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Drawing of a Little Owl, c. 1733
Drayton Hall Raises $350,000 for Rare Historic Watercolors

Drayton Hall Raises $350,000 for Rare Historic Watercolors
Donors Inspire Others with Matching Gift

Charleston, South Carolina, October 26, 2011 — In late 2010, the Executive Director of Drayton Hall, Dr. George W. McDaniel, received a phone call from the patriarch of the Drayton family, Charles H. “Charlie” Drayton III. Charlie owned a rare collection of 21 watercolors by famed British ornithologist George Edwards that had been in the family since John Drayton (1715-1779), the builder of Drayton Hall, had purchased them in 1733. Charlie felt strongly that the works needed to “come home” to Drayton Hall, and Dr. McDaniel agreed. To help with the acquisition, Ben and Cindy Lenhardt, longtime supporters of the historic house museum, offered a challenge gift: they would match funds raised dollar for dollar up to $150,000 in order to ensure that the rare birds would become part of Drayton Hall’s Historic Collections.

Purchased in 1733 by eighteen-year-old John Drayton, the watercolors are evidence of the cross cultural exchange between Charleston and Europe in the 18th century, and the refinement and intellect of the founder of Drayton Hall. The watercolors remained in the Drayton family for over two centuries, and were rediscovered in Charlotta Drayton’s attic at 25 East Battery Street after her death in 1969. First attributed to John Drayton himself, art historians soon recognized the works as belonging to the Father of British Ornithology, George Edwards (1694-1773), whose subscribers included Benjamin Franklin, William Bartram, and Sir Hans Sloane.

The story of the rare watercolors combined with the impact of the challenge gift, so resonated in Charleston and among the members in the Friends of Drayton Hall across the country, that Drayton Hall raised over and above the $150,000 needed to meet the Lenhardt’s challenge in a period of just three months. These additional funds will be added to a Historic Collections Fund that will assist with future acquisitions. Said McDaniel: “Without the Lenhardt’s leadership, it would have been much more difficult, particularly in the current economy, for us to reach our fundraising goal.”

About George Edwards, the Father of British Ornithology
George Edwards was born in Stratford, Essex, to a middle-class family. Following his early schooling and a seven-year apprenticeship in business, Edwards left England for mainland Europe where he traveled extensively and became an expert in drawing natural history specimens. Such works were highly desired by wealthy collectors, such as Sir Hans Sloane, the president of the Royal Society and the Royal College of Physicians. Sloane quickly became Edwards’s most significant patron and appointed him as the Bedell of the College of Physicians in 1733.

Edwards’s first publication, entitled A Natural History of Uncommon Birds, was printed in four volumes between 1743 and 1751, and the three volumes of his subsequent work, Gleanings of Natural History, were published in 1758, 1760, and 1764. In total, Edwards produced seven volumes containing 362 etchings and comprehensive descriptions detailing recently identified natural specimens collected from the expanding British Empire.

Prior to publishing his engraved works, Edwards completed watercolors during the process of studying natural history specimens. A collection of 48 Edwards watercolors were acquired by the 18-year-old planter John Drayton in 1733. Such works, completed ten years before the published etchings of the artist, are some of the oldest of their type to survive in North America. One of the only comparable assemblages exists as part of Sir Hans Sloane’s collection in the British Library.