Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Great Unknown Americans #1

Born in Scotland in 1766, Alexander Wilson spent his years there as an itinerate peddler. He came to America in 1794, looking to better his prospects. Eventually, he developed a keen fascination of birds and took vast walking expeditions to watch and draw them. He walked "all towns within 100 miles of the Atlantic, from Maine to Georgia", and eventually drew 268 species, 26 of which had never been identified. In 1806 he got wind of the impending Lewis and Clark expedition and petitioned President Thomas Jefferson to be included. Alas, the letter went astray and was never delivered, although he and Jefferson did later become friends. Considered the father of American ornithology, his drawings were eventually gathered into 8 volumes of hand colored copper engravings, one of which, circa 1810, is pictured.

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