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Inquiry Question

Historical Context



1 & 2

1a & 1b

Photos 2 & 3


Table of

Visual Evidence

Drawing 1: Shoshone smoking pipe. [Drawing 1] with link to larger version of drawing.
(American Philosophical Society)

Drawing 1 is from the Lewis and Clark journal entry for August 13, 1805. The entry describes the meeting of Lewis and his scouting party with the Lemhi Shoshones, including a vivid description of the pipe smoking ritual of friendship with a sketch of this unique pipe. To read about the ritual, please refer to Reading 4, Lemhi Shoshone: Customs.

Drawing 2: Fern leaf. [Drawing 2] with link to larger version of drawing.
(American Philosophical Society)

At Fort Clatsop, during early to mid February, Lewis and Clark took time to document the flora and fauna of the coastal region. Drawing 2 is from the Lewis and Clark journal entry for February 13, 1806. The entry describes in detail the "species of bryer which is common in this neighborhood of a green colour which grows most abundant," the large and small fern.

On February 27, 1803, President Jefferson confided in a letter to Benjamin Smith Barton, a physician and naturalist at the University of Pennsylvania, why he chose Lewis to head the expedition, saying that "It was impossible to find a character who to a compleat science in botany, natural history, mineralogy & astronomy, joined the firmness of constitution & character, prudence, habits adopted to the woods, & a familiarity with the Indian manners & character, requisite for this undertaking. . . . Altho' no regular botanist he possesses a remarkable store of accurate observation on all the subjects of the three kingdoms, & will therefore readily single out whatever presents itself new to him in either."

While the journey was motivated by political, diplomatic, and commercial ventures, it was a scientific endeavor as well. In preparing for the expedition, Jefferson called on his fellow members of the American Philosophical Society (the oldest learned society in the U.S. dedicated to furthering knowledge of the natural sciences as well as humanities) in Philadelphia to instruct him in natural sciences, astronomical navigation, and field medicine. Most of the Lewis and Clark journals include records of meteorological observations, of the geographic position of the Corps, and a narrative description of the events of the day and sights along the way. Both Lewis and Clark provide concise and often exacting descriptions of the flora and fauna, geography, and inhabitants of the western reaches of the Louisiana Territory. Both included rough sketches of items of interest, primarily plants, animals, or material goods associated with the Indians encountered.

Most appropriately, the manuscript journals kept by Lewis and Clark on their travels are housed at the American Philosophical Society. The journals constitute the major source of information on the transcontinental scientific expedition of the Corps of Discovery in 1804-1806. Drawings 1 & 2 are included as part of the collection.

Questions for Drawings 1 & 2

1. What reason did Jefferson provide in his letter as to why Lewis was chosen as head of the expedition? Based on the journal entries above, do you think his description was correct?

2. Read as much of the text surrounding Drawing 1 as you can. Note that not only was Lewis providing a drawing of the pipe, but he described in detail its features and explained how it was used in ritual. Why do you think it was important to document the customs of the Indians encountered on the expedition? Who might find this information useful?

3. Examine Drawing 2 and read the text surrounding the drawing. Why might it be important for Lewis and Clark to document something as mundane as a leaf?

4. During the course of the expedition, Lewis and Clark collected and identified nearly 400 species of flora and fauna--most new to science. However, the expedition is rarely discussed in terms of its scientific achievements. Why might the other goals of the expedition overshadow the scientific achievements?

5. Today the American Philosophical Society (APS) houses many of the illustrations compiled on this historic journey and the world-renowned journals kept by the pair. What is the mission of the APS? Do you think it appropriate that they protect and preserve the journals and illustrations? Why or why not?

* The images on this screen have a resolution of 72 dots per inch (dpi), and therefore will print poorly. You can obtain a larger version of Drawing 1 & Drawing 2, but be aware that each file will take as much as 50 seconds to load with a 28.8K modem.



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