Thursday, February 9, 2017

Pet Birds in Early America - from Bird Cages to Garden Aviaries


1733 Gerardus Duyckinck (American artist, 1695-1746). Detail David and Phila Franks with bird.

The birds, who apparently are remaining with us for the winter, are eagerly feeding at our bird feeders. I think this is the perfect time to look at paintings of 18C Americans With their birds, both in the wild & captured in aviaries & cages.

1718 Nehemiah Partridge (American artist, 1683-1737) Portrait of Catherine Ten Broeck with Bird

We know that native North American birds fascinated men & women alike in 18C British American colonies. Colonials kept their cages for birds. Some even kept larger bird-keeping areas called aviaries.


1721 Attributed to Nehemiah Partridge (American artist, 1683-1737) Sara Gansevoort (1718-1731) with a bird

An aviary is an enclosed area, Often in a garden & amp; larger than a traditional birdcage, meant for keeping, feeding, and hopefully breeding birds.  Aviaries in South Carolina sometimes contained two-story bird houses.


1725 Charles Bridges (American artist, 1670-1747). Detail of William Byrd II & amp; Lucy Parke daughter Evelyn Byrd and a bird in the tree.

Mark Catesby (1682-1749) sailed to Virginia from London, in 1712, and stayed in the British Atlantic colonies for 7 years, sketching & compiling The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands for publication upon his return to England. In his monumental work, he described birds he had seen in the colonies in cages. Thomas Jefferson had a copy of Catesby's History in his library.

1730 Pau Gansevoort (1725-1809), or Pau de Wandelaer (1713-after 1763) attributed to the Gansevoort Limner, who one scholar has identified as Pieter Vanderlyn. Detail Pau de Wandelaer with bird.

Between 1739 and 1762, South Carolinian Eliza Lucas Pinckney (c 1722-1793) kept a letterbook in cui she wrote, "Airry Chorristers pour forth Their melody ... the mocking bird ... inchanted me with His harmony." By this time, enterprising Southerners kept caged birds and even exported cages of mockingbirds  to England.


Evert Duyckinck III (American, 1677-1727) Magdalena Beekman (1714-1784)

In 1748, visitor to the British American colonies, Peter Kalm noted That turkeys, wild geese, pigeons and partridges were tamed often to the extent that "when they were let out in the morning they returned in the evening."



1740s-50s Joseph Blackburn (American colonial era artist, 1700-1780) Mrs. Thomas Jones

The New York Journal published a poem of a woman imagining her ideal garden Entitled A Wish of a Lady in 1769.

"... Just under my window I'd fancy a lawn,
Where delicate shrubs shou'd be planted with taste,
And none of my ground be seen running to waste.

Instead of Italians, the Linnet and Thrush

Wou'd with harmony greet me from every bush;
Those gay songsters feather'd do inspire rapture!
What music so soft as the Heav'nly choir ... "

1745 Joseph Badger (American artist, 1708-1765). Detail of John Gerry (1741-1786) brother of Elbridge Gerry of Boston with bird.

Portrait painters in 18C America depicted men, women, & children with birds from the beginning of the century to the end. The question is whether the birds are being used as symbols or are actually birds that the subjects might have owned.


1750 John Hesselius (American colonial artist, 1728-1778) Ann & Sarah Gordon

Birds were kept as pets around Charleston, South Carolina. When the South-Carolina Gazette in January of 1753 noted, "ANY Persons willing to try the cultivation of Flax and Hemp in this province, may have a free pint of Hemp Seed , and half a pint of Flax Seed, Mr. Commissary at Dart's store in Tradd-Street.-But it's hoped ladies will not send for any Hemp Seed for birds. "

1755 John Wollaston (American artist, 1710-1775). Detail Elizabeth Page & Mann Page, children of Mann & Ann Corbin (Tayloe) Page of Rosewell, Gloucester County, with bird.

