Last updated 21 Nov 2021 in Spear–Johnson Family.
Born: 9 Apr 1739
Died: 22 Jul 1823 in Kingsessing Township, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, United States
Father: John Bartram (1698 – 1777)
Mother: Ann Mendenhall (1703 – 1784)
General Notes and Anecdotes
William and his father reflected two different personalities. John was more scientific, a man of facts and numbers, while William was more artistic, looking more to the romantic side of nature. Unlike his more public father, William was a private man, declining a professorship of botony at the University of Pennsylvania and an appointment by President Jefferson on the Red River expedition. [book-natures-of-john-and-william-bartram-1996 (p. xvii)]
William explored Florida with his father in 1765 and 1766. He wrote about these travels [and a subsequent trip between 1773 and 1777] in a book commonly known simply as Travels. [The full title of the work was, "Travels through North & South Carolina, Georgia, East & West Florida, the Cherokee Country, the Extensive Territories of the Muscogulges, or Creek Confederacy, and the Country of the Choctaws; Containing an Account of the Soil and Natural Productions of Those Regions, Together with Observations on the Manners of the Indians."] [book-encyclopedia-brittanica-15-1979]
William also doesn't appear to have shared his father's hatred of the native inhabitants, but rather admired them..[book-natures-of-john-and-william-bartram-1996 (p xvii)]
Research Notes (Conflicts/Spelling/Followup)
William was probably born in Kingsessing Township, Philadelphia County, Province of Pennsylvania.
Did he turn down an apprenticeship to Benjamin Franklin to learn the printing trade?
Unlike his father John, who was both a botanist and a farmer, William devoted most of his adult life to the study of nature, and was known internationally for his nature artwork. However, it is also noted that his published work was not, at least initially, accepted in Europe. [Reconcile this.]
William befriended many Indians during his travels, and was welcomed into their homes. He recognized in them a generous and hospitable nature, though his European heritage suggested to him that they should be offered the "civilization" represented by Europe. [Where did I read this?]
In 1765 he left the North Carolina plantation, when he was invited by his father, to join him on an expedition into Florida. It was this trip which defined the direction for the remainder of his life.
From 1773 to 1777 William undertook a second journey through the southern colonies, and arrived back in Philadelphia in January, several months before his father's death.
During this second journey, he fell from a Cyprus and broke his leg. Although it healed, he never really regained full use of his leg and walked with a limp, and a cane. Although he had thoughts of making another trip, he never undertook such a journey again. In fact, he never again left the Philadelphia area.
Many have retraced William Bartram's journey, including John James Audubon, but this task has become easier. In 1976, the Bartram Trail Conference was created for the American Bicentennial, to locate and mark the route that William traveled. The group can be found on the web at http://www.bartramtrail.org.
Although he had a manuscript for Travels by about 1783, he doubted its value, and didn't publish it right away. The delay allowed other botanists to receive credit for discovering plants that William had actually first identified.
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