During Alexander Wilson's lifetime, he earned his living with a variety of occupations. He was at various times a weaver, a peddler, an engraver, schoolteacher, surveyor, editor and ornithologist. However, the one activity that was a constant throughout his working years was writing. As he sat at his loom or tramped Scottish byways bearing a peddler's pack, he composed poems. As a schoolteacher, he wrote an oration celebrating the election of Thomas Jefferson as third president of the United States. Traveling thousands of miles on ornithological research, he not only wrote about birds, but also wrote about the places he visited. Remarkably, from his popular Scottish poems to his lively descriptions in American Ornithology, there is no indication of the fact that Wilson's formal education ended when he was thirteen and was apprenticed to a weaver.