John Bartram was born on March 23, 1699, near Darby, Pa. He spent his youth farming, which may have sparked his interest in plants. His attempts to learn botany by purchasing books brought him to the attention of some Philadelphians, most notably James Logan, who encouraged him in the more systematic pursuit of that science. In 1728 Bartram purchased a plot of ground near Kingsessing, just below Philadelphia on the Schuylkill River, where he laid out a botanical garden and built a stone house. This garden, which survives in part to this day, was a mecca for visiting botanists throughout his lifetime and afterward.
Bartram made several long-range collecting expeditions, some of them financed partly by European naturalists. He traveled 1100 miles across the Blue Ridge Mountains in 1738, explored the Catskill Mountains in 1755, and in 1760 traveled through the Carolinas. He was, however, forced to farm and to practice medicine locally in order to support his large family. Only in 1765, when Collinson got him an appointment as botanist to the king, was he assured of a steady income of any sort. Bartram was very honest and blunt, and he told Collinson that the £50 he was to receive for the post was not enough