrology, magic, & mystic divinity, I am apt to be a little troublesome, by inquiring into the foundation & reasonableness of these notions—which, thee knows, will not bear to be searched & examined into: though I handle these fancies with more tenderness with him than I should with many others that are so superstitiously inclined."

One of the botanists whose offices Collinson had secured in identifying Bartram's specimens was Prof. Dillenius, of Oxford, & in 1740 Collinson writes for some mosses for him, saying, " He defers completing his work till he sees what comes from thee, Clayton, & Dr. Mitchell." In the same year a list of specimens which had been named by Dr. J. F. Gronovius, of Leyden, was returned, & contained this entry: "Cortusce sire Yerbasci, Fl. Virg., pp. 74, 75. This being a new genus, may be called Bartramia." The name Bartramia is now borne by a different plant—a moss growing in the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts.

Bartram's correspondence with Gronovius began about 1743, & extends over a dozen years or more. Gronovius writes at length, very appreciatively, & makes many requests. He sends his books as they appear, & before the publication of his Index Lapidse, sends a transcript of the passage, in Latin, in which he is to give Bartram credit for his fossil finds.

Among the European scientists whom Collinson made acquainted with Bartram's work was Sir Hans Sloane, physician & naturalist, who succeeded Newton as President of the Royal Society. At his request Bartram sends him, in 1741, some "petrified representations of sea-shells." The next year Sloane sends to Bartram a silver cup.

About this time a correspondence began between Bartram & Dr. John Fothergill, a wealthy physician & naturalist, who, like Sloane, had first received some of Bartram's specimens from Collinson. Dr. Fothergill wishes to know what mineral springs there are in America, & Bartram sends him what information he has & can get from others. Bartram also exchanged letters with Philip Miller, author of the Gardener's Dictionary, with George Edwards, who in 1766 sends his book, containing descriptions of birds that the Pennsylvanian had sent him, with Prof. John Hope, of Edinburgh, & with the ablest observers of nature in the colonies, among whom were Dr. John Mitchell, Rev. Jared Eliot, John Clayton, Cadwallader Colden, & Dr. Alexander Garden.

In 1744 he writes, "Dr. Gronovius hath sent me his Index Lapidse, & Linnaeus the second edition of his Characteres Plantarum, with a very loving letter desiring my correspondence, & to furnish him with some natural curiosities of our country." The same year he sends to England his Journal of the Five Nations & the Lake Ontario, describing a journey he had made the preceding fall. It contained an account of the "soil, productions, mountains, & lakes" of those parts of Pennsylvania & New York through which the route lay; & gave the proceedings of a great assembly of Indian chiefs held to treat with the agent of the Province of Pennsylvania, whom Bartram accompanied. This journal was afterward published in London.

The visit of Peter Kalm to America took place in 1748 to 1751. He traveled through Canada, New York, Pennsylvania, & adjoining provinces; made the acquaintance of the Gray's Ferry botanist, & obtained much assistance from him. It has been alleged that Kalm took to himself the credit of some discoveries which rightfully belonged to Bartram. This would not be suspected from reading Kalm's Travels, in which he gives Bartram a page & a half of hearty commendation, saying among other things: "We owe to him the knowledge of many scarce plants, which he first found, & which were never known hefore. . . . I likewise owe him many things, for he possessed that great quality of communicating everything he knew. I shall, therefore, in the sequel frequently mention this gentleman." On nearly every one of the next twenty pages credit is given to Bartram for information.

In 1751 Benjamin Franklin & D. Hall published at Philadelphia an American edition of Dr. Thomas Short's Medicina Britannica, 
"with a Preface by Mr. John Bartram, Botanist, of Pennsylvania, & his Notes throughout the work; . . . & an Appendix, containing a description of a number of Plants peculiar to America, their uses, virtues, etc." The notes told where the plants were found in America, & how they differed from the English varieties.

John Bartram's son William begins to figure in his father's correspondence when about 15 years old. At that time Bartram sent some of William's drawings of natural objects to Collinson, & took him on a trip to the Catskills. In 1755 Bartram writes: "I design to set Billy to draw all our turtles with remarks, as he has time, which is only on Seventh days in the afternoon, & First-day mornings; for he is constantly kept to school to learn Latin & French." This attention to the languages indicates that Bartram was determined that his son should not suffer from the lack that had limited his own reading of works on natural history. William was then attending the old college in Philadelphia.

The same passage shows also that Bartram's ideas about Sunday occupations were somewhat unusual for that generation, & in fact it is stated that he was excommunicated by his brother Quakers about this time for his independent religious views. The question of an occupation for William now came up, & in the letter just quoted his father asks Collinson's advice in the matter. "My son William," he writes," is just turned of sixteen. It is now time to propose some way for him to get his living by. I don't want him to be what is commonly called a gentleman. I want to put him to some business by which he may, with care & industry, get a temperate, reasonable living. I am afraid that botany & drawing will not afford him one, & hard labor don't agree with him. I have designed several years to put him to a doctor, to learn physic & surgery; but that will take him from his drawing, which he takes particular delight in. Pray, my dear friend Peter, let me have thy opinion about it." Franklin offered to teach William the printing trade, but Bartram was not quite satisfied with the prospects for printers in Pennsylvania, & Franklin then suggested engraving. But William became neither printer nor engraver. At the age of eighteen he was placed with a Philadelphia merchant, Mr. Child, where he remained about four years.

Bartram's science was largely practical. He wrote to Dr. Alexander Garden, of Charleston, in 1755, suggesting a series of borings on a large scale, to search for valuable mineral products. He gives as another reason the satisfaction to be derived from knowing the composition of the earth, & adds, "By this method we may compose a curious subterranean map."  "This scheme of John Bartram's," says Darlington—"if original with him—would indicate that he had formed a pretty good notion of the nature & importance of a geological survey & map, more than half a century before such undertakings were attempted in our country, or even thought of by those whose province it was to authorize them."

Bartram was evidently much interested in geological subjects; thus, in 1756 he writes, "My dear worthy friend, thee can't bang me out of the notion that limestone & marble were originally mud, impregnated by a marine salt, which I take to be the original of all our terrestrial soils."

