Stories from PA History
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Lewis and Clark in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania played a major role in the history of the Lewis & Clark Expedition. Meriwether Lewis studied for the expedition and purchased his equipment in Philadelphia, started his journey in Pittsburgh, and deposited his journals and most of his specimens for study, publication, and display in the City of Brotherly Love, home to the nation's first museum of natural history.

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Overview: Lewis and Clark
Chapter One: Study and Supply
Chapter Two: Setting Out
Chapter Three: Documenting the Expedition

Historical Markers In the Story
marker icon Andrew Ellicott (1754-1820) (Lancaster) marker icon Benjamin Rush [Lewis and Clark] (Philadelphia)
marker icon Benjamin Smith Barton (1766 -1815) (Philadelphia) marker icon Caspar Wistar (1761-1818) (Philadelphia)
marker icon Charles Willson Peale (Philadelphia) marker icon Fort Lafayette (Allegheny)
marker icon Lebanon County (Lebanon) marker icon Meriwether Lewis (1774-1809) (Philadelphia)
marker icon Nicholas Biddle (1786-1844) (Philadelphia) marker icon Patrick Gass (Franklin)
marker icon Pennsylvania Rifle (Lancaster) marker icon Pittsburgh [Lewis and Clark] (Allegheny)
marker icon Robert Patterson (1743 -1824) (Philadelphia) marker icon Schuylkill Arsenal (Philadelphia)
marker icon The Woodlands (Philadelphia)

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Story Bibliography

Original Documents
icon full text President Thomas Jefferson's Instructions to Captain Meriwether Lewis, June 20, 1803
icon full text Meriwether Lewis to Thomas Jefferson, Wheeling, September 8, 1803.
icon full text Thomas Jefferson's letter to Benjamin Rush, February 28, 1803
icon full text Meriwether Lewis to Thomas Jefferson, Pittsburgh, July 22, 1803.
icon full text Meriwether Lewis to Thomas Jefferson March 26, 1804.
icon full text Meriwether Lewis to Thomas Jefferson, Fort Mandan Packing List, April 7, 1805.
icon full text Letter from Meriwether Lewis to the public warning about unofficial accounts of the Expedition, March 14, 1807.
icon full text Letter from Bernard McMahon to Meriwether Lewis, April 5, 1807

1801 The 26-year old Meriwether Lewis is appointed correspondence secretary to President Jefferson.
1801 President Thomas Jefferson reads the newly published account of Scottish explorer Alexander Mackenzie's crossing over the Canadian Rockies.
1803 Jefferson proposes an Expedition "to the Western Ocean" to the U.S. Congress in a confidential message.
1803 Lewis in Pittsburgh returning from the Great Lakes, receives and accepts Jefferson's invitation to lead the Expedition
1803 Lewis visits Lancaster, PA and is trained by astronomer and surveyor Andrew Ellicott to learn the plotting of latitude and longitude for purposes of mapmaking.
1803 Lewis continues training in Philadelphia with Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Smith Barton, Robert Patterson, and Caspar Wistar.
1803 Conestoga wagon filled with supplies purchased for the Expedition leaves Philadelphia for Pittsburgh.
1803 The Louisiana Purchase publicly announced in Washington, D.C. Jefferson gives Lewis his final instructions and a letter of credit.
1803 - Lewis leaves Washington, D.C. for Pittsburgh, first stopping at Harpers Ferry, VA before traveling on to Western Pennsylvania.
1803 Lewis arrives in Pittsburgh to purchase his 55-foot keelboat, still under construction.
1803 The keelboat is completed in Pittsburgh and the journey down the Ohio River to the Mississippi River begins.
1803 Lewis arrives in Louisville, Kentucky and joins William Clark and his men to continue the Expedition.
1804 The expedition sets off up the Missouri River from Camp Dubois, Illinois. William Clark and Patrick Gass both write their first journal entries.
1805 The keelboat sets off back down the Missouri from Fort Mandan, filled with eight men and a collection of specimens and artifacts for President Jefferson.
1805 Lewis arrives at the Pacific Ocean near what is now Seaview, Washington. One week earlier, on the Columbia River Estuary, Clark wrote: "Great joy in camp we are in view of the Ocian this great Pacific Ocean which we been so long anxious to See. and the roreing or noise made by the waves braking on the rockey shores…"
1806 The Expedition returns down to Missouri River. Three days later they "arrive in Saint Louis to cheers of 1,000 "
1807 Lewis returns to Philadelphia and Philadelphia publisher John Conrad issues a prospectus for a three-volume work promised within one year.
1807 Publication of Patrick Gass" Journal of the Voyages and Travels of a Corps of Discovery.
1809 Lewis commits suicide near Nashville, Tennessee.
1810 Clark sits for his portrait by Charles Willson Peale, who attempts to convince him to editor the Expedition's journals. Clark convinces Nicholas Biddle to accept the assignment two months later.
1814 The History of the Expedition Under the Command of Captains Lewis and Clark, including the first detailed map of the American West, is published in Philadelphia. Frederick Pursh's Florae Americae Spectentrionalis, describing plants collected by Lewis and Clark is published in London.
1870 Death of Patrick Gass, the last surviving member of the Corps of Discovery.
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