The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Audubon, John James Fougère

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Edition of 1920. See also John James Audubon on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

AUDUBON, â'dů-bȯn, John James Fougère, American naturalist: b. Les Cayes, Santo Domingo, now Haiti, 26 April 1785; d. New York, 27 Jan. 1851. His father was an adventurer and his mother a Creole. At an early age he showed an absorbing interest in all living things, especially birds, a fondness which remained with him throughout his life. He was a keen and sympathetic observer, rather than a trained specialist either in science or art. He was educated in France and studied drawing for some time under the great artist, David, but in 1798 he returned to America and took possession of a farm owned by his father on the Perkiomen River, near Philadelphia. Here, in 1808, he married Lucy Bakewell, the daughter of an English neighbor; with her he moved to Kentucky and subsequently to Louisiana, meeting in both places with financial misadventures due to his inadaptability to attend properly to trade, which left him so poor that he was obliged to paint portraits and teach dancing and fencing. From his boyhood, however, in all fortunes, he had spent much time in sketching birds and studying their habits, and in 1826 he found means to take these sketches to England, where he elaborated them into the great series which made him famous and relieved his pecuniary troubles. From 1827-38 he published a series of 1,065 colored figures of American birds in a work, ‘The Birds of America,’ which still holds its place as one of the most attractive and beautiful ornithologies of the world. No reading matter accompanied these plates, but later in 1831-'39 five volumes were issued under the title ‘Ornithological Biography,’ the technical part of which was by William McGillivray. Many editions and reprints were issued later, of which the most important was the octavo edition of 1844. In 1830 he returned to America to travel for new material and, in 1831, began the publication of his ‘Ornithological Biography,’ in five volumes. In 1842, after 12 years spent chiefly in explorations, he bought a home on the Hudson River at a spot considerably north of New York city at that time, but now within the city limits and known as Audubon Park; here his two sons, Victor Gifford and John Woodhouse Audubon, also lived with their families. In 1843 the naturalist took another long journey, going to the Missouri River region. After 1844 he devoted himself with Dr. John Bachman (q.v.) and his sons, to a new publication, ‘The Quadrupeds of America.’ After 1847 his health began to fail and he gradually lost the use of his mind. He was buried in Trinity Cemetery, New York. The full details of his life may be found in ‘Audubon and His Journals,’ by his granddaughter, Maria R. Audubon, with zoological and other notes by Elliott Coues (1897), and in an earlier biography by Lucy Audubon, as well as in ‘The Life and Adventures of J. J. Audubon, the Naturalist,’ by Robert Buchanan (1869). His latest biographer is Francis Hobart Herrick, who has compiled a very excellent work, ‘Audubon the Naturalist,’ from a mass of documents in the possession of an old notary in Couëron, France (2 vols., New York 1917).