American traveler : the life and adventures of John Ledyard, the man who dreamed of walking the world /
James Zug.
New York : BasicBooks, 2005.
xviii, 286 p., [12] p. of plates : ill., maps, ports. ; 25 cm.
More Details
New York : BasicBooks, 2005.
catalogue key
Includes bibliographical references (p. 239-272) and index.
A Look Inside
About the Author
BIH Author Biography
James Zug is the author of the award-winning Squash: A History of the Game. He has written for The Atlantic Monthly and Outside. He holds an MFA in nonfiction writing from Columbia and a BA from Dartmouth, where he first became acquainted with legendary alumnus John Ledyard. He lives with his wife and son in Washington, DC.
Flap Copy
Called a "man of genius" by his close friend Thomas Jefferson, John Ledyard led, by any standard, a remarkable life. Between his birth to a sea captain's family in Connecticut in 1751 and his death along the Nile in Cairo in 1789, he became the original American explorer. Abandoning his studies at Dartmouth-then a fledgling school on the New England frontier-he carved a dugout canoe and paddled 140 miles down the Connecticut River. He sailed with Captain Cook on his third and last voyage, becoming the first American to see Alaska, Hawaii, and the Pacific Northwest. Twenty years before Lewis and Clark, he and Jefferson conceived the idea of walking around the world, including hiking across North America. Fifteen months into his around-the-world trek, he was arrested in deepest Siberia on the orders of Catherine the Great and escorted back to the Polish border. Ledyard formed fur-trading companies with John Paul Jones and Robert Morris, cadged money from Lafayette, persuaded Sir Joseph Banks's African Association to send him to find the source of the Niger River, and wrote a definitive account of the epic Cook voyage and Cook's infamous death in Hawaii. Combining rich scholarship-including newly discovered letters and official documents-with riveting storytelling, American Traveler conjures up the mad, romantic American adventurer in fabled cities with fascinating friends. Whether skiing through Lapland in the dead of winter, basking in Tahiti's endless summer, or mingling with the brightest lights in Paris society, Ledyard blended the intellectual curiosity of the Enlightenment with a unique enthusiasm about other cultures. He was a Ben Franklin with wanderlust, an immensely influential man who traveled farther than any American before him and who pioneered a distinctly American archetype: the restless, visionary explorer.
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2005-03-14:
By the time he was 37, Ledyard (1751-1788) had sailed across the South Pacific, befriended Thomas Jefferson, challenged a Russian governor to a duel in Siberia and become the first U.S. citizen to touch North America's western coast. Zug (Squash: A History of the Game) vividly renders Ledyard's remarkable life in this brisk, exciting book. After failing as a divinity student at Dartmouth, Ledyard fled to the sea, eventually volunteering to serve on what would be the legendary Captain Cook's final voyage. It was an eventful trip: Ledyard got a tattoo in Tonga and venereal disease in Tahiti, and helped slaughter natives in Hawaii. Later, still poor, Ledyard drifted to Paris and socialized with Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and the Marquis de Lafayette. They encouraged Ledyard's wildest scheme: to walk across the world, from Europe to America. The failure of this quest ended by czarist police in Siberia prompted Ledyard to volunteer for an even more quixotic expedition, into Africa. It was there that he met a bleak, anonymous ending in Cairo, dogged by disease and, Zug suggests, a life of disappointment and hardship. Zug draws on many primary sources, including Ledyard's journals and letters. A shameless self-promoter, an enterprising and original American, Ledyard is superbly resurrected in this stirring, tragic tale. Photos. Agent, Joe Regal. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Appeared in Choice on 2005-12-01:
John Ledyard was born in Connecticut (1751), educated at Dartmouth College (though a dropout), joined the third voyage of Captain Cook to circumnavigate the world (and to search for the Northwest Passage), and with Thomas Jefferson conceived the idea of walking the world! In fact he did walk much of it, making one journey from Hamburg via Scandinavia to Yakutsk in eastern Siberia, then returning to Konigsberg in a two-year venture. Ledyard formed fur-trading companies, helped establish the China trade, sought the source of the Niger in West Africa, wrote one of the definitive accounts of Cook's third voyage, lived a life full of adventure, and died in Cairo, Egypt, at the age of 37. He left behind an abundance of letters and journals that have enabled others to write tracts and books on the person who has sometimes been described as America's first explorer. Zug includes maps, illustrations, sources, and notes in a very readable and pleasantly produced book. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. All levels/libraries. G. J. Martin emeritus, Southern Connecticut State University
This item was reviewed in:
Kirkus Reviews,
Booklist, February 2005
Publishers Weekly, March 2005
New York Times Book Review, April 2005
Wall Street Journal, April 2005
Choice, December 2005
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Unpaid Annotation
In lively prose, journalist Zug tells the riveting story of John Ledyard, the uniquely American pioneer who, among other things, accompanied Captain Cook on his last voyage; befriended Jefferson, Lafayette, and Thomas Paine in Paris; and was the first American citizen to see Alaska, Hawaii, and the West Coast of America.
Main Description
Called a "man of genius" by his close friend Thomas Jefferson, John Ledyard lived, by any standard, a remarkable life. In his thirty-eight years, he accompanied Captain Cook on his last voyage; befriended Jefferson, Lafayette, and Tom Paine in Paris; was the first American citizen to see Alaska, Hawaii, and the west coast of America; and set out to find the source of the Niger by traveling from Cairo across the Sahara. His greatest dream, concocted with Jefferson, was to travel alone around the world and cross the American continent from the Pacific Northwest to the Atlantic. Catherine the Great dashed that dream when she had him arrested in deepest Siberia and escorted back to the Polish border. Ledyard wrote the definitive account of Cook's last voyage and his death at the hands of Hawaiian islanders, and formed a company with John Paul Jones that launched the American fur trade in the Pacific Northwest.Before the Revolution, Americans by and large didn't travel great distances, rarely venturing west of the Appalachians. Ledyard, with his boundless enthusiasm and wide-ranging intellect, changed all that. In lively prose, journalist James Zug tells the riveting story of this immensely influential character -a Ben Franklin with wanderlust-a uniquely American pioneer.
Bowker Data Service Summary
The riveting story of John Ledyard, an American pioneer and influential character, describes the remarkable travels of the 18th century New Englander who accompanied Captain Cook on his final voyage, attempted to locate the source of the Niger River, dreamed of traveling solo around the world, and became the first American to see Alaska.
Table of Contents
Prologuep. XIII
Ocean's Briny Waves-A Connecticut Childhoodp. 1
Saucy Enough-Dartmouthp. 9
Before the Mast-A Sailor and a Marinep. 25
Their Native Courage-Shipping with Captain Cookp. 35
Dancing Through Life-Polynesiap. 51
Soothed a Homesick Heart-The Search for the Northwest Passagep. 73
Grief on Every Countenance-Death on the Beachp. 91
Not Short of Mutiny-Coming Homep. 107
Crooked Billet-Chasing the Fur Tradep. 117
Bought for a Bagatelle-An American in Parisp. 139
More Shirts than Shillings-Walking the Worldp. 161
Double Relish-Siberiap. 183
Common Flag of Humanity-Banishedp. 203
I Go Alone-Grand Cairop. 219
Epiloguep. 229
Acknowledgmentsp. 237
A Note on Sourcesp. 239
Notesp. 245
Creditsp. 273
Indexp. 275
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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