Audubon family papers, ca. 1805-1938

Descriptive Summary

Audubon family papers, ca. 1805-1938
Audubon family.
1 microfilm reel
General stores--Kentucky.
France--History--Revolution, 1789-1799.
Birds in art.
Art, Modern--19th century.
Henderson (Ky.)--History.
Business records--Louisville.
Correspondence arranged alphabetically by subject.
Finding Aid Author
Processed by: Archives Staff ; machine-readable finding aid created by:Eric Weig
University of Kentucky

Collection Overview

Biography / History
Artist and naturalist John James Audubon was born in 1785 on the island of Santa Domingo, the illegitimate son of a French sea captain, Jean Audubon, and a Creole woman. The future artist exhibited a love of nature even in his youth, making more than 200 drawings of French birds. Audubon came to America in 1803 to ovesee his father's property in Pennsylvania and escape the draft in Napoleon's army. He hunted, fished, and collected bird specimens on the property. At this time he met Lucy Bakewell, who lived on a neighboring farm and whom he eventually married. Audubon attempted to establish himself in business, first with members of Lucy's family, then with Ferdinand Rozier, another French immigrant who was sent by Audubon's father to help his son.
Audubon and Rozier opened a general store in Louisville, Kentucky in 1807. Audubon married Lucy the following year and brought her to Louisville. He remained keenly interested in nature and art and began his series on American birds during this period. The store, however, did not prosper, so Rozier and Audubon moved the business to Henderson, Kentucky in 1810. The partners contemplated another move soon thereafter, so they traveled to Saint Genevieve, in what is now Missouri, to scout the area. Rozier elected to stay there, but Audubon wished to return to Henderson, so the partnership was dissolved.
Audubon opened a store of his own in Henderson in conjunction with his brother-in-law, William Bakewell, and continued to observe and draw birds. He was plagued by business reversals and was arrested in 1819 for failure to pay his debts after a sawmill in which he invested heavily closed. He evaded the charges only after pleading bankruptcy. In the 1820's the Audubons moved to New Orleans. While Lucy worked there as a teacher, her husband went to Great Britain to publish BIRDS OF AMERICA. They traveled back and forth between England and America for several years, as Audubon established first a European and then an American reputation as the foremost naturalist of his day. Audubon spent his last years in New York, where he died in 1851. Lucy returned to Kentucky with her granddaughters, Florence, Harriet, and Maria Audubon, as well as with other family members.
Scope and Content
These are microfilm copies of correspondence, notes, business documents, and other materials which belonged to the famed naturalist and artist, John James Audubon, and his family, friends, and business associates. There are also letters written by Lucy Audubon, her son Victor, and three granddaughters, Florence, Harriet, and Maria Audubon, as well as by other family members. Other materials include manuscript notes by Audubon; an 1831 subscription ledger to BIRDS OF AMERICA; and correspondence and documents relating to the audubon and Bakewell Store in Henderson.

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