Maria Martin Bachman 1796-1863
See Charleston County Public Library
Maria Martin Bachman of Charleston, South Carolina, may well have been the most influential woman on the American 19C natural history horizon. Her life changed forever on October 16, 1831, the day John James Audubon joined the family of her brother-in-law & future husband, John Bachman, at their residence on Rutledge Avenue. The 35 year old spinster could not have foreseen that Audubon would awaken in her a talent as a painter she did not know she possessed. Her paintings & watercolor drawings of birds, flowers & insects would later appear in the 2nd & 4th volumes of the Elephant Folio of Audubon's The Birds of America. Of the 435 pictures in this great work, more than 50 contain drawings of insects as well as birds.
Little is known about Maria's early years, as many records were destroyed by Sherman's March through the South. Maria was born July 6, 1796, the youngest of 2 daughters of Rebecca Solars & Jacob Martin. Her father's family forebears were French Huguenots who left France after the Edict of Nantes in 1685 & migrated to Switzerland & Bavaria before coming to the United States. Her great-grandfather, George Martin, arrived in America in 1750 & fathered 12 sons. John Nicholas Martin, Maria's grandfather, was ordained a Lutheran minister, & in November 1763, became the pastor of St. John's Lutheran Church in Charleston. Fifty-two years later on January 10, 1815, a young Lutheran clergyman & naturalist, John Bachman, arrived in Charleston from Schaghticoke, New York, to serve as the new pastor of St. John's Lutheran Church. Bachman took Harriet Martin-Maria's older sister--as his bride a year later.
Maria & her sister Harriet, daughters of John Jacob Martin, were well educated for their time. John's marriage to the widow Rebecca Solar, had provided his family with a decent dower that he nurtured into a fortune. Their daughters either attended a seminary for young ladies or were tutored at home. Judging from Maria's letters, she was a person well-read in classical literature, music, French, & the natural sciences, & she had taken drawing lessons. As the youngest daughter, Maria joined the Bachman household to take on the the task of caring for her ailing sister & the Bachman's 8 children at the time of Audubon's arrival in Charleston.
Audubon brought into the Bachman family's household a sense that life is exciting & filled with fascinating experiences that stretch a person's mind & heart. Maria, her sister Harriet, the children & the servants were all caught up in Bachman's & Audubon's adventures in the fields surrounding Charleston, eager to show this or that valuable bird they had shot or that Audubon had sketched. Perhaps it was mere politeness that prompted Audubon to offer Maria a pencil & suggest that she draw a bird, but when he quickly saw she had talent, he encouraged & instructed her, keeping her well supplied with painting materials. In the summer while Audubon had gone north, Maria, at his suggestion, began to draw flowers. Wrote Dr. Bachman to Audubon, "Maria has figured for you the white hibiscus & also a red one, both natives & beautiful; a suanymus in seed in which our Sylvia is placed; the white nondescript rose; the gordonia, a begonia, etc." The result was Audubon begged for more of her flower paintings. He was, he assured Bachman, "extremely desirous of introducing them in my second volume."
After John James Audubon began using Maria's flower backgrounds for his bird paintings, Maria sought to widen her knowledge of insect life so she could paint butterflies, moths & caterpillars for Audubon's paintings. She began by copying nearly all of the illustrations by Peale, Le Sueur & others in Thomas Say's The Entomology of North America. Only 6 out of her 54 copies of Say's plates are missing - destroyed when Lucy Audubon's cottage burned to the ground in 1875. Two of Maria's sketchbooks which appear to date between 1833 & 1836 are located in the Archives of the Charleston Museum. They contain her copies of Say's plates & 27 of her originals.
Maria's study of Say's illustrations represents an important link to Audubon, but also to the new field of entomology in North America. Audubon's experiences as a taxidermist at the Western Museum in Cinncinnati, & his acquaintance with T.R. Peale & Thomas Say upon their visit there after their Western expedition, touched upon insects & Peale's drawings of them for Say's projected book -American Entomology. What this small coterie shared in common was an understanding that the winged brethren, going about their business, are largely on the lookout for insects.