In February of 1768, James Drummond announced in Charleston's South Carolina and American General Gazette that he had "just imported from L ... (ondon), a large and compleat (Assortment) of GOODS, Among Which Are The Following ... Italian men and womens white gloves ... corks, an sortment of watchmaker's tools ... a bird cage."


1755 Joseph Badger (American artist, 1708-1765). Detail of Elizabeth Gould with bird.

James McCall advertised in the 1771 South Carolina Gazette and Country Journal that he had "just received ... a great Variety of Garden Seeds, Pease and Beans; Hemp, Canary, Rape, and Moss Seed for Birds."

1758 John Singleton Copley (American artist, 1738-1815). Detail Anne Fairchild (Mrs. Bowler Metcal) with bird in the birdcage.

In 1772, the South-Carolina Gazette carried an ad for a plantation to be rented "on the Ashley River near Charleston" with " two well-contrived aviaries. " A year later, the same paper noted a lot in Charlestown which contained, " a very good Two-Story House Birds."

1758 John Singleton Copley (American artist, 1738-1815). Detail Thomas Aston Coffin with 2 birds.


1758 John Singleton Copley (American artist, 1738-1815) Mary & Elizabeth Royall with dog and bird

Baroness von Riedesel traveling through the southern British American colonies with her ​​officer husband during the American Revolution wrote, "I had two brought` gorgeous birds with me from Virginia. The main bird was scarlet with a darker red tuft of feathers on His Head, about the size of a bull-finch, and it sang magnificently. The female bird was gray with a red breast and anche had a tuft of feathers on its head. "


1760 Joseph Badger (American artist, 1708-1765) paints his grandson James Badger with bird. The Metropolitan Museum of Art tells us that an inscription on the back of the canvas indicates that Badger painted this portrait of his 3-year-old grandson, James (1757–1817). Largely self-trained & influenced by British print sources, the elder Badger presented his young subject with a compelling directness & honesty. The fashionably attired boy is shown standing in a generalized landscape setting, with cherries in his right hand & a bird perched on the index finger of his left.

The Baroness continued, "They are very tame soon after they are caught and eat out of one's hand. These birds live a long time, but if two male birds are hung in the same room they are so jealous of each other That One of them dies soon afterwards. "


1760 Joseph Badger (American artist, 1708-1765). Detail of Jemima Flucker with bird.

The baroness related, "saw black birds in Virginia of the same size, Which always cry 'willow.' This amused us very much Because one of my husband's aides was named Willoe. "

1763-65 Henry Benbridge (American artist, from 1743 to 1812). Detail of Gordon Family with bird.

The visiting Baroness related, "One of my servants discovered a whole nest of These red birds and fed and raised them. Knowing how much I loved them, he left Hill with two cages full on His back, but they all died before he Reached me , much to our sorrow. "



1766-67 John Singleton Copley (American artist, 1738-1815). Detail of Mary Boylston (Mrs. Benjamin Hallowell) with bird.


In the new American republic, the  New-York Magazine; or, Literary Repository  of 1792, was advising its readers,  "A Goldfinch must never be let loose in an aviary, for he destroys the nests and breaks the eggs of the other birds."


John Heaton (Colonial American, 1708-c 1745, working 1730-c.1745) Boy of the Van Rensselear Family with dog, bird, & slave.

The next year, William Marshall's (1745-1818)  Planting and Rural Ornament, widely read in the early republic,  noted that  "An Aviary Birds Of Foreign Appears to be equally ill Placed in such a situation: exotic birds are apt accompaniments to exotic plants, and a shrubery, rather than a sequestered dell, Seems to be the most natural situation for an aviary. "  George Washington & many other early Americans owned a copy of this book.


Wilhelmina Ritzema with dog & peacock. 1746 New York attributed to Gerardus Duyckinck I (Colonial American, 1695-1746)

William Faris (1728-1804) was a silversmith & amp; clockmaker living in Annapolis, Maryland, for over 50 years. He kept journals & a diary of His life there, on & off during the last quarter of the 18C. On October 25, 1793, Faris Noted, "Last night the two yallow Birds died." Earlier, he had written That His "poor Mocking Bird" had died. Although These are the only references to birds in the diary he kept During the 1790s, His 1804 inventory listed 11 bird cages .

