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John James Audubon

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John James Audubon was born on April 26, 1785, in Les Cayes, Santo Domingo (now Haiti), as son of a French naval officer who had served in the American War of Independence (1775-1783). In 1789 his father took him to France, where he attended a military school and then studied drawing under the Neo-Classical painter Jacques-Louis David. 

Audubon photograph

At the age of 18 Audubon returned to America and settled on a farm near Philadelphia. He devoted himself to a study of natural history, especially to making drawings of American birds, and he is particularly noted for his realistic portrayals of American wildlife. In 1808 he established a general store in Louisville, Kentucky, and later in Henderson, Kentucky.  

  • Contemporary photograph of Audubon. 

  • USA 1940. John James Audubon (from the series "Famous Americans"). 

USA 1940. John James Audubon (from the series "Famous Americans").

The painting on the souvenir sheet below left was painted in 1826 by the American painter John Syme. On the right is a close-up of the same painting as it appears on the reverse side of a booklet pane issued by Canada 2005. 

Belize 1985. J.J  Audubon. Souvenir sheet with painting by John Sume.

  • Belize 1985. Audubon Bicentenary. Souvenir sheet containing one stamp, showing J.J. Audubon, painted 1826 by John Syme. 

Belize was formerly known as British Honduras, but became an autonomous state in 1973, still within The British Commonwealth. Scott # 756. 

Canada 2005. Reverse side of pane containing six stamps. Painting by John Syme.

  • Canada 2005. Reverse side of pane containing 6 stamps, see immediately below. 

In about 1820 Audubon decided to make the painting of American birds his life's work. By 1826 he had enough drawings to enable him to go to England to seek a publisher; he was unable to find enough interest in his project in America. 

Canada 2005. J.J. Audubon. Double-Crested Cormorant.

Exhibitions of his drawings in Liverpool and Edinburgh were successful, and in 1827 he began the publication of his masterpiece, The Birds of America

226 of the 435 plates that make up this work, depict typically Canadian birds, such as this one, appearing on a Canadian pane containing six self-adhesive, imperforated stamps, depicting the Double-Crested Cormorant. 

Note that the same painting was issued in 1985 by Antigua/Barbuda, see below. Note also that there are several Canadian Audubon-issues during the period 2003-2005. 

  • Canada 2005. Double-Crested Cormorant. 

The Birds of America, completed in 1838, consists of 435 hand-coloured folio plates featuring 1,065 birds natural size. In 1831 Audubon, with the Scottish naturalist William MacGillivray, began to write a companion volume, The Ornithological Biography (5 vols., 1831-1839), describing the characters and habits of the birds he had painted. Between 1840 and 1844 the two books were combined and published as seven octavo volumes, with the drawings reduced in size, under the title The Birds of America. 

Of the original folio edition, it is estimated that only 175 sets are currently in existence. 

France 2005. J.J. Audubon. Snowy Egret of ad-card. France 1995. J.J. Audubon. Snowy Egret. France 1995. J.J. Audubon. Common Tern.
France 1995. J.J. Audubon. Band-Tailed Pigeon. France 1995. J.J. Audubon. Rough-Legged Hawk.

Tuvalu was formerly known as The Ellice Islands. On 1st January 1976 the islands were renamed as Tuvalu. The below issue consists of four sets; I have the three sets for show here. 

Tuvalu 1985. J.J. Audubon. Common Flicker and Say's Phoebe. Tuvalu 1985. J.J. Audubon. Townsend's Warbler, and Bohemian Waxwing. Tuvalu 1985. J.J. Audubon. Broad-Winged Hawk and Northern Harrier.

In 1841 Audubon settled on a rural estate, now Audubon Park, on the Hudson River in New York. With his sons and the naturalist John Bachman, Audubon began about 1840 the preparation of The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America (1845-1854), containing 150 folio plates, which was completed and published after his death on January 27, 1851.

Antigua/Barbuda 1985.  J.J. Audubon. Horned Grebe. Antigua/Barbuda 1985. J.J. Audubon. European Storm Petrel. Antigua/Barbuda 1985. J.J. Audubon. Souvenir sheet. White-Tailed Tropicbird.
Antigua/Barbuda 1985. J.J. Audubon. Great Blue Heron. Antigua/Barbuda 1985. J.J. Audubon. Double-Crested Cormorant.
USA 1998. J.J. Audubon. Long Billed Curlew. From the sheet "Four Centuries of American Art".

Apart from the stamp depicting John James Audubon's portrait (see this page top right), the United States has issued four different stamps honouring Audubon. 

- 1963: Columbia Jay (also appeared in 1967 as an air mail stamp) 
- 1967: Air Mail Stamp (Columbia Jay)
- 1998: Long Billed Curlew (in the sheet of "Four Centuries of American Art") 
- 2002: Louisiana Tanagers, and Scarlet Tanagers in Spring Plumage  

  • USA 1998. Art and science join in this US-issue of the Long Billed Curlew [Numenius Longrostris], created 1834 by Audubon, fusing his exacting powers of direct observation of species and habitat with elegant and expressive design. Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth (TX). 

USA 1963. J.J. Audubon. First day cover issued by the National Audubon Society. Columbia Jay.
  • USA 1963. First day cover issued by the National Audubon Society, and cancelled 7th December 1963, in Henderson Kentucky, featuring the Columbia Jay. On the cachet is the Great Blue Heron. 

  • USA 2002. Block of four self-adhesive stamps in the series "American Treasures", featuring plate # 354 from a reprint of Birds of America. It portrays two male Louisiana Tanagers in spring plumage, and two Scarlet Tanagers, an "old male" in spring plumage and an "old female". Audubon's story encapsulates the spirit of young America, when the wilderness was limitless and untamed. 

USA 2002. J.J. Audubon. Louisiana Tanagers and  Scarlet Tanagers.

The below items were issued by Montserrat (left) and Tanzania (right). The Montserra-set exists in four designs and different face values; I have this set -- the first of four -- available for viewing.  

Montserrat 1985. J.J. Audubon. Black-Throated Blue Warbler, and Palm Warbler.

  • Montserrat 1985. 15c: "Black-Throated Blue Warbler" [Dendroica Caerulescens], and 
    "Palm Warbler" [Dendroica Palmarum] 

  • Tanzania 1986. Wild Life in Peril. 

    • 5s   Mallard [Anas Platyrhynchos]

    • 10s Common Eider [Somateria Mollissima]

    • 20s Scarlet Ibis [Eudocimus Ruber]

    • 30s Roseate Spoonbill [Platalea Aiaia]

Tanzania 1986. J.J. Audubon. Wild Life in Peril. Mallard, Common, Eider, Scarlet Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill.

The National Audubon Society, founded 1905 in John James Audubon's honour, is a private conservation organization that works to advance public understanding of the need to conserve soil, water, plants, and wildlife and to encourage appreciation of the importance of their intelligent use for human purposes. The organization's mission is to conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the earth's biological diversity. The organization is named after American naturalist and wildlife painter John James Audubon.

Among the society’s key objectives are preserving wetlands; promoting a responsible U.S. population policy; preserving endangered forests; conserving marine wildlife; protecting and promoting growth of national wildlife refuges; and protecting corridors for migratory birds. In working toward these goals, the organization lobbies the federal government and state governments and works to educate the general public about environmental issues.

The National Audubon Society conducts a variety of educational programs for children and adults. It runs summer ecology workshops and field-study programs aimed at developing environmental teaching techniques for schoolteachers, camp counselors, and others. The Audubon Expedition Institute offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs in environmental education. 

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This page was first published on this site in December 2000.  

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