William Bartram, Drawing 56 from the botanical and zoological drawings (1756–1788), courtesy of the Natural History Museum, London.
Portrait of William Bartram
(April 20, 1739 – July 22, 1823)
by Charles Willson Peale, c 1808
The fame of naturalist, nurseryman, artist, and author William Bartram, rests primarily on his one book, Travels through North and South Carolina and West Florida, the Cherokee Country, the Extensive Territories of the Muscolgulges, or Creek Confederacy, and the Country of the Chactaws [sic] (1791). This literary and scientific classic describes Bartram's journey through southeastern North America during the Revolutionary War era. It is an essential resource on the flora and fauna of the Southeast and includes detailed descriptions of his visits among the Indian peoples of the region, including what is now Alabama. Bartram's imagery inspired such poets as Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth, and Travels is recognized as the first classic of environmental literature written and published in the United States.
Max Wright, Ph.D., Georgia's Indian Heritage states that, "William Bartram was one of those rare individuals who combined extensive scientific knowledge with a talent for getting along with people wherever he went."
An excerpt from William Bartram’s travel writings, transformed almost to naturalistic fantasy, when he stumbles upon his first swamp full of alligators: "Behold him rishing forth from the flags and reeds. His enormous body swells. His plaited tail brandished high, floats upon the lake. The waters like a cataract descend from his opening jaws. Clouds of smoke issue from his dilated nostrils. The earth trembles with his thunder."
The Delta Woods & Waters Expo annually recognizes William Bartram for his insight and detailed documentation of his observations and experiences during his travels through southeast America, the State of Alabama and more specifically, the Mobile-Tensaw Delta in 1775.