In 1760 he makes a trip through the Carolinas, his Journal of which he wrote out & sent to England. The following summer, William, then twenty-two years old, went to North Carolina & set up as a trader at Cape Fear, where his uncle William had settled when a young man. That year John Bartram makes a journey to Pittsburg & some way down the Ohio River, keeping a journal, as usual, which is sent to his English friends. Nearly all of these trips were made in autumn, so as to get ripe seeds of desirable trees & plants.

Bartram had too tender a feeling toward animal life to be much of a zoologist. He says on this score: "As for the animals & insects, it is very few that I touch of choice, & most with uneasiness. Neither can I behold any of them, that have not done me a manifest injury, in their agonizing mortal pains without pity. I also am of opinion that the creatures commonly called brutes possess higher qualifications, & more exalted ideas, than our traditional mystery-mongers are willing to allow them." His ideas concerning animal psychology were thus clearly in advance of his time.

The war with France, known to Americans as the French & Indian War, resulted in extending the British possessions in America as far west as the Mississippi River. Immediately a desire was expressed in England for a thorough exploration of this great accession of territory. Bartram writes in 1763 that this could not be made without great danger from the Indians. His own expeditions had been very short during the hostilities. The late war had shown the colonists what atrocities the savages were capable of, & the prevailing feelings toward the red men had become dread & hatred. "Many years past in our most peaceable times," writes Bartram, " far beyond the mountains, as I was walking in a path with an Indian guide, hired for two dollars, an Indian man met me & pulled off my hat in a great passion, & chawed it all round—I suppose to show me that they would eat me if I came in that country again." In two other letters he says that the only way to make peace with the Indians "is to bang them stoutly." The question arises whether the combative disposition of the botanist thus revealed migbt not have been one of the reasons for his exclusion from the Society of Friends.

In 1764 Bartram sends to England his Journal to Carolina & New River. In this year, one Young, of Pennsylvania, managed to gain the favor of the new king, George III, by sending him some American plants, & obtained sudden preferment. It was said that all the plants had been sent to England before—many of them by Bartram. The friends of our botanist, feeling that he was much more deserving of such favor, urged him to send some specimens to the king, which he does through Collinson, desiring that he may be given a commission for botanical exploration in the Floridas. April 9,1765, Collinson writes, "My repeated solicitations have not been in vain," & reports that the king has appointed Bartram his botanist for the Floridas, with a salary of fifty pounds a year. This appointment continued till the death of the botanist, twelve years after. Bartram accordingly made an expedition in the South the next fall. He was then sixty-six years old; &, although his eagerness for exploring was undiminished, he felt the need of a companion on this trip, & got William to go with him, the latter closing out his not very successful business at Cape Fear in order to do so. In his sketch of his father, William states that he had been ordered to search for the sources of the river San Juan (St. John's), & that he ascended the river its whole length, nearly four hundred miles, by one bank, & descended by the other. He explored & made a survey of both the main stream & its branches & connected lakes, & made a draught showing widths, depths, & distances. He also noted the lay of the land, quality of the soil, the vegetable & animal productions, etc. His report was approved by the governor of the province, & was sent to the Board of Trade & Plantations in England, by which it was ordered published "for the benefit of the new colony." Bartram collected a fine lot of plants, fossils, & other curiosities on this trip, which were forwarded to the king, who was reported to be much pleased with them. His journal is still extant, in a volume with an Account of East Florida, by William Stork, published in England. It is evident from this production that the botanist was not a ready writer. His observations are minute & sagacious, & his language is simple, but his sentences are loosely strung out, & the record is the barest statement of facts. His Journal to the Five Nations, however, is much more readable.

William seems to have been much taken with Florida, & accordingly his father helped to establish him as an indigoplanter on the St. John's River. After about a year of disastrous experience he returned to his father's home & went to work on a farm in the vicinity. Collinson had been watching for an opening for William in England, but so far nothing had come of it. The next year he writes that the Duchess of Portland, a "great virtuoso in shells & all marine productions," had just dined at his house, &, having seen William's drawings, "she desires to bestow twenty guineas on his performances for a trial.'' The kind of objects she wants drawn are told. The same month, July 18, 1768, Collinson writes to William that he had also secured an order from Dr. Fothergill for drawings of shells, turtles, terrapin, etc. This was probably the last letter of Collinson to the Bartrams, as he died on the 11th of the following month. During his long friendship with John Bartram the two men had never seen each other.

William now began to send drawings & descriptions to Dr. Fothergill from time to time. In 1772 he began explorations in the Floridas, Carolina, & Georgia, the expense of which for nearly five years was borne by Dr. Fothergill, & to him William's collections & drawings were turned over. William made many contributions to the natural history of the country through which he traveled, & in 1791 published his Travels through North & South Carolina, Georgia, East & West Florida, together with an account of the Creek, Cherokee, Choctaw, & other tribes of Indians which he visited. His attitude toward the red men is much more favorable than that of his father. The volume contains many engravings of plants & birds from the author's own drawings. Of this book Coleridge said : "The latest book of travels I know written in the spirit of the old travelers is Bartram's account of his tour in the Floridas. It is a work of high merit every way."

Among the influential friends of the elder Bartram was Benjamin Franklin. While in England Franklin writes to him & sends him seeds of garden vegetables at various times; & when the Revolution had stopped his sending seeds to England, Franklin offers to sell them for him in France.

Among the testimonials to his botanical achievements that Bartram received was a gold medal, weighing 487 grains, from a society in Edinburgh, founded in 1764, for obtaining seeds of useful trees & shrubs from other countries. This medal is inscribed, " To Mr. John Bartram, from a Society of Gentlemen at Edinburgh, 1772 " & on the reverse, "Merenti," in a wreath. The medal is figured in Darlington's Memorials...April 26, 1769, the Royal Academy of Sciences, of Stockholm, on the proposal of Prof. Bergius, elected Bartram to membership. Another honor that he received from the same country was a letter from Queen Ulrica, & with this may be mentioned the opinion passed upon him by Linnaeus, who called Bartram the greatest natural botanist in the world. Bartram was one of the original members of the American Philosophical Society, & contributed many papers to its Transactions.