Isaac Weld (1774-1856) Noted in his 1800  Travels through the States of North America  that at Thomas Jefferson's  Monticello  in Virginia, "A large apartment is laid out for a library and museum, meant to extend the entire breadth of the house, the Which of windows are to open into an extensive greenhouse and aviary. " 




New Netherland Young Colonial Woman with Bird


Margaret Bayard Smith, who was a new bride in Washington DC in 1800, wrote in her diary, "In the window recesses were stands for the flowers and plants Which it was His delight to attend and among His roses and geraniums was suspended the cage of His favorite mocking-bird, Which he cherished with peculiar fondness, not only for its melodious powers, but for its uncommon intelligence and affectionate disposition, of which qualities he gave surprising instances. It was the constant companion of His solitary and studious hours. Whenever he was alone he opened the cage and let the bird fly about the room. After a while for flitting from one object to another, it would alight on His table and regale him with its sweetest notes, or because on His shoulder and take its food from His lips. Often When He retired to His chamber it would hop up the stairs after him and while he took His siesta, would sit on His couch and pour forth its melodious strains. How he loved this bird! "

William Dobbs operated in Seed & Plant Store at 315 King Street. He advertised in the December 2, 1811 edition of the Charleston Times : "For sale at wholesale and retail, an extensive assortment of Choice Garden Flowers and Bird seeds, the growth of 1811 ... Garden Tools, Flower Pots, Hyacinth Glasses." In October 1812, Dobbs property was put up at auction through ads in the October 13 and 22 editions of the Courier Charleston. Among the items to be auctioned, "All the Personal Estate and Stock in Trade ... Together With His elegant collection of Singing Birds; Consisting of Canary and Mocking Birds; in Glass Houses, containing stuffed Birds; empty Bird Cages ... "Unfortunately, Dobbs died in the fall of 1812. His inventory of December 3, 1812, gives a glimpse of the property owned by the seedsman:" Apple Trees Rose, Rosemary, Squills, Double Tube Roses, Amaryths , Peach Trees, 40 Canary Birds, Seeds, Bird Seed, shovels, spades, bird cages, pees, 2 green Houses and glasses, garden tools, Glasses for Roots, Shelves of Jars with Seeds in them ... "



1766 John Singleton Copley (American artist, 1738-1815). Detail of Elizabeth Ross (Mrs. William Tyng) with bird.

Although it is difficult to find descriptions of 18C aviaries in the British American colonies, we find the the books flowing into the colonies from England were replete with references to aviaries & descriptions of them.

Francis Bacon's Essays were widely read in the colonies. From them, we know that Francis Bacon (1561-1626), Inglese philosopher, statesman, scientist, lawyer, jurist, & amp; author, did not like aviaries , or so he wrote in his 1625 Essayes or Counsels, and Civill Morall in the essay Entitled Of Gardens . "For Aviaries, I like them not, except they be of That largeness as they may be turfed, and have living plants and bushes sets them; That the birds may have more scope and natural nestling, and That no foulness Appear in the floor of the aviary. "


1767 John Singleton Copley (American artist, 1738-1815) .Young Lady with a Bird and Dog

Another of England's earliest agricultural writers, John Worlidge   (1640-1700)  was read in the British American colonies. His  System Horticulturae published in 1677, Noted That, "One of the pleasures Belonging to a Garden, is an Aviary, Which must be near your house, That you may take some delight in it there, as well as in your Garden, and That you may in all seasons take care of its Inhabitants. "   Actually, Worlidge dreamed of "an Aviary at large, That the whole Garden with its Groves and Avenues may be full of These pretty Singers, That they may With Their charming Notes, rouze up our dull Spirits, That are too intent upon the Cares of this World, and mind us of the Providence, the great God of the Universe hath over us, as well as These Creatures. "

1770-1775 James Peale (American artist, 1749-1831). Girl with bird.