Audubon's portraits of birds from the beginning included beetles, caterpillars, worms, spiders, flies, & other natural quarry which set his work apart from other bird painters. He paid Maria Martin the ultimate compliment when he wrote his son Victor from Charleston, December 23, 1833, "Miss Martin with her superior talents, assists us greatly in the way of drawing; the insects she has drawn are, perhaps, the best I've seen."
John James Audubon 1785-1851 Timeline
See PBS July 25th, 2007
John James Audubon (1785-1851)
1785 Born in Les Cayes, Saint-Domingue (later Haiti) to Captain Jean Audubon and Jeanne Rabine, his French chambermaid
1788 Sent to Nantes, France. Enjoys childhood here, begins interest in the natural world
1803 Leaves France for the United States to avoid conscription in Napoleon’s army. Moves to Mill Grove, his father’s estate in Pennsylvania
1804 Meets and falls in love with Lucy Bakewell, daughter of neighbor William Bakewell in Mill Grove. Creates wire constructions that help him pose dead birds in lifelike positions to paint them.
1807 Sets up general store in Louisville, KY
1808 Marries Lucy Bakewell and moves with her to Louisville.
1809 Son Victor born
1810 Meets ornithologist Alexander Wilson, and declines to subscribe to his publication, American Ornithology. Moves to Henderson, KY with family.
1812 Son John Woodhouse born
1815 Daughter Lucy born
1816 Invests in steam-powered grist mill in Henderson.
1817 Daughter Lucy dies
1819 Samuel Adams Bowen attacks Audubon on the street; Audubon stabs him in self-defense. Business fails. Jailed for debt; released when he files for bankruptcy. Family loses all possessions. Daughter Rose is born.
1820 Daughter Rose dies. States intention to complete, in his lifetime, “a collection of the Birds of our Country, from Nature, all of Natural Size”.
1821 Arrives in New Orleans and begins portrait painting on the street. Wife and sons join him in December.
1824 Attempts to obtain support from the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia for a publication of his engravings of American birds. Opposed by George Ord, editor of American Ornithology by Alexander Wilson.
1826 Leaves for England. Gains success quickly. Exhibits 250 paintings at the Royal Institution at Liverpool, Manchester, and Edinburgh. Meets William Home Lizars, who agrees to become Audubon’s engraver.
1827 Hires London’s Havell & Son to work on Double elephant Folio etchings.
1829 Returns to America to paint more American birds and convince Lucy to join him in England.
1830 Dines at the White House with President Andrew Jackson.
1831 Publishes first volume of Ornithological Biography.
1833 Travels to Labrador to paint northern bird species.
1838 Fourth and final volume of the Folio edition of Birds of America is completed.
1839 Leaves England for good to settle in New York with Lucy. Begins planning for The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America.
1840 Begins work on octavo edition of The Birds of America.
1841 Purchases Minnie’s Land, a 30 acre estate in Upper Manhattan.
1843 Travels west to search for new specimens for Quadrupeds.
1845 First Imperial Folio volume of The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America is published.
1848 Suffers stroke. Eyesight has now failed and son John Woodhouse has taken over work on Quadrupeds project. Audubon begins to go senile.
