Historical Markers
Lebanon County Historical Marker
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Lebanon County

Hershey/Gettysburg/Dutch Country Region


Marker Location:
County-Municipal Bldg., 400 S. 8th St., Lebanon

Dedication Date:
October 6, 1982

Behind the Marker

When the Corps of Discovery arrived in St. Louis after its epic twenty-eight month, 8,000 mile expedition west of the Mississippi, Lewis and Clark were greeted as long-lost heroes. As the explorers made their way back East, they were celebrated in every town, village, and city. Everyone wanted to hear - or to read - all about what they had seen and learned in the new American West.

The Travels of Capts. Lewis and Clark Sioux Queen and title page.
The Travels of Capts. Lewis and Clark Sioux Queen and title page
Newspapers eagerly printed details gleaned from letters of the newly returned heroes. The public learned that the intrepid explorers "have the appearance of Robinson Carusso, dressed entirely in buckskins"; that they had returned with a family of Mandan Indians; that the Indians on the Columbia River were "as the whites in any part of the U. S."; and that "They have kept an ample journal of their tour, which will be published and must afford much intelligence."

"Never did a similar event excite more joy through the United States," wrote Jefferson. "The humblest of its citizens had taken a lively interest in the issue of this journey, and looked forward with impatience for the information it would furnish."

The American public clamored for information about the expedition and the continent's hidden wonders. But it would take a year or more for the experts in Philadelphia to sort through the scientific findings, and for Lewis to edit the million words that he and Clark had written during the expedition. And the public wanted the information right now.

Seven members of the Corps of Discovery kept diaries: Lewis, Clark, Patrick Gass, John Ordway, Charles Floyd, Joseph Whitehouse, and Robert Frazer. After their return, it took less than a year for Pittsburgh bookseller David McKeehan to edit and publish markerPatrick Gass's Journal of the Voyages and Travels of a Corps of Discovery, the first book-length account of the Expedition. To sate the appetite of a curious - and uniformed - public, unscrupulous publishers released bogus accounts of the expedition, mixing materials that they had plagiarized and stolen from earlier travel diaries with their own fictions.

One of the more popular of these was The Travels of Capts. Lewis and Clarke by order of the Government of the United States, a 370-page fictionalized account published in 1809 that the unnamed author had plagiarized from Jonathan Carver's Travels Through the Interior Parts of North America in the Years 1766, 1767 and 1768 and Alexander Mackenzie's journal of his voyages through Canada - a book that had helped inspire Jefferson to mount the Lewis and Clark Expedition. To enhance its appeal, The Travels of Capts. Lewis and Clarke also included engravings of a bare and feathered "Sioux Queen" and "Sioux Warrior."

In the early 1800s many German-speaking Pennsylvanians were also eager to read about Lewis and Clark's adventures. Thirty cities and towns in Pennsylvania had German-language printers, one of whom, Jacob Stover of Lebanon, translated the anonymously written The Travels of Capts. Lewis and Clarke into German and in 1811 published it as Die reisen der Capitaine Lewis und Clarke: unternommen auf Befehl der Regierung der Vereinigten Staaten in den Jahren 1804, 1805, and 1806. That same year he also published a biography of Napoleon.

markerMeriwether Lewis took his own life in the fall of 1809. The official account of the Expedition, edited by Philadelphian markerNicholas Biddle, would not be published until 1814.
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