In 1701 Ireland, Charles Smith (1715 to 1762) observed in his Ancient and Present State of the County and City of Cork , that "also nearer Cork Mr. John Dennis Merchant has a good house and neat gardens with an aviary."

1770 Daniel Hendrickson (American artist, 1723-1788). Detail of Catharine Hendrickson surrounded by birds.

The most widely read gardening writer 18C & the chief gardener at the Chelsea Physic Garden, Philip Miller's (1691-1771) The Gardeners and Florists Dictionary of noted that "Mr. JB The Author of the Hereford / hire Orchards enumerates the Benefits of Orchards, That besides Their Profit, they sweeten and purify the ambient air, and by Means That, he thinks, leads to the Health ... and afford Shade and Shelter in the Heat of Summer, but harbor a constant Aviary of sweet Singers without Wires. "  Philip Miller was widely read throughout the British American colonies. His Dictionary was owned by Benjamin Franklin, Lady Jean Skipwith of Virginia, & Thomas Jefferson.


1770s Charles Willson Peale (American artist, 1741-1827). Detail Mary Tilghman & amp; sons with bluejay.

British garden designer Stephen Switzer (1682-1745) was also read in the colonies.   By 1733, he was instructing His reader on aviaries in his Practical Husbandman and Planter . In the month of June he wrote that the aviary requires the "Assistance of the Person who looks after it, by the bruising and Emulsion of the cool Seeds of Melon and Cucumbers, in Their watering Pans; as also, by the giving of them the leaves of succory, Beets ... and fresh Gravel and Earth, to cure them of Their Sicknefs in Moulting-Time, being now sick of Their old Feathers. And now young Partridges, Indian Hens, Pheasants, Partridges, & begin to require a little looking after to preserve them from the griping Hawk, Constantly digging up of ant-hills for the Pecking and Support of the little chirping Brood. "


1774 Charles Willson Peale (American artist, from 1741 to 1827). Detail of The Johnson Brothers with bird.


One of the classic books in Thomas Jefferson's library , The Builder's Dictionary: or, Gentleman and Architect's Companion explained in 1734, that an avairy was a "House or Apartment for the keeping, feeding, and breeding of Birds." The book covers all aspects of building design, construction, and finishes. In its time, the Dictionary was considered the most comprehensive summary available for use by architects & members of the construction trades.


1788 Charles Willson Peale (American artist, 1741-1827). Detail of Mrs. Richard Gittings with bird in cage.

Another book on Thomas Jefferson's library was the 1721 edition of Richard Bradley's New Improvements in Planting and Gardening Both Philosophical and Practical. Bradley's work New Improvements noted that orchards "harbor a constant Aviary of sweet Singers, Which are here retained without Violence or the Charge of the Italian Wires." 


1790 Denison limner Probably Joseph Steward (American artist, 1753-1822). Detail of Miss Denison of Stonington, CN possibly Matilda with bird and squirrel.

In England, William Derham (1657-1735) & John Ray published a Natural History of Birds which noted Grossbeake. "This bird was brought` from Gamboa on the Coast of Guinea and was in the Possession of His Grace the Duke of Chandos in an Aviary at his Grace's Country Seat at Edgeworth. "


1790 John Brewster (American artist, 1766-1854). Detail of Boy with Bird.

Another book read in the colonies was the 1732 edition of French priest Noel Antoine Pluche's (1688-1761) Spectacle de la Nature, Nature Display'd which recommended the joys of communing with the birds in an aviary. Although the book influenced many to become naturalists, it was a work of popularization, not of science. The book explains that character in the "Bower Which the Count has inclosed with a latex of Brass Wire. I think I have seen, in this charming Aviary, all imaginable Sorts of little Birds, as well as Those of a middling Size ... this Aviary boafts a little of my Invention, and I commonly undertake the management of it, but my Pains are requited by Pleasures That Vary every day. The Contentions of These Little Creatures, Their Endearments, Their Melody, and Labours, and the obliging civilities I receive from the generality, When I pay them a Visit, are extremely entertaining to me. I carry my Work to them, and am never alone. One may pass whole Hours Afternoons and there. "