The closing years of John Bartram's life were the opening years of the Revolution. He was living when independence was declared in the neighboring city of Philadelphia, but died the following year, September 22, 1777, at the age of seventy-eight. A granddaughter, who remembered him distinctly, has stated that he was exceedingly agitated by the approach of the British army after the battle of Brandywine, & that his days were probably shortened in consequence. The royal troops had been ravaging the country, & he was apprehensive lest they should lay waste his darling garden.

His son William describes him as "a man of modest & gentle manners, frank, cheerful, & of great good nature; a lover of justice, truth, & charity. . . . During the whole course of his life there was not a single instance of his engaging in a litigious contest with any of his neighbors or others. He zealously testified against slavery, &, that his philanthropic precepts on this subject might have their due weight & force, he gave liberty to a most valuable male slave, then in the prime of his life, who had been bred up in the family almost from infancy." He was of an active temperament, & often expressed the wish that he might not live to be helpless. This desire was gratified, for he died after only a short illness...In regard to his physical appearance William states: "His stature was rather above the middle size, & upright. His visage was long, & his countenance expressive of a degree of dignity with a happy mixture of animation & sensibility." 

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Botanists Alexander Garden & John Bartram Meet

Scottish physician, botanist and zoologist, Dr. Alexander Garden 1730-1791 of Charleston wrote of a visit to Bartram in 1754: 

His garden is a perfect portraiture of himself, here you meet with a row of rare plants almost covered over with weeds, here with a Beautifull Shrub, even Luxuriant Amongst Briars, and in another corner an Elegant & Lofty tree lost in common thicket. On our way from town to his house he carried me to severall rocks & Dens where he spewed me some of his rare plants, which he had brought from the Mountains &c. In a word he disclaims to have a garden less than Pensylvania & Every den is an Arbour, Every run of water, a Canal, & every small level Spot a Parterre, where he nurses up some of his Idol Flowers & cultivates his darling productions. He had many plants whose names he did not know, most or all of which I had seen & knew them. On the other hand he had several I had not seen & some I never heard of...

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Michel-Guillaume Jean de Crèvecoeur (Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur) (1735-1813) vistits John Bartram

Michel-Guillaume Jean de Crèvecoeur (Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur) (1735-1813), the French traveler and author, visited Bartram sometime between 1765 and 1770. He fashioned a somewhat fictionalized account of his visit for Letters from an American Farmer, published in London in 1782. Crèvecoeur had Bartram recount the origin of his intellectual interest in

1782 Letters From an American Farmer : Letter XI - From Mr. IW--N AL--Z, A Russian Gentleman; Describing the Visit He Paid at My Request To Mr. John Bertram, The Celebrated Pennsylvanian Botanist

Examine this flourishing province, in whatever light you will, the eyes as well as the mind of an European traveller are equally delighted; because a diffusive happiness appears in every part: happiness which is established on the broadest basis. The wisdom of Lycurgus and Solon never conferred on man one half of the blessings and uninterrupted prosperity which the Pennsylvanians now possess: the name of Penn, that simple but illustrious citizen, does more honour to the English nation than those of many of their kings.

In order to convince you that I have not bestowed undeserved praises in my former letters on this celebrated government; and that either nature or the climate seems to be more favourable here to the arts and sciences, than to any other American province; let us together, agreeable to your desire, pay a visit to Mr. John Bertram, the first botanist, in this new hemisphere: become such by a native impulse of disposition. It is to this simple man that America is indebted for several useful discoveries, and the knowledge of many new plants. I had been greatly prepossessed in his favour by the extensive correspondence which I knew he held with the most eminent Scotch and French botanists; I knew also that he had been honoured with that of Queen Ulrica of Sweden.

His house is small, but decent; there was something peculiar in its first appearance, which seemed to distinguish it from those of his neighbours: a small tower in the middle of it, not only helped to strengthen it but afforded convenient room for a staircase. Every disposition of the fields, fences, and trees, seemed to bear the marks of perfect order and regularity, which in rural affairs, always indicate a prosperous industry.

