John James AUDUBON

Family tree of John James AUDUBON

Painter

AmericanBorn Jean-Jacques AUDUBON

French-American ornithologist, naturalist, hunter, and painter

Born on April 26, 1785 in Les Cayes, Haiti

Died on January 27, 1851 in Manhattan, New York, USA

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John James Audubon was born in Les Cayes, Haiti (then the colony of Saint-Domingue) on his father's sugar plantation. He was the illegitimate son of Lieutenant Jean Audubon, a French naval officer (and privateer), and his mistress Jeanne Rabin, a French/Spanish Creole chambermaid from Louisiana. Audubon's mother died when the boy was just a toddler, perhaps in illness related to the birth of her daughter. During the American Revolution, his father Jean Audubon was imprisoned by the British. After his release, he helped the American cause. A slave rebellion in Saint-Domingue in 1788 convinced Jean Audubon to sell his holdings and return to France with his three-year-old son and infant daughter. Audubon was raised by his father and stepmother Anne Moynet Audubon in Nantes, France. His father had been married to Moynet before going to Saint-Domingue, but had acquired a mistress in the colony. Jean Audubon formally adopted the boy in March 1789, naming him Jean-Jacques Fougère Audubon. When Audubon at age 18 boarded ship for immigration to the United States in 1803, he changed his name to an anglicized form: John James Audubon.



From his earliest days, Audubon had an affinity for birds. "I felt an intimacy with them…bordering on frenzy must accompany my steps through life." His father encouraged his interest in nature; "he would point out the elegant movement of the birds, and the beauty and softness of their plumage. He called my attention to their show of pleasure or sense of danger, their perfect forms and splendid attire. He would speak of their departure and return with the seasons." In France during the chaotic years of the French Revolution and its aftermath, Audubon grew up to be a handsome and gregarious young man. He played flute and violin, and learned to ride, fence, and dance. He was hearty and a great walker, and loved roaming in the woods, often returning with natural curiosities, including birds' eggs and nests, of which he made crude drawings. His father planned to make a seaman of his son. At twelve, Audubon went to military school and became a cabin boy. He quickly found out that he was susceptible to seasickness and not fond of mathematics or navigation. After failing the officer's qualification test, Audubon ended his incipient naval career. He was cheerfully back on solid ground and exploring the fields again, focusing on birds.

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Geographical origins

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