1790 Rufus Hathaway (American artist, from 1770 to 1822). Detail of Molly Wales Fobes with Birds.

In1760, the Short Account of the Principal Seats and Gardens, in and about Twickenham , female writer Jael Henrietta Pye (Jael Henrietta Mendez Pye) (1737-1782) tells of the Earl of Lincoln's Seat. "About a mile beyond Weybridge, situated in the midst of a Noble Park. The Gardens Contain 150 Acres, and are divided by the end of the Canal. The whole is laid out in the modern Taste of Flowering Shrubs, Lawns, Clumps ... an Aviary of every kind of Singing-Birds, who are, so concealed by the Trees, That tho 'they fillthfe Garden With Their Harmony, it is impossible to discover whence it proceeds. "


1790s James Earl (American artist, 1749-1831). Detail of Boy with Cardinal.

Christopher Smart, Oliver Goldsmith, & Samuel Johnson reported in a compilation of their writings called,  World Displayed: or, A Curious Collection of Voyages and Travels published in 1750. that in Mexico, "Montezuma had, besides the palace in cui he kept His court, several magnificent pleasure houses, one of Which was a noble building, supported by pillars of jasper. In this edifice he had an aviary birds Of Those That Are most remarkable on account of Their singing or feathers, and These were so Numerous, That 300 men were said to be employed in attending them. " Both George Washington & John Adams owned a copy of this book.
1790s Ellen Sharples (American artist, 1769-1849). Detail of Theodosia Burr of New Jersey with bird.

Arthur Young's (1741-1820) accounts of His travels Throughout Great Britain were imported into the colonies as soon as they were published. In his 1778-1770, Six Months A Tour Through the North of England , he wrote, "From hence to walk winds to the aviary, Which is a light Chinese building of a very pleasing design; it is stocked with Canary and other foreign birds , Which are kept alive in winter by means of hot walls at the back of the building."

1793 Rufus Hathaway (American artist, 1770-1822). Detail of Sampson Church of Duxbury, MA. with bird and birdcage.

English architect William Chambers (1723-1796) wrote of what he hoped would be a strong Asian influence on gardening. In his 1772, A Dissertation on Oriental Gardening , he noted that in China, "The saloons Generally open to little enclosed courts, complimentary round with beautiful flower-pots, of different forms, made ​​of porcelain, marble or copper, filled with the Rarest flowers of the season: at the end of the court Generally there is an aviary. "  Chambers' book was found in libraries across the new American republic.


1796 Charles Willson Peale (American artist, 1741-1827). Thomas Elliott & Grandaughter Deborah Hibernia with white bird.

In England, the 1773 Encyclopaedia Britannica, offered its readers practical advice. "Aviary, a place apart in September for feeding and propagating birds. It should be so large, as to give the birds some freedom of flight, and turfed, to avoid the appearance of foulness on the floor. " These compilers had obviously read Francis Bacon's essay Of Gardens. John Charnock (1756-1807) wrote in his 1794  Biography Navalis that the retired "Admiral (George) Churchill (1654-1710) ... had constructed the most beautiful aviary in Britain, which he had, at an incredible expence, filled with a most rare and valuable collection of birds. "


Unknown 1790s American artist, Mary Ann Elizabeth Thum of Philadelphia with bird.