I was received at the door by a woman dressed extremely neat and simple, who without courtesying, or any other ceremonial, asked me, with an air of benignity, who I wanted? I answered, I should be glad to see Mr. Bertram. If thee wilt step in and take a chair, I will send for him. No, I said, I had rather have the pleasure of walking through his farm, I shall easily find him out, with your directions. After a little time I perceived the Schuylkill, winding through delightful meadows, and soon cast my eyes on a new-made bank, which seemed greatly to confine its stream. After having walked on its top a considerable way I at last reached the place where ten men were at work. I asked, if any of them could tell me where Mr. Bertram was? An elderly looking man, with wide trousers and a large leather apron on, looking at me said, "My name is Bertram, dost thee want me?" Sir, I am come on purpose to converse with you, if you can be spared from your labour. "Very easily," he answered, "I direct and advise more than I work." We walked toward the house, where he made me take a chair while he went to put on clean clothes, after which he returned and sat down by me. The fame of your knowledge, said I, in American botany, and your well-known hospitality, have induced me to pay you a visit, which I hope you will not think troublesome: I should be glad to spend a few hours in your garden. "The greatest advantage," replied he, "which I receive from what thee callest my botanical fame, is the pleasure which it often procureth me in receiving the visits of friends and foreigners: but our jaunt into the garden must be postponed for the present, as the bell is ringing for dinner." We entered into a large hall, where there was a long table full of victuals; at the lowest part sat his negroes, his hired men were next, then the family and myself; and at the head, the venerable father and his wife presided. Each reclined his head and said his prayers, divested of the tedious cant of some, and of the ostentatious style of others. "After the luxuries of our cities," observed he, "this plain fare must appear to thee a severe fast." By no means, Mr. Bertram, this honest country dinner convinces me, that you receive me as a friend and an old acquaintance. "I am glad of it, for thee art heartily welcome. I never knew how to use ceremonies; they are insufficient proofs of sincerity; our society, besides, are utterly strangers to what the world calleth polite expressions. We treat others as we treat ourselves. I received yesterday a letter from Philadelphia, by which I understand thee art a Russian; what motives can possibly have induced thee to quit thy native country and to come so far in quest of knowledge or pleasure? Verily it is a great compliment thee payest to this our young province, to think that anything it exhibiteth may be worthy thy attention." I have been most amply repaid for the trouble of the passage. I view the present Americans as the seed of future nations, which will replenish this boundless continent; the Russians may be in some respects compared to you; we likewise are a new people, new I mean in knowledge, arts, and improvements. Who knows what revolutions Russia and America may one day bring about; we are perhaps nearer neighbours than we imagine. I view with peculiar attention all your towns, I examine their situation and the police, for which many are already famous. Though their foundations are now so recent, and so well remembered, yet their origin will puzzle posterity as much as we are now puzzled to ascertain the beginning of those which time has in some measure destroyed. Your new buildings, your streets, put me in mind of those of the city of Pompeia, where I was a few years ago; I attentively examined everything there, particularly the foot-path which runs along the houses. They appeared to have been considerably worn by the great number of people which had once travelled over them. But now how distant; neither builders nor proprietors remain; nothing is known! "Why thee hast been a great traveller for a man of thy years." Few years, Sir, will enable anybody to journey over a great tract of country; but it requires a superior degree of knowledge to gather harvests as we go. Pray, Mr. Bertram, what banks are those which you are making: to what purpose is so much expense and so much labour bestowed? "Friend Iwan, no branch of industry was ever more profitable to any country, as well as to the proprietors; the Schuylkill in its many windings once covered a great extent of ground, though its waters were but shallow even in our highest tides: and though some parts were always dry, yet the whole of this great tract presented to the eye nothing but a putrid swampy soil, useless either for the plough or for the scythe. The proprietors of these grounds are now incorporated; we yearly pay to the treasurer of the company a certain sum, which makes an aggregate, superior to the casualties that generally happen either by inundations or the musk squash. It is owing to this happy contrivance that so many thousand acres of meadows have been rescued from the Schuylkill, which now both enricheth and embellisheth so much of the neighbourhood of our city. Our brethren of Salem in New Jersey have carried the art of banking to a still higher degree of perfection." It is really an admirable contrivance, which greatly redounds to the honour of the parties concerned; and shows a spirit of discernment and perseverance which is highly praiseworthy: if the Virginians would imitate your example, the state of their husbandry would greatly improve. I have not heard of any such association in any other parts of the continent; Pennsylvania hitherto seems to reign the unrivalled queen of these fair provinces. Pray, Sir, what expense are you at e'er these grounds be fit for the scythe? "The expenses are very considerable, particularly when we have land, brooks, trees, and brush to clear away. But such is the excellence of these bottoms and the goodness of the grass for fattening of cattle, that the produce of three years pays all advances." Happy the country where nature has bestowed such rich treasures, treasures superior to mines, said I: if all this fair province is thus cultivated, no wonder it has acquired such reputation for the prosperity and the industry of its inhabitants.

By this time the working part of the family had finished their dinner, and had retired with a decency and silence which pleased me much. Soon after I heard, as I thought, a distant concert of instruments.--However simple and pastoral your fare was, Mr. Bertram, this is the dessert of a prince; pray what is this I hear? "Thee must not be alarmed, it is of a piece with the rest of thy treatment, friend Iwan." Anxious I followed the sound, and by ascending the staircase, found that it was the effect of the wind through the strings of an Eolian harp; an instrument which I had never before seen. After dinner we quaffed an honest bottle of Madeira wine, without the irksome labour of toasts, healths, or sentiments; and then retired into his study.

I was no sooner entered, than I observed a coat of arms in a gilt frame with the name of John Bertram. The novelty of such a decoration, in such a place, struck me; I could not avoid asking, Does the society of Friends take any pride in those armorial bearings, which sometimes serve as marks of distinction between families, and much oftener as food for pride and ostentation? "Thee must know," said he, "that my father was a Frenchman, he brought this piece of painting over with him; I keep it as a piece of family furniture, and as a memorial of his removal hither." From his study we went into the garden, which contained a great variety of curious plants and shrubs; some grew in a greenhouse, over the door of which were written these lines:

"Slave to no sect, who takes no private road, But looks through nature, up to nature's God!"

He informed me that he had often followed General Bouquet to Pittsburgh, with the view of herbalising; that he had made useful collections in Virginia, and that he had been employed by the king of England to visit the two Floridas.

Our walks and botanical observations engrossed so much of our time, that the sun was almost down ere I thought of returning to Philadelphia; I regretted that the day had been so short, as I had not spent so rational a one for a long time before. I wanted to stay, yet was doubtful whether it would not appear improper, being an utter stranger. Knowing, however, that I was visiting the least ceremonious people in the world, I bluntly informed him of the pleasure I had enjoyed, and with the desire I had of staying a few days with him. "Thee art as welcome as if I was thy father; thee art no stranger; thy desire of knowledge, thy being a foreigner besides, entitleth thee to consider my house as thine own, as long as thee pleaseth: use thy time with the most perfect freedom; I too shall do so myself." I thankfully accepted the kind invitation.

We went to view his favourite bank; he showed me the principles and method on which it was erected; and we walked over the grounds which had been already drained. The whole store of nature's kind luxuriance seemed to have been exhausted on these beautiful meadows; he made me count the amazing number of cattle and horses now feeding on solid bottoms, which but a few years before had been covered with water. Thence we rambled through his fields, where the right-angular fences, the heaps of pitched stones, the flourishing clover, announced the best husbandry, as well as the most assiduous attention. His cows were then returning home, deep bellied, short legged, having udders ready to burst; seeking with seeming toil to be delivered from the great exuberance they contained: he next showed me his orchard, formerly planted on a barren sandy soil, but long since converted into one of the richest spots in that vicinage.

