Key Text: Travels into North America

In Swedish-Finnish Peter (sometimes referred to as Pehr) Kalm's Travels into North America; Containing its Natural History, and a Circumstantial Account of its Plantations and Agriculture in General, with the Civil, Ecclesiastical and Commercial State of the Country, the Manners of the Inhabitants, and Several Curious and Important Remarks on Various Subjects, he provides extensive details about the geographic landmarks of the United States and the Caribbean, as well as of the many species that inhabited those spaces. Kalm, an explorer, botanist, and agricultural economist, gives a comprehensive account of flora and fauna in his travels. Although he makes note of many species in his account, he was partial to birds—his book features numerous engravings of multiple species of birds; this image includes the mockingbird, sparrow, and robin.

Kalm's narrative also included accounts of the enslaved and indigenous people within discussions of both botany and plantation histories. Perhaps influenced by his scientific background, he often uses similar measures and methods to discuss the people as he does to discuss the natural histories. While he did not always approach them with humanity in his records of natural history, it should be noted that unlike many of his contemporaries, he took a strong stance against slavery overall. In fact, Kalm called for the death penalty for all slave masters that murdered or imposed severe cruelty on their slaves.

Kalm's Travels was originally published in London in 1771, and saw republication there in 1772. It was later published in partial form in his native Norwegian language as Resa til Norra America, the version that is the direct source of these images. Kalm's Travels into North America can be found in our archives in vol. one and vol. two.

Images from Peter Kalm's 1772 Travels in North America are courtesy of The John Carter Brown Library.