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MOSES BARTRAM (1732-1809) By Randolph Shipley Klein* Moses Bartram, second son of the famous botanist John Bartram, had a youthful love of action and a curiosity about nature which guided and colored his life for forty years and no doubt never left him. He became a leading apothecary in Philadelphia and a man of consequence in the city. The Bartram family had arrived in Pennsylvania in 1682. John, Moses' father, whom Linnaeus called "the greatest botanist in the world," was born in 1699. By his second wife, Ann Mendenhall of Concord Monthly Meeting, whom he married in 1727, John Bartram had nine children. Moses, the second, was born the 25th of Sixth month, 1732. He enjoyed the pleasant surroundings of his father's farm and botanical gardens and no doubt acquired his interest in and knowledge of nature there. Life in the country, however, was too dull for this youth. Adventure beckoned and in 1751 Moses shipped as a sailor on a vessel bound for London. The ship was sold and Moses was stranded. Peter Collinson, John Bartram's London friend and patron, befriended Moses, and the two became good friends. On one occasion Collinson invited the youth to view his gardens; Moses admired them, although Collinson wrote that he "finds many things wanting."1 Collinson told John Bartram that "the honesty and good disposition of the youth pleases me, as well as his industrious disposition."2 At last Moses resolved to go to the West Indies, but Collinson, who thought the Indies no place for an impressionable young Quaker, dissuaded him from going. Shortly afterward Collinson sent Moses home, paying his passage to Philadelphia .3 So far Moses had been "tumbling and tossing about the world," as Collinson wrote.4 The Englishman had advised the young man to find settled employment. Moses found it as master of the snow * Randolph Klein lives in Piscataway, New Jersey. 1 Collinson to John Bartram, 20 September, 1751, in William Darlington, Memorials of John Bartram and Humphry Marshall (Philadelphia, 1849), p. 187. 2 Collinson to John Bartram, n.d., in Darlington, p. 184. 3 Bartram Family Reunion (Philadelphia, 1893), pp. 16-17. 4 Letter to John Bartram, 20 January, 1756, in Darlington, p. 202. 28 Moses Bartram29 Corsley, belonging to James Child. One voyage past Gibraltar provided him with data on currents which he later presented to the American Philosophical Society. However, Moses seemed unstable, without apparent goals. As late as 1759 Peter Collinson wrote hopefully but anxiously that now Moses "has eat his brown bread, his white will come next. I wish he would write a little Journal in his own way and style, from his first going to sea to the present time."5 If Moses did, in fact, write a journal, it has not survived, but in 1760 he returned at last to Philadelphia and joined his brother Isaac as an apothecary and practitioner of medicine in Second Street at the Sign of the Bottle and Three Boltheads. Now his father could write with relief that "Isaac and Moses . . . began with a little, and have unexpectedly dropped into fine business."6 Business went well for the brothers. Besides vending the usual drugs, "chymical and galenical medicines," and patent medicines such as Daffey's elixir, Turlington's balsam of life, and Lockyer's female pills, they sold an assortment of painter's colors, flasks, retorts, crucibles, gallipots, and vials. For practitioners of physick in both town and country they offered furniture for doctor's office, pocket instruments, lancets in cases, small scales and weights, and pewter syringes. As men skilled in their profession, the brothers also trained various apprentices. James Hutchinson, later professor in the Medical School of the University of Pennsylvania, acquired "no mean proficiency in Botany, Chemistry, and Pharmacy" from them.7 For more than a decade Moses and his brother worked as partners. Then in 1772 they separated, Isaac moving to Third Street at the sign of the Unicorn while Moses remained sole proprietor of the "Old Medicinal Store."8 With a shop and an assured income Moses appeared to have settled at last. On July 10, 1764, at Bank Meetinghouse he married Elizabeth Budd, daughter of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1934-1504
Print ISSN
0033-5053
Pages
pp. 28-34
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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