"This," said he, "is altogether the fruit of my own contrivance; I purchased some years ago the privilege of a small spring, about a mile and a half from hence, which at a considerable expense I have brought to this reservoir; therein I throw old lime, ashes, horse- dung, etc., and twice a week I let it run, thus impregnated; I regularly spread on this ground in the fall, old hay, straw, and whatever damaged fodder I have about my barn. By these simple means I mow, one year with another, fifty-three hundreds of excellent hay per acre, from a soil, which scarcely produced five-fingers [a small plant resembling strawberries] some years before." This is, Sir, a miracle in husbandry; happy the country which is cultivated by a society of men, whose application and taste lead them to prosecute and accomplish useful works. "I am not the only person who do these things," he said, "wherever water can be had it is always turned to that important use; wherever a farmer can water his meadows, the greatest crops of the best hay and excellent after-grass, are the sure rewards of his labours. With the banks of my meadow ditches, I have greatly enriched my upland fields, those which I intend to rest for a few years, I constantly sow with red clover, which is the greatest meliorator of our lands. For three years after, they yield abundant pasture; when I want to break up my clover fields, I give them a good coat of mud, which hath been exposed to the severities of three or four of our winters. This is the reason that I commonly reap from twenty-eight to thirty-six bushels of wheat an acre; my flax, oats, and Indian corn, I raise in the same proportion. Wouldst thee inform me whether the inhabitants of thy country follow the same methods of husbandry?" No, Sir; in the neighbourhood of our towns, there are indeed some intelligent farmers, who prosecute their rural schemes with attention; but we should be too numerous, too happy, too powerful a people, if it were possible for the whole Russian Empire to be cultivated like the province of Pennsylvania. Our lands are so unequally divided, and so few of our farmers are possessors of the soil they till, that they cannot execute plans of husbandry with the same vigour as you do, who hold yours, as it were from the Master of nature, unencumbered and free. Oh, America! exclaimed I, thou knowest not as yet the whole extent of thy happiness: the foundation of thy civil polity must lead thee in a few years to a degree of population and power which Europe little thinks of! "Long before this happen," answered the good man, "we shall rest beneath the turf; it is vain for mortals to be presumptuous in their conjectures: our country, is, no doubt, the cradle of an extensive future population; the old world is growing weary of its inhabitants, they must come here to flee from the tyranny of the great. But doth not thee imagine, that the great will, in the course of years, come over here also; for it is the misfortune of all societies everywhere to hear of great men, great rulers, and of great tyrants." My dear Sir, I replied, tyranny never can take a strong hold in this country, the land is too widely distributed: it is poverty in Europe that makes slaves. "Friend Iwan, as I make no doubt that thee understandest the Latin tongue, read this kind epistle which the good Queen of Sweden, Ulrica, sent me a few years ago. Good woman! that she should think in her palace at Stockholm of poor John Bertram, on the banks of the Schuylkill, appeareth to me very strange." Not in the least, dear Sir; you are the first man whose name as a botanist hath done honour to America; it is very natural at the same time to imagine, that so extensive a continent must contain many curious plants and trees: is it then surprising to see a princess, fond of useful knowledge, descend sometimes from the throne, to walk in the gardens of Linnaeus? "'Tis to the directions of that learned man," said Mr. Bertram, "that I am indebted for the method which has led me to the knowledge I now possess; the science of botany is so diffusive, that a proper thread is absolutely wanted to conduct the beginner." Pray, Mr. Bertram, when did you imbibe the first wish to cultivate the science of botany; was you regularly bred to it in Philadelphia? "I have never received any other education than barely reading and writing; this small farm was all the patrimony my father left me, certain debts and the want of meadows kept me rather low in the beginning of my life; my wife brought me nothing in money, all her riches consisted in her good temper and great knowledge of housewifery. I scarcely know how to trace my steps in the botanical career; they appear to me now like unto a dream: but thee mayest rely on what I shall relate, though I know that some of our friends have laughed at it." I am not one of those people, Mr. Bertram, who aim at finding out the ridiculous in what is sincerely and honestly averred. "Well, then, I'll tell thee: One day I was very busy in holding my plough (for thee seest that I am but a ploughman) and being weary I ran under the shade of a tree to repose myself. I cast my eyes on a daisy, I plucked it mechanically and viewed it with more curiosity than common country farmers are wont to do; and observed therein very many distinct parts, some perpendicular, some horizontal. What a shame, said my mind, or something that inspired my mind, that thee shouldest have employed so many years in tilling the earth and destroying so many flowers and plants, without being acquainted with their structures and their uses! This seeming inspiration suddenly awakened my curiosity, for these were not thoughts to which I had been accustomed. I returned to my team, but this new desire did not quit my mind; I mentioned it to my wife, who greatly discouraged me from prosecuting my new scheme, as she called it; I was not opulent enough, she said, to dedicate much of my time to studies and labours which might rob me of that portion of it which is the only wealth of the American farmer. However her prudent caution did not discourage me; I thought about it continually, at supper, in bed, and wherever I went. At last I could not resist the impulse; for on the fourth day of the following week, I hired a man to plough for me, and went to Philadelphia. Though I knew not what book to call for, I ingeniously told the bookseller my errand, who provided me with such as he thought best, and a Latin grammar beside. Next I applied to a neighbouring schoolmaster, who in three months taught me Latin enough to understand Linnaeus, which I purchased afterward. Then I began to botanise all over my farm; in a little time I became acquainted with every vegetable that grew in my neighbourhood; and next ventured into Maryland, living among the Friends: in proportion as I thought myself more learned I proceeded farther, and by a steady application of several years I have acquired a pretty general knowledge of every plant and tree to be found in our continent. In process of time I was applied to from the old countries, whither I every year send many collections. Being now made easy in my circumstances, I have ceased to labour, and am never so happy as when I see and converse with my friends. If among the many plants or shrubs I am acquainted with, there are any thee wantest to send to thy native country, I will cheerfully procure them, and give thee moreover whatever directions thee mayest want."