1851 Dies at Minnie’s Land on January 27.
Rev. John Bachman 1790-1874 Timeline
1754 Aboard the ship Barclay, Pastor Johann Nicholas Martin arrives at the port of Philadelphia from Germany with family (14 Sep); soon moves to churches in Anson County NC and later in Columbia SC (Dutch Fork) area
1763 Johann Nicholas Martin answers call to pulpit of a church to be named St. John's Lutheran Church, Charleston SC
1785 John James Audubon born, Les Cayes, Santo Domingo (present-day Haiti) (26 Apr)
1790 John Bachman born, Rhinebeck NY (4 Feb), son of Jacob & Eva Shop Bachman
1791 Harriet Martin born, Charleston SC (10 Aug)
1796 Maria Martin born, Charleston SC (3 Jul)
1802 Young Bachman moves from New York to Philadelphia to continue schooling
1804 Bachman begins visiting John Bartram's garden and meets bird artist Alexander Wilson (approximate date)
1806 Bachman shows signs of respiratory problems, leaves school in Philadelphia and returns to parents' New York home; stays in bed for about 18 months, nursed by his mother
1808 Bachman's strength and health return
1808 Bachman moves in with Pastor Anthony T. Braun in West Sandlake NY to commence religious studies
1808 John James Audubon weds Lucy Green Bakewell (5 Apr)
1809 Victor Gifford Audubon born to John James & Lucy Audubon (12 Jun)
1812 John Woodhouse Audubon born to John James & Lucy Audubon (30 Nov)
1813 Alexander Wilson dies shortly after publishing 7th volume of American Ornithology (Aug)
1813 Bachman licensed to preach in Lutheran churches, Philadelphia PA
1815 Bachman arrives in Charleston (10 Jan) and assumes pastorate at St. John's (12 Jan); serves for 56 years
1816 Bachman marries Charleston's Harriet Martin (23 Jan), granddaughter of the Rev. John Nicolas Martin, former pastor of St. John's
1831 Bachman hosts John James Audubon for a month at Bachman's Rutledge Avenue home during the artist's trip to Charleston (beginning 17 Oct)
1831 Bachman's sister-in-law Maria Martin becomes John James Audubon's assistant and begins to contribute paintings of backgrounds, insects, plants, etc., used in Audubon's Birds of North America
1832 Audubon returns to Bachman home in Charleston after a scouting trip to Florida (10 Mar)
1833 Bachman helps found South Carolina State Horticultural Society
1837 John Woodhouse Audubon marries Maria "Ria" Rebecca Bachman (June); they produce 2 daughters
1838 Bachman arrives (1 Jul) in Liverpool, England, to news that Lucy Green Audubon had been born to John Woodhouse and Maria Rebecca Bachman Audubon while he was at sea; moves in with John James Audubon and family.
1840 Bachman & John James Audubon begin work on Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America
1840 Maria Rebecca Bachman Audubon dies of tuberculosis at age 23 (15 Sep); buried at St. John's Lutheran Church
1841 Mary Eliza Bachman Audubon dies in New York at age 22 (25 May)
1845 Bachman & John James Audubon publish first of three Imperial folios (without text) of Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America
1846 Bachman's first wife Harriet Martin Bachman dies after 30 years of marriage and 14 children, nine of whom survived
1848 Bachman marries his sister-in-law, Maria Martin; they have no children
1848 Bachman becomes professor of natural history at College of Charleston; serves until 1853 when he steps down to devote more time to ministry
1849 Bachman & John James Audubon publish first Royal Octavo volume of Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America
1851 John James Audubon dies, New York City, at age 64 (27 Jan)
1853 Bachman publishes A Defense of Luther and the Reformation
1854 Bachman, with help of Audubon sons, publishes 3rd and final text volume of Imperial folio for Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America
1854 Bachman publishes Notice of the Types of Mankind by Nott and Gliddon
1855 Bachman publishes Examination of Professor Agassiz’s Sketch of the Natural Provinces of the Animal World
1856 Under petition from Bachman and others, State of South Carolina charters Newberry College (20 Dec)
1857 Newberry College board of trustees holds first meeting; Bachman elected as first board president (15 Jan); next day authorizes $2,300 for purchase of 54 acres of land for the campus
1859 Newberry College begins operations with more than 100 students (6 in college, 2 in seminary, and the remainder in an all-male preparatory school)
1860 Bachman begins serving as co-editor of Southern Lutheran; continues until 1862
1860 Bachman leads opening prayer at Institute Hall in Charleston as South Carolina meets to vote for secession (20 Dec)
1861 Confederate forces fire on Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor (12 Apr)
1863 Maria Martin Bachman dies (18 Dec)
1871 Bachman retires as pastor of St. John's Lutheran Church after 56 years, but continues to preach
1874 John Bachman dies of paralysis in Charleston SC, age 84 years, 20 days (24 Feb)