America’s first and foremost botanist and plant collector is once again on the speaking circuit. Close friends with Benjamin Franklin and George Washington, Bartram corresponded with many of the world’s foremost scientists and plant collectors of the period. Carl Linnaeus said he was the “greatest natural botanist in the world.” Kirk Brown, noted speaker and portrayer of Bartram and other 18th century notables, will present a first person portrayal of John Bartram at the November meeting of the Goschenhoppen Historians.
Born in 1699 in Darby, just outside Philadelphia, Bartram, like most Quakers of the time, was a small farmer with an unusual passion. He dedicated a small section of his farm to new plants that he encountered in his travels and found interesting. Eventually he began to communicate with English plant enthusiasts, trading plants and seeds between the two continents, and what had started out as a minor hobby became a major business venture. In 1743, at the behest of Benjamin Franklin, he accompanied Conrad Weiser from southeastern Pennsylvania to the New York Finger Lakes region and northward to Lake Ontario in an attempt to assure the loyalty of the Onondaga nation tribes to King George and the English, in what was to become the third French and Indian War in North America. Ever observant on the lengthy trip on foot he later wrote Observations on the Inhabitants, Climate, Soil, Rivers, Productions, Animals, and other Matters Worthy of Notice, made by Mr. John Bartram in his Travels from Pennsylvania to Onondaga, Oswego, and the Lake Ontario, in Canada (London, 1751). Still today, the work is a treasure trove of natural history information on the Pennsylvania and New York interstate region.
Bartram was especially conscious of how easily man can destroy the balance of nature. His humor, his passion and his achievements will entertain, inspire and awe his audience as he shares his hope for the future of the earth and the people who inhabit it. Kirk Brown’s portrayal of John Bartram will be presented on Thursday, Nov. 19, at 7:30 p.m. in Redmen’s Hall, the Historians headquarters, located at 116 Gravel Pike (Route 29), Green Lane. There is no entry fee and the public is urged to attend this stellar performance. Refreshments will be served during an informal get-together at the conclusion of the presentation. For more information, call 215-234-4119 or visit the Historians’ website at www.goschenhoppen.org.