Bryant Birthday Card
William Cullen Bryant’s 75th Birthday Card
Eliza Maria Judkins
William Cullen Bryant Collection, 1794-1926, The Trustees
William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878) stands among the most celebrated figures in 19th Century America. He was a well-known poet, the editor-in-chief of the New York Evening Post, and a powerful voice on issues ranging from slavery to the public parks movement. One of the treasures at The Trustees Archive and Research Center is this birthday card sent to Bryant for his 75th birthday in 1869. On the front is a vibrant color drawing of a leaf, created by the Boston artist Eliza Maria Judkins (1809-1887) who was known for her crayon portraits.
Bryant wrote to Judkins to thank her: “My dear Madam, Your beautiful gift, the autumn leaf reached me here on the evening of my birth day at the close of my seventy fifth year a mild and genial day. You have drawn and colored it with a skill really marvelous. I had to pass my fingers over it to be certain that it was not a real leaf fastened to paper.”
Until recently, Bryant scholars thought the card had been lost; a footnote in a volume of Bryant’s correspondence published in 1992 stated, “Neither her sketch nor a covering letter has been recovered.” The Trustees are the proud stewards of this card, along with hundreds of other birthday greetings in our Bryant Collection.