Alexander Wilson

Alexander Wilson

Teacher, Father of Ornithology (1749—May 24, 1831) Buried at Gloria Dei (Old Swedes’) Alexander Wilson was born on July 6, 1766, in Paisley, Scotland. At the age of 13 he apprenticed in the weaving trade spending ten years as a weaver. He then began traveling about Scotland as a peddler and writing dialect poems, which he published. Discouraged by poverty and by political persecution because of some satires he wrote, he immigrated to America in 1794. Entirely self-educated, Alexander Wilson, supported himself as a teacher in the Philadelphia area. In 1802, he took charge of a school at Gray’s Ferry, near the home and gardens of William Bartram. William Bartram helped Alexander Wilson learn to draw birds. Bartram offered the use of his library so Wilson could study illustrations of American birds. Wilson was convinced that no single work on American birds was free from defect, and he decided to publish a book illustrating all the North American birds. He traveled widely, watching and painting birds and collecting subscribers for his book. The result was a nine volume American Ornithology which illustrated 268 birds, 26 had not previously been described. Wilson’s health broke down while he was preparing the eighth volume of American Ornithology for publication, and he died in Philadelphia on Aug. 23, 1813. His friend George Ord completed the eighth and ninth volumes from Wilson’s manuscript notes and saw them through publication in 1814. Charles Lucien Bonaparte published the four final volumes in 1825-1833. American Ornithology is noted for the elegance of the essays on individual birds and for the excellent illustrations, which Wilson did himself. Although skilled as an artist, he needed the help of Alexander Lawson to translate his drawings into the plates from which the illustrations were printed. American Ornithology was acclaimed by both American and European scientists as the best work on American birds, and it went through two subsequent editions Alexander Wilson’s tombstone is one of the tombstones which were restored in our...

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Peter Cruse

Peter Cruse

Ship Captain (1828 first conveyor of rubber in America) Peter Cruse was a captain in the old merchant man service, and traded in the West Indies and South American ports. He was born in Gothenburg, Sweden, and was at first in the Swedish Navy, having run away to sea, as so often the Swedish lovers of the Great Deep were apt to do. Being Anxious to go to America, his mother, who taught him the love of the Bible, which he learned to read at her knee, urged him if he went to America, to go where her cousin, Rev. Nicholas Collin, had long since settled. So Captain Cruse came to America, and Philadelphia. He at once attached himself to “Old Swedes'” Church. In Philadelphia the Captain fell in love and married Catharine Simpson, daughter of James Simpson, a builder of vessels. After one of his voyages from South American he landed in Philadelphia, with what he called “a queer cargo,” for it was composed of clumsy rubber shoes in the rough. The virgin rubber had been melted, and before hardening, the feet of the natives had been presses, after cooling, into the soft substance, and they were to have the outside rough edges pared off with knives after reaching this country. When the vessel reached Christian Street wharf, many of the prominent shipping men of Philadelphia were invited to visit the ship, and inspect the cargo. Among these shipping men one recalls the names of Thomas Earp, John F. Ohl, the Bernadous, and many others, all of whom were enthusiastic over the then mysterious substance in the vessel’s hold, which they were told was to be converted into shoes which would resist rainy weather. Peter Cruse, was the first conveyor of rubber in America. The local papers of that period made many favorable comments on the value of the cargo, and in the practical utilization of the product of the rubber tree. In these days of motor cars, and the necessary rubber tires, what great strides have been made since Captain Cruse came up the Delaware River with his “queer...

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