William Bartram began his travels at the request of Dr. John Fothergill. Dr. Fothergill was the agent in England for William’s father, John Bartram, and he was passionately interested in natural history. Dr. Fothergill was also quite impressed with drawings that William had made while on expedition with his father. Dr. Fothergill asked William to explore the southeastern colonies and to collect and preserve unique specimens of plants. William was to ship the plants to him in England along with drawings of some of the plants and animals that he discovered. He offered to pay William ₤50 per year plus his expenses and additional compensation for each drawing. William had failed at a recent business venture and was happy to have an opportunity to be paid to engage in the two pursuits he loved: botany and travel.
On his expedition, Bartram traveled through both the cities and wilderness of the Southeast. When he visited cities and towns, he always met the most important people of the day in those areas. Everyone was interested in his trip and eager to help him.
Bartram began his trip in March 1773 and did not return home until January 1777. The first year was spent mostly in coastal Georgia.
Perhaps to a grateful mind, there is no intellectual enjoyment, which regards human concerns, of a more excellent nature, than the remembrance of real acts of friendship. The heart expands at the pleasing recollection. (Travels, Chapter 1, page 15.)
After spending time on the coast, he decided to move inland. In 1774, he explored northern Florida and then returned to Charleston before heading north up the Savannah River to Augusta. Bartram spent much of his time in Georgia.
From Augusta, he launched his expedition to the mountains of north Georgia and North and South Carolina.
He then traveled through Alabama, northwestern Florida, Mississippi, and Louisiana before returning to Savannah, and then home to Pennsylvania. Once Bartram returned to Philadelphia in 1777, he never again traveled and remained at home for the rest of his life.
We are, all of us, subject to crosses and disappointments, but more especially the traveler; and when they surprise us, we frequently become restless and impatient under them: but let us rely on Providence, and by studying and contemplating the works and power of the Creator, learn wisdom and understanding in the economy of nature, and be seriously attentive to the divine monitor within. (Travels, Part II, Chapter 1, Page 55)