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Lewis and Clark Home Lewis and Clark Home
THE GEOGRAPHY OF THE LEWIS & CLARK EXPEDITION
Geography Exhibit—