Thus I passed several days in ease, improvement, and pleasure; I observed in all the operations of his farm, as well as in the mutual correspondence between the master and the inferior members of his family, the greatest ease and decorum; not a word like command seemed to exceed the tone of a simple wish. The very negroes themselves appeared to partake of such a decency of behaviour, and modesty of countenance, as I had never before observed. By what means, said I, Mr. Bertram, do you rule your slaves so well, that they seem to do their work with all the cheerfulness of white men? "Though our erroneous prejudices and opinions once induced us to look upon them as fit only for slavery, though ancient custom had very unfortunately taught us to keep them in bondage; yet of late, in consequence of the remonstrances of several Friends, and of the good books they have published on that subject, our society treats them very differently. With us they are now free. I give those whom thee didst see at my table, eighteen pounds a year, with victuals and clothes, and all other privileges which white men enjoy. Our society treats them now as the companions of our labours; and by this management, as well as by means of the education we have given them, they are in general become a new set of beings. Those whom I admit to my table, I have found to be good, trusty, moral men; when they do not what we think they should do, we dismiss them, which is all the punishment we inflict. Other societies of Christians keep them still as slaves, without teaching them any kind of religious principles: what motive beside fear can they have to behave well? In the first settlement of this province, we employed them as slaves, I acknowledge; but when we found that good example, gentle admonition, and religious principles could lead them to subordination and sobriety, we relinquished a method so contrary to the profession of Christianity. We gave them freedom, and yet few have quitted their ancient masters. The women breed in our families; and we become attached to one another. I taught mine to read and write; they love God, and fear his judgments. The oldest person among them transacts my business in Philadelphia, with a punctuality, from which he has never deviated. They constantly attend our meetings, they participate in health and sickness, infancy and old age, in the advantages our society affords. Such are the means we have made use of, to relieve them from that bondage and ignorance in which they were kept before. Thee perhaps hast been surprised to see them at my table, but by elevating them to the rank of freemen, they necessarily acquire that emulation without which we ourselves should fall into debasement and profligate ways." Mr. Bertram, this is the most philosophical treatment of negroes that I have heard of; happy would it be for America would other denominations of Christians imbibe the same principles, and follow the same admirable rules. A great number of men would be relieved from those cruel shackles, under which they now groan; and under this impression, I cannot endure to spend more time in the southern provinces. The method with which they are treated there, the meanness of their food, the severity of their tasks, are spectacles I have not patience to behold. "I am glad to see that thee hast so much compassion; are there any slaves in thy country?" Yes, unfortunately, but they are more properly civil than domestic slaves; they are attached to the soil on which they live; it is the remains of ancient barbarous customs, established in the days of the greatest ignorance and savageness of manners! and preserved notwithstanding the repeated tears of humanity, the loud calls of policy, and the commands of religion. The pride of great men, with the avarice of landholders, make them look on this class as necessary tools of husbandry; as if freemen could not cultivate the ground. "And is it really so, Friend Iwan? To be poor, to be wretched, to be a slave, are hard indeed; existence is not worth enjoying on those terms. I am afraid thy country can never flourish under such impolitic government." I am very much of your opinion, Mr. Bertram, though I am in hopes that the present reign, illustrious by so many acts of the soundest policy, will not expire without this salutary, this necessary emancipation; which would fill the Russian empire with tears of gratitude. "How long hast thee been in this country?" Four years, Sir. "Why thee speakest English almost like a native; what a toil a traveller must undergo to learn various languages, to divest himself of his native prejudices, and to accommodate himself to the customs of all those among whom he chooseth to reside."

Thus I spent my time with this enlightened botanist--this worthy citizen; who united all the simplicity of rustic manners to the most useful learning. Various and extensive were the conversations that filled the measure of my visit. I accompanied him to his fields, to his barn, to his bank, to his garden, to his study, and at last to the meeting of the society on the Sunday following. It was at the town of Chester, whither the whole family went in two waggons; Mr. Bertram and I on horseback. When I entered the house where the friends were assembled, who might be about two hundred men and women, the involuntary impulse of ancient custom made me pull off my hat; but soon recovering myself, I sat with it on, at the end of a bench. The meeting-house was a square building devoid of any ornament whatever; the whiteness of the walls, the conveniency of seats, that of a large stove, which in cold weather keeps the whole house warm, were the only essential things which I observed. Neither pulpit nor desk, fount nor altar, tabernacle nor organ, were there to be seen; it is merely a spacious room, in which these good people meet every Sunday. A profound silence ensued, which lasted about half an hour; every one had his head reclined, and seemed absorbed in profound meditation, when a female friend arose, and declared with a most engaging modesty, that the spirit moved her to entertain them on the subject she had chosen. She treated it with great propriety, as a moral useful discourse, and delivered it without theological parade or the ostentation of learning. Either she must have been a great adept in public speaking, or had studiously prepared herself; a circumstance that cannot well be supposed, as it is a point, in their profession, to utter nothing but what arises from spontaneous impulse: or else the great spirit of the world, the patronage and influence of which they all came to invoke, must have inspired her with the soundest morality. Her discourse lasted three quarters of an hour. I did not observe one single face turned toward her; never before had I seen a congregation listening with so much attention to a public oration. I observed neither contortions of body, nor any kind of affectation in her face, style, or manner of utterance; everything was natural, and therefore pleasing, and shall I tell you more, she was very handsome, although upward of forty. As soon as she had finished, every one seemed to return to their former meditation for about a quarter of an hour; when they rose up by common consent, and after some general conversation, departed.

How simple their precepts, how unadorned their religious system: how few the ceremonies through which they pass during the course of their lives! At their deaths they are interred by the fraternity, without pomp, without prayers; thinking it then too late to alter the course of God's eternal decrees: and as you well know, without either monument or tombstone. Thus after having lived under the mildest government, after having been guided by the mildest doctrine, they die just as peaceably as those who being educated in more pompous religions, pass through a variety of sacraments, subscribe to complicated creeds, and enjoy the benefits of a church establishment. These good people flatter themselves, with following the doctrines of Jesus Christ, in that simplicity with which they were delivered: an happier system could not have been devised for the use of mankind. It appears to be entirely free from those ornaments and political additions which each country and each government hath fashioned after its own manners.

At the door of this meeting house, I had been invited to spend some days at the houses of some respectable farmers in the neighbourhood. The reception I met with everywhere insensibly led me to spend two months among these good people; and I must say they were the golden days of my riper years. I never shall forget the gratitude I owe them for the innumerable kindnesses they heaped on me; it was to the letter you gave me that I am indebted for the extensive acquaintance I now have throughout Pennsylvania. I must defer thanking you as I ought, until I see you again. Before that time comes, I may perhaps entertain you with more curious anecdotes than this letter affords.- -Farewell. 

