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John White was an English artist and early pioneer of English efforts to settle North America. He was among those who sailed with Richard Grenville to the shore of present-day North Carolina in 1585, acting as artist and mapmaker to the expedition. During his time at Roanoke Island he made a number of watercolor sketches of the surrounding landscape and the native Algonkin peoples. These works are significant as they are the most informative illustrations of a Native American society of the Eastern seaboard; the surviving original watercolors are now stored in the print room of the British Museum. In 1587, White became governor of Sir Walter Raleigh's failed attempt at a permanent settlement on Roanoke Island, known to history as the "Lost Colony." This was the earliest effort to establish a permanent English colony in the New World. White's granddaughter Virginia Dare was the first English child born in the Western Hemisphere. After the failure of the colony, White retired to Raleigh's estates in Ireland, reflecting upon the "evils and unfortunate events" which had ruined his hopes in America, though never giving up hope that his daughter and granddaughter were still alive.

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