and Brillat-Savarin, and others of rank and consequence. Unlike those older political exiles, however, the unknown youth did not return when the air cleared overseas, but stayed on to make his fortune in the New World, which in the end he did by his most extraordinary enterprise. In some important ways his was a unique success story. He was a handsome and spirited youth (with a "Bourbon" profile), a good dancer and fencer, a fine skater and a musician of sorts. Even as a child he had been an avid bird-watcher, and the practice grew on him with the passing years. It was shortly after his arrival in America that he conducted his pioneering bird-banding experiments. But he also had an eye for other things, and he soon married his attractive English-born neighbor Lucy Bakewell. The young couple had the wide world before them, and to make the most of it they headed for Kentucky, joining a large tide of humanity that was moving westward in search of new and large opportunities in life. In that locale Audubon soon made enough money in trade to speculate in land and slaves, and to provide his bride with a comfortable home, a piano and a decent complement of silver, china and other household furnishings, and with slaves to relieve her of drudgery in and about the house. Ironically, had he continued to prosper in this fashion, his name would probably have been lost among the countless immigrants who succeeded in the American frontier.
An official National Audubon Society 1994 porcelain figurine issue of 'Northern Oriole with Dogwood' made by Boehm
But things didn't work out that way. In the panic year of 1819 Audubon went bankrupt and was jailed for a short time. It was a providential failure. It may have been partly occasioned by the fact that he had been spending as much time watching, studying and drawing birds as he had behind the counter and with his accounts. On his release from prison, to make ends meet, he turned to his pencil, drawing rather primitive portraits of his neighbors for a few dollars apiece (one of them was of a dead child whose parents had disinterred the little body so that Audubon could capture a fair likeness). When the local market for such exercises was exhausted, he and Lucy moved to Cincinnati with their two growing sons, Victor Gifford and John Woodhouse Audubon. And it was there, in 1820, that Audubon became "possessed" with the idea of compiling an inventory of all the birds of America in their primeval haunts.