"Travels Through North and South Carolina, Georgia, East and West Florida … Containing an Account of the Soil and Natural Productions of Those Regions …" Bartram, William (1791)
"Travels Through North and South Carolina, Georgia, East and West Florida … Containing
an Account of the Soil and Natural Productions of Those Regions …"
William Bartram (1791)
SITE SUMMARY: This text has been called the first natural history document by the first American naturalist, and the document that has the first scientific descriptions of birds based on personal observations in the United States. The Chapel Hill Libraries at the University of North Carolina provide this electronic version of Bartram's text whose full title is Travels Through North and South Carolina, Georgia, East and West Florida, The Cherokee Country, The Extensive Territories of the Muscogulges, or Creek Confederacy, and the Country of the Chactaws, Containing An Account of the Soil and Natural Productions of Those Regions, Together With Observations on the Manners of the Indians. Note also his descriptions based on observations of other animals, plants, and the land.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS AND ACTIVITIES
- Read the Introduction to Bartram's Travels. Identify what he wrote about birds that is said to be the first writing on these particular subjects. (Hint: See especially pages xxxi and xxxiii, also xxii and xxiii of the Introduction.)
- See page fourteen of Bartram's Travels. Indicate how his description of a turkey provides a profile of the species, as suggested at www.bartramtrail.org.
- Read Bartram's words in his Travels (e.g., on pages 284-285, and 384) on his observations of birds. How are his observations different from what other observers of his time and earlier observed? Why, do you think, as has recently been claimed, that Bartram's observations, but not other observers' observations, are considered to be scientific?
- Provide brief phrases from some of Bartram's profiles of some birds other than the turkey (e.g., owls, a crane, vultures, "snake birds," "crying bird," and various "curious birds"). (Hint: For information, see, for example, Bartram's Travels, pages 49-51, 132, 135-136, 146-148, 150-152, and 284.) Extra Activity: Find a bird in your backyard, school yard, or a zoo aviary, and write a profile of it. Be guided by the way Bartram wrote his profiles of birds.
- What did Bartram mean when he wrote "sylvan music"? (For help, see his Travels, page 154.) Extra Activity: Write about some sounds you hear that may be called yard music or aviary music.
- Compare and contrast the features of a bird's profile by Bartram in his Travels with one by Alexander Wilson, another early American naturalist whom Bartram taught. (Find a bird profile by Wilson in the online excerpts from his American Ornithology  whose url is in the Related Internet Sites section below.)
- John James Audubon wrote a description based on his observation of birds in a particular situation, as can be seen in an excerpt from his writings cited in the Related Internet Sites section below. What was the special situation Audubon wrote about?
- Keeping Question/Activity no. 6 above in mind, compare and contrast one of Bartram's bird profiles, including his way of writing about birds, with a bird profile written by one or more other naturalist ornithologists of the past (e.g., Mabel Osgood Wright, Olive Thorne Miller, John Burroughs, Roger Tory Peterson). Find urls to online texts of their writings in the Related Internet Sites section below.
- Keeping Question/Activity no. 7 above in mind, think of, or find magazine articles on, two special situations, one from the past, and one from the present or recent past, that involve birds. Write two essays of two hundred words each about those general situations but with different particular facts. (Hint: Special situations in general of the past or present may involve birds and hunting, pesticides, oil spills, urban habitats, the plight of a particular bird species [e.g., America's symbol: the Bald Eagle].) (Tips: Find early magazine articles at the Nutty Birdwatcher Web site as cited in the Related Internet Sites section below, and recent magazine articles at any Web site cited in this book's chapter featuring BirdNet—The Ornithological Information Source.)
RELATED INTERNET SITE(S)
The Official Site of the Bartram Trail Conference, Inc.
http://www.bartramtrail.org (click Sitemap link)
Note especially the links to detailed information on and about William Bartram's Travels (e.g., Organization, Impact of the Book, Bartram's Search for the Truth, Themes), William Bartram (e.g., Preface, Period of Exploration, as Naturalist and Spokesman for America, and Advisor to Naturalists), Discoveries (with his Species List), Bartram Trail, and Links.
Alexander Wilson, American Ornithologist
The University of Virginia's American Studies Program provides a biography of Wilson, the noted self-taught bird aficionado, mentored by America's first naturalist William Bartram, consultant to Lewis and Clark, and known for writings that feature his sharp observations of birds. The biography page also contains a quoted note from Wilson to Bartram. In addition, there are links to birds' names, illustrations, and comments on what Wilson observed, from Wilson's American Ornithology, an eight volume series. Links to resources and other links are also provided.
Excerpts from Alexander Wilson's American Ornithology (1840)
At this University of Michigan Museum of Zoology Web site, click the Birds photo link, then click links to The Wilson Ornithological Society, The Wilson Society, Alexander Wilson, and American Ornithology, to get to the page featuring annotated links to the excerpts. Note the excerpts for the Carolina Parakeet with a text on Wilson's experiences, plus hand colored plates that illustrate birds.
"John James Audubon Wrote of the Passenger Pigeon …"
Excerpt from Audubon's Birds of America (1844), in which he wrote about immense flocks of the passenger pigeon before this bird became rare, then extinct.
Pioneering Ornithologists Mabel Osgood Wright and Elliot Coues with Artist Louis Agassiz Fuertes Collaborated on Citizen Bird (1897)
Read quotations from Citizen Bird (a book for beginning bird watchers, including young people), then follow the title link for more links to, and information about, the full online text and a biography about Wright (one of the first women members of the American Ornithologists Union).
Olive Thorne Miller Articles on Cornell University's Making of America Web Pages
A bibliography of links go to online texts of Miller's published writings which are renowned for her keen observations of birds in their habitats, not from studies of dissected birds (as was done by many naturalists of her time and earlier). See articles that were published in the mid and later years of the 1800s in magazines of note including the Atlantic Monthly, Scribner's Monthly, and the New Englander.
John Burroughs Web Site
At this in progress site, see links to writings about birds in the sections titled Food for Thought, Bird Index, and Writings By Burroughs (an American naturalist who wrote many nature essays, lived from 1837 to 1921, and was nicknamed "John o' Birds").
Birders Online Guide: North American Birds
http://www.a2z4birders.com/birds/index.html (click Enter)
Has information based on the field guides of Roger Tory Peterson, a naturalist who lived from 1908 to 1996 and popularized the study of birds and the hobby of birdwatching.
David Attenborough's The Life of Birds on PBS-TV
Note the link to About David Attenborough, the British naturalist who has brought the study of birds to television and made people's interest in birds a popular pastime. See also icon links to Bird Brains, Parenthood, Champion Birds, Bird Songs, Evolution, Classroom Resources, and The Making of The Life of Birds.
Birds and Nature at Nutty BirdWatcher
Features selected articles from this magazine that was published between 1897 and 1907.
Introduction to the Aves [the Birds]
Provides information about the unique features of the animal that is known as a bird, plus links to the fossil record, Life History and Ecology, Systematics, Morphology, Web Sites, Resources, images on How Birds Fly, and a reference book: Birds of North America.