Department of Parks
John James Audubon Museum To Display Rare Copper Plate
HENDERSON, Ky. – A rare copper plate used to produce a book of John James Audubon’s art work will go on display Sept. 25 at John James Audubon State Park in Henderson.
The plate, one of 79 of the original 435 known to exist, was purchased with private funds by the Friends of Audubon organization for the park’s museum. The plate was engraved by Robert Havell in 1836 and was used to produce the American Bittern print, #337, for Audubon’s Birds of America Double Elephant Folio.
The Friends of Audubon purchased the plate from a family that had owned it for more than 80 years.
In 1870, Audubon’s widow, Lucy, was desperate for money and sold the copper plates from her late husband’s work for scrap metal after years of failed attempts to sell them as art. It had long been assumed that the American Bittern plate was among those that had been melted down.
A member of the Whitelaw Reid family in New York State contacted the museum earlier this year to see if the museum was interested in the plate. According to museum curator Alan Gehret, the family wanted to see this important historical artifact in a museum where it could be enjoyed by others and preserved. The family’s first choice was the Audubon Museum because of its national recognition and reputation.
The Friends of Audubon paid $110,000 for the copper plate. The family agreed to sell the plate for less than its fair market value and in turn received a charitable contribution deduction for the donation.
In 2002 the Friends of Audubon and the Preston Foundation purchased the museum’s first Audubon plate, #308 of the Greater Yellow-legs. It was recently featured in the PBS American Masters film, “Audubon: Drawn from Nature.”
The copper plate will go on exhibit at the Audubon Museum with an opening reception on Sept. 25. The reception will begin at with a showing of the film Audubon: Drawn from Nature followed by the unveiling of the plate.
John James Audubon State Park has a museum, nature center, cottages, campground, hiking trails, 9-hole golf course, picnic shelters and year round programming. The park is located on U.S. 41 in the northern outskirts of Henderson, half a mile south of the U.S. 41 bridge over the Ohio River. For information, call 1-270-826-2247.
The Kentucky State Park System is composed of 53 state parks plus an interstate park shared with Virginia. The Department of Parks, an agency of the Commerce Cabinet, operates 17 resort parks with lodges -- more than any other state. Each year, Kentucky parks draw 7 million visitors and contribute $317 million to the economy. For more information on Kentucky parks, visit our Web site at http://www.parks.ky.gov