By the early 19th century, Englishman John Claudius Loudon (1783-1843) was eager to share His knowledge of aviaries with reader of his Encyclopaedia of Gardening, where he explained that originally apiaries were common at the country houses of the Romans, where they were used primarily as safe-keeping for birds destined to be eaten. Loudon notes that singing-birds, however, also were kept by the Persians, Greeks, & Romans in wicker cages. The Chinese built actual house-like structures for their birds. In 1808, the last of the great 18C English landscape designer Humphrey Repton (1752-1818) re-popularized aviaries in his design for an Aviary and Pergola in the Chinese Style


1790 Ralph Earl (American artist, 1791-1801) Jerusha Benedict (Ives)

However, Loudon explains that Varro built an elegant & spacious aviary, at his country house, near Casinum. Varro wrote that there were 2 sorts of aviaries, one for containing birds intended for the table, and the other for birds kept for their song or plumage. The former sort were built for use, but the latter were often beautiful pavilions, with an apartment or saloon in the center, for guests to sit in and enjoy the melodies of the feathered songsters. According to Loudon, his fellow countryman, John Evelyn (1620-1706) mentioned in his Kalendarium Hortense: or, the Gardner's Almanac the parrots in the aviary of the Marquis of Argyll at Sayes Court. Explained in Loudon That parrot aviary was built with a glass roof and front ends covered with shades & curtains to protect it from the sun & frost, and with a flue for winter heating. In these aviaries artificial or dead trees with foliage glazed were fixed on the floor. Sometimes cages hung on them, and at other times the birds allowed to fly free Within the aviary. Early Americans Increase (1639-1723) & Cotton Mather (1663-1728) and Lewis Morris (1726-1798) owned Evelyn's Kalendarium .


1805 John Brewster Jr. (American artist, 1766-1854) O Francis Watts with Bird

Loudon revealed in "special canary aviary was in September in an opaque-roofed greenhouse or conservatory, by enclosing it with a score of wire; and furnishing the greenhouse with ... branches suspended from the roof for the birds to perch on. In another type of aviary ... net or wire curtain was thrown over the tops of trees. Here songbirds could sing on the trees; aquatic birds could glide on the water; & pheasants could stroll over the lawn. For severe seasons, discreet houses & cages would offer them refuge."


 1805 Michele Felice Corne (American artist, 1752-1845) Two Children at Play with White Bird

Loudon noted that in England, portable netted enclosures, from 10 to 20 square feet, were distributed over areas of the lawn to display a curious collection of domestic fowls. In each enclosure was a small wooden box for sheltering the animals during night or in severe weather. For breeding. Loudon even suggested That "Curious varieties of aquatic fowls might be Placed on aviaries floating on a lake or pond."  He  Explained That birds from the hot climates were sometimes kept in hot-houses among Their native plants with doors & amp; openings for giving air covered with wire cloth. Loudon proposed that birds grouping together geographically could give rise to an educational aviary containing specimens of the native birds of a Particular country - promoting the knowledge of their names, classification, climates, & habits. Loudon noted that the emperor Napoleon kept a large aviary with species of birds from all over the globe.


1810 Cephus Thompson (American artist, 1775-1856) Girl with a Dove

In America, we finally do get an eyewitness account of an aviary in New York City. Grant Thorburn's (1773-1863) early 19C Horticultural Repository on John Street in New York City had an avaiary, when Thomas Green Fessenden (1771-1837) visited. He wrote of it in the Horticultural Register and Gardener's Magazine, "The aviary is filled with many beautiful birds Which fill the air with sweet Their songs - the native mockingbird, canary & amp; c. to exerting Their sweet voices mingled in harmony, and fluttering as merrily as in Their native woods. "


 1815 Jacob Maentel (German-born American artist, from 1763 to 1863) Boy with Bird

As the 19C saw American towns & industry grow and homeowners' property size decrease, caged birds became even more popular.  Pennsylvania attorney Henry Beck Hirst (1813-1874) wrote, "And what man lives, who, as he passes by the cottage of the humble laborer, and wicker Observes the habitation of the well tended Canary suspended at the door, does not form a favorable idea of the taste of Those Who Dwell Within its walls ... And oh! in the crowded cities, with the hum of business & the rattle of wheels sounding ever around, it is not pleasant to the ear to hear ... the voice of some lone bird ... and the melancholy warbler is converted into the many voiced choir of the forest. "