John James Audubon and Passenger Pigeons, Ohio River Valley, 1813
In the fall of 1813, somewhere between Henderson and Louisville, Kentucky, Audubon encountered a massive flock of passenger pigeons flying overhead. Numbered in the billions, they most certainly were the most abundant avian species on earth. Although it was midday, the flocks were so massive they darkened the sky, reminding Audubon of an eclipse. The next morning the flocks were still passing overhead, their ranks undiminished. I have depicted Audubon with his faithful dog, Dash, who was an excellent retriever of the birds Audubon harvested and used as subjects for his paintings. Audubon once said with amusement that Dash was one of the most important contributors to his great work; The Birds of America.
John James could not have spent so much time in the wilderness observing, collecting and sketching birds had it not been for Lucy. She dedicated her life to helping John James achieve success. She raised their two children and supported their family by teaching. At one time she even founded a school to educate young women from prestigious families. This was a remarkable accomplishment in an era when women were barely allowed to earn wages.