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Fate of John Bartram's Botanic Garden

As John Bartram tended his garden, he established a family institution that survived him & grew under the care of three generations of his family. Following the American Revolution, Bartram’s sons John Bartram, Jr. & William Bartram, continued the international plant trade their father had established, & expanded the family botanic garden & nursery business.
William Bartram, 1739-1823 by Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827) 1808

William Bartram was an important naturalist, artist, & author in his own right, & traveled the American South from 1773-1776 under the patronage of Dr. John Fothergill. William Bartram’s Travels… published in Philadelphia in 1791, & reissued in a number of European editions, strengthened the connection between the name Bartram & the science of plants in North America. Under William Bartram the garden became an educational center & helped to train a new generation of natural scientists & explorers. In the early Federal history of the United States the Bartram Botanic Garden served as the American botanic garden in lieu of any official institution in Philadelphia.

After 1812, Ann Bartram Carr, a daughter of John Bartram, Jr., continued the family garden. Ann B. Carr had been educated by her uncle, William Bartram, & inherited his skill for illustration & the family passion for plants. With her husband Colonel Robert Carr & his son John Bartram Carr the international trade in seeds & plants was continued from Bartram’s Garden & the site was enlarged as a commercial nursery. At its peak the garden featured ten greenhouses & a collection of over 1400 native plant species, & as many as 1000 species of exotics, many under glass.

Financial difficulties led to the sale of the family garden by the last of the Bartram descendents in 1850. The new owner Andrew M. Eastwick, a wealthy railroad industrialist, preserved the historic garden as a private park on his estate. At Eastwick’s death in 1879, the garden site was threatened by the expansion of the city of Philadelphia & the movement of industry to the lower Schuylkill. A campaign to preserve the garden was organized by the nurseryman & writer, Thomas Meehan, in Philadelphia, & Charles S. Sargent of the Arnold Arboretum in Boston. In 1888, after a long political fight the historic garden was placed on the city plan & slated for preservation; in 1891, control of the site was turned over to the City of Philadelphia. It has remained protected as a city park since then. Today, John Bartram’s House & Garden & part of his original plantation are preserved in a city park of approximately 45.5 acres, administered by the Fairmount Park Commission but maintained & interpreted by the John Bartram Association.

Historic American Landscapes Survey - John Bartram House and Garden by Joel T. Fry

Friday, August 18, 2017

Who Was John Bartram?

Some researchers this oil is probably of John Bartram in midlife, but the Bartram Association is skeptical.

John Bartram Born: 23-Mar-1699
Birthplace: Darby, PA
Died: 22-Sep-1777
Location of death: Philadelphia, PA
Cause of death: unspecified
Remains: Buried, Darby Friends Cemetery, Darby, PA

Gender: Male
Religion: Quaker
Occupation: Botanist

Colonial American botanist John Bartram was raised in a successful farming family, & developed a strong interest in agriculture as a child. In his adolescence he purchased books to learn about plants, & in his late 20s he purchased 107 acres near Philadelphia, where he built a stone house & established a botanical garden still tended & toured today. His expeditions collecting & cataloguing plant life in the Blue Ridge Mountains (1738), the Lake Ontario region (1751), the Catskills (1755), & the Carolinas (1760) brought him some contemporary respect, & in 1765 he was named Botanist to King George III.

He was a key supplier of seeds from the New World to Europe, a trade facilitated through decades of mailed packages & correspondence with English merchant Peter Collinson (1694-1768). His work as seed supplier led numerous members of European royalty to support Bartram with "subscriptions" -- financial support in exchange for seeds, bulbs, & cuttings. Among the plant species popularized through this work were Kalmias, Rhododendrons, & Magnolias. He was the 1st American to hybridize plants, & visitors to his home included George Washington & Thomas Jefferson. He was described by Carolus Linnaeus as "the greatest natural botanist in the world," while noted naturalist Cadwallader Colden was of a contrary opinion, & saw Bartram as merely a collector, not a true scientist, because Bartram eschewed systematic cataloguing of botanical information.

As a young man he owned several slaves, but he later had a radical change of heart, freeing his slaves & becoming an outspoken abolitionist. In 1758, Bartram was formally expelled from his Quaker congregation; after he refused to claim the divinity of Jesus Christ, but despite the church action Bartram continued attending Quaker services. His son, William Bartram, became a noted naturalist in his own right, & together the two Bartrams discovered the Franklinia flower, named for their friend Benjamin Franklin. The elder Bartram was a founding member of Franklin's American Philosophical Society.

Father: William Bartram (d. 22-Sep-1711 Indian attack)
Mother: Eliza Hunt Bartram (m. 24-Mar-1696, d. 21-Aug-1701 childbirth)
Brother: James Bartram (b. 6-Aug-1701)
Stepmother: Elizabeth Smith Bartram (stepmother, m. William Bartram 1707)
Half Sister: Elizabeth Bartram (stepsister, b. 30-Dec-1709)
Half Brother: William Bartram (stepbrother, b. 3-Apr-1711)
Stepfather: John Smith (stepfather, m. Elizabeth Smith Bartram 15-Sep-1715)

1st Wife: Mary Maris (or Morris) Bartram (b. 1703, m. 1723, d. Apr-1727, two sons)
Son: Richard Bartram (b. 24-May-1724, d. 19-Nov-1727)
Son: Isaac Bartram (chemist, b. 17-Sep-1725, d. Jun-1801)
2nd Wife: Ann Mendenhall Bartram (b. 22-Sep-1703, m. 11-Oct-1727, d. 29-Jan-1789, 5 sons, 4 daughters)
Son: James Bartram (farmer, b. 25-Jun-1730, d. 6-Jan-1824)
Son: Moses Bartram (b. 16-Jun-1732)
Daughter: Elizabeth Bartram (b. 27-Aug-1834, d. circa 1735)
Daughter: Mary Bartram Bonsall (b. 21-Sep-1736)
Son: William Bartram (naturalist, twin, b. 9-Feb-1739, d. 22-Jul-1823)
Daughter: Elizabeth Bartram Wright (twin, b. 9-Feb-1739)
Daughter: Ann Bartramborn Bartram (b. 24-Jun-1742)
Son: John Bartram, Jr. (naturalist, b. 24-Aug-1743)
Son: Benjamin Bartram (b. 6-Jul-1748)

