National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Born Kennett Square, Pennsylvania
Exotically posed here in Bedouin costume, Bayard Taylor, the son of a sober Philadelphia Quaker family, was the first great American travel writer. By the 1820s, as the nation settled and prospered, Americans turned outward, becoming travelers and tourists to both the Old World and the new territories in the Pacific. Encountering new vistas with the eyes of the young nation, individuals' travel accounts filled the newspapers as Americans became avid consumers of news from elsewhere. Taylor was among the most peripatetic of these writer-journalists and was unusual because he wrote many of his travelogues in verse, a style that only added to his romantic allure. In 1853 he joined Commodore Matthew C. Perry in his mission to Japan and recorded his adventures in Poems of the Orient (1854), which included his most famous work, "The Bedouin's Song."
(Berry-Hill Galleries, New York); purchased 1976 NPG