Bartram's grandfather came to America in 1682.
John received little education. He went to country
schools and whenever opportunity offered he studied
Latin and Greek. He inherited a small farm while young
from his uncle but in 1728 he bought two tracts of
land, one of 102 acres and the other consisting of
five acres. This latter plot of ground was presumed to
be the precise location of a garden but the Brief of
Title shows that his house and garden were on the
larger plot. This plot is presumably the location of
what has been called the first botanic garden in
America which now together with his house is preserved
or part of the park system of Pennsylvania. He sold
the five acre plot in 1740. He moved again in 1729 and
had 9 children, one of which died young.
He became an excellent farmer producing exceptional
crops of wheat and hay. He also raised flax, oats, and
Indian corn and developed a successful animal
enterprise involving many horses and cattle.
During this period he harvested extensively in
search of plants. Peter Collinson, a wealthy wholesale
draper in England whose hobby involved the search for
new and exotic plants, was introduced to Bartram. John
Bartram was suggested as a source of plants and as a
result he set out to discover and send to Collinson a
wide range of american species and varieties. Others
came from Collinson, the Dukes of Richmond, Norfolk
and Bedford. At one time Collinson listed 57
subscribers to whom Bartram supplied plant material.
Others included the well-known Earls of Bute, Leiciesh
and Lincoln; the Dukes of Argyll, Marlborough and many
others including Philip Miller, the author of
Gardener's Dictionary. It is interesting to note that
all of these members of the aristocracy had developed
outstnading gardens in England and Scotland. Peter
Collinson and Philip Miller were the foremost
individuals who subscribed to Bartram's introductions
of American trees. Philip Miller at this time was the
most famous of English horticulturalists.
Bartram also sent to England large supplies of
plants previously in cultivation in small quantities.
British growers received many shrubs and trees that
were considered rare. Philip Miller developed the
ancient Physics Gardens at Chelsea into possibly the
finest botanic garden in Europe. During his later
years he harvested extensively through the Eastern
United States. These travels yields "great botanical
treasures" and much botanical and horticultural
He was an original member of the American
Philsophical Society (1742) and his name followed that
of Benjamin Franklin who headed the list. He was a
friend of Franklin and other prominent colonists. He
held the post of botanist to the King for the American
Colonies under George III.
He was probably the first American to perform
successful experiments in hybridization. For many
years his garden was the largest and best collection
of trees in America and the services of the garden to
American horiculture were outstanding. Bailey called
him by far the most "picturesque" of the early
botanists and horticulturalists of America. He had a
simple, wholesome, "powerful" personality.