Audubon, John James

BORN 26 Apr 1785, Les Cayes, Haiti (then: Saint-Dominique) - DIED 27 Jan 1851, New York City, New York: Manhattan
BIRTH NAME Rabin, Jean-Jacques Fougère
GRAVE LOCATION New York City, New York: Trinity Church Cemetery and Mausoleum, Riverside Drive 770 (Between 153th and 155th Street) (eastern division, behind the Church of the Intercession)

John Audubon was the illegitimate son of Lieutenant Jean Audubon and his chambermaid Jeanne Rabin. Jeanne died soon after his birth on his father's sugar plantation on Haiti. During the American Revolution his father was imprisoned. In 1788 they moved to France, where he was raised in Nanted by his father and his stepmother Anne Moynet.

In 1803 he went to the USA on a false passport to escape from entering the army in France. There he lived at the Mill Grove farm near Philadelphia. He started studying American birds, made realistic drawings of them and created his own museum. After he set up a general store in Louisville, Kentucky, he was able to marry his fiancee Lucy Bakewell, the daughter of a neighbour at Mill Grove, in 1808. They had two surviving sons. Two daughter died in infancy. Audubon moved his business to Henderson in 1810, but nog much later it was dissolved.

In 1812 he became an American citizen. After rats are all his drawings he started drawing the birds all over again. He started a business in New Orleans, where he had slaves and a flour mill. In 1819 he went bankrupt and was imprisoned. After his release he moved south on the Mississippi to draw all the birds he could find and hired hunters to shoot them for him. Sometimes he also painted portraits of people to earn a little cash. Meanwhile Lucy worked as a teacher to provide for the family.

Back in Philadelphia he met painter Thomas Sully and also Charles Bonaparte, who advised him to have his drawings engraved in Europe. In 1826 he travelled from New Orleans to Liverpool where his drawings attracted attention immediately. He travelled around to show them and earned money to start publishing his famous "Bird of America" in the USA. One of the subscribers to his book was king George IV and he was elected into the Royal Society in London.

During a presentation in Edinburgh Charles Darwin was in the audience. He visited the anatomist Robert Know. In France his work was successful as well. In 1829 he returned to the USA. In 1838 the publication of "Birds of America" was complete. In 1839 he bought property on the Hudson River that is was known as Aubudon park between 1850 and 1910. It was located left of Broadway at what is now West 157th Street.

During the 1840s his health started to fail and his mind gave way in 1848. He died in 1851 and was buried at the Trinit Church Cemetery, not far from his home.


The grave of John James Audubon at Trinity Church Cemetery and Mausoleum, New York City.
Picture by Androom (17 Apr 2010)


Wikipedia (EN):

Auer, Maximilian Joseph

Published: 29 Oct 2010
Last update: 13 Apr 2022