    "Royal Botanist" to King George III (1765-76)

    Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences Foreign Member (1769)

    American Philosophical Society Founding member (1743)

   Collected seeds and plant specimens, establishing a trans­Atlantic hub of plant exploration through his exchanges with London merchant Peter Collinson

    Gathered the most varied collection of North American plants in the world

Diary of a Journey through the Carolinas, Georgia & Florida (1742)
Observations on the Inhabitants, Climate, Soil, Rivers, Productions, Animals, & Other Matters Worthy of Notice ... from Pensilvania [sic] to Onondago, Oswego & the Lake Ontario, in Canada... (1751)
Description of East Florida, with a Journal (1769)

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

John Bartram Buys His Garden & Begins Collecting Plants

Quaker John Bartram (1699-1777) started America's 1st & most famous botanical garden on the Schuylkill River just below Philadelphia. Hailed as "the father of American Botany," Bartram sent more than 320 species of plants to England. In 1759, the Pennsylvania Quaker sent this plan of his garden to London merchant Peter Collinson (1694–1768). 

John Bartram founded his botanical Garden in the autumn of 1728, when the elder Bartram purchased an improved farm of a little over 100 acres on the lower Schuylkill. This farm had been part of a
much larger plantation on the west bank of the Schuylkill known as Aronameck, 1st occupied in 1648, during the Swedish colonial settlement of the Delaware Valley. Bartram, a third-generation
Pennsylvania Quaker, from nearby Darby, began the construction of a stone farmhouse soon after the purchase, whose initial manifestation was completed by 1731. Bartram probably 1st planted a kitchen garden at the site in 1729.

Bartram may have chosen the site with the intention of establishing a large garden, & the location remains well suited to the cultivation of plants today. The initial garden was probably laid out at six or seven acres, & expanded to as large as ten acres in succeeding generations. Additional space was set aside for an orchard, greenhouses & framing, & nursery beds, which totaled as much as twelve acres at the peak of the garden in the 1830s.  Bartram’s garden began as a personal garden, but grew to a systematic collection of native & exotic plants as Bartram devoted more time to exploration & discovery. Exchanges of plants & seeds from gardens in North America & abroad also fueled the collection. Although not the first botanic collection in North America, by the middle of the 18C, Bartram’s Garden contained the most varied collection of North American plants in the world.

Around 1733, in an event important to the general history of horticulture & natural science, John Bartram introduced himself via letter to London merchant Peter Collinson (1694–1768), & the two began a lifelong correspondence. Collinson, a member of the Royal Society, & like Bartram a Quaker & an enthusiastic gardener, became the middleman to a scientific trade in seeds, plants, & natural history specimens. Plants from Bartram’s Philadelphia garden were exchanged with a range of botanists, gardeners, & nurserymen in London & throughout Europe. Collinson also arranged funding from patrons among the British elite, which allowed Bartram to leave his farm & go plant hunting. During his career John Bartram traveled widely throughout the British colonies in North America—plant collecting began in the Mid-Atlantic colonies of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, & Maryland. In time, Bartram traveled north to New York & New England, & south to Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia & Florida, exploring a region spanning from Lake Ontario in New York to the St. John’s River in Florida, & from the Atlantic coast to the Ohio valley.

Historic American Landscapes Survey - John Bartram House and Garden by Joel T. Fry

Monday, August 14, 2017

Bartram's Botanic Garden as it Exists Today

John Bartram's House

Bartram’s Garden is located on the west bank of the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in an area historically known as Kingsessing. The site of one of the earliest botanic gardens in North America, the Bartram house & garden are located on a natural terrace, rising 45' to 50' above the Schuylkill River. The well-watered terrace slopes downward toward the river, & has a southeasterly exposure overlooking a large area of floodplain. Within a small area of roughly eight to ten acres, the garden itself is bounded by low hills to the north & the south, which provided a variety of exposures. Portions of the garden soil are a deep sandy or silty loam, while others are poorly drained, dry, or even rocky. Historically, tidal flats & marshes were located to the north & south of the garden site, & several fresh-water springs & small streams were present in the garden & its near vicinity. John Bartram utilized a spring in the lower garden to cool a milk house & feed a small fresh water pond. The garden was the site of an historic river fishery that exploited the yearly runs of shad & other anadromous fish.

The source of this rich physical environment is the convergence of the Coastal Plain (or Inner Coastal Plain) & the Piedmont. The low, generally sandbased soils of the coastal plain butt up against the upland, rock-based soils of the piedmont. A major continental fault, the “Fall Line,” forms the boundary between these two provinces. 

Bartram's Garden Jan 1854

Trending to the northeast, the Fall Line generally marks the limits of tidewater navigation in the rivers of the eastern of North America. At Bartram’s Garden a small portion of the Fall Line is visible in the rock outcrop at the east edge of the garden. The complex interaction between soils from the coastal plain & piedmont results in a number of distinctive soils at Bartram’s Garden. It may well have been the distinctive soils & diverse microenvironments that led John Bartram to choose this site for his garden in 1728. 

Bartram's House c 1870. Photographer Robert Newell

Today's garden site is largely “wooded” at present with a dense canopy of trees & shrubs. A small number of these plants are historic survivors, but most are late 19C or 20C plantings—replacements for known historic trees, & more often as specimens of plants known or thought to have been in the Bartram collection. A number of wild seedlings have also become established, particularly in the borders of the park property, & in the northern meadow tract. 
Bartram's Mansion c 1870. Photographer Robert Newell

The present collection of plants is heavily biased toward trees & large shrubs, plants most adapted to survive neglect. Very few of the tender plants—annuals, biennials, & perennial herbaceous plants, & food & fruit plants that once made up the Bartram collection are now represented at the site.

Historic American Landscapes Survey - John Bartram House and Garden by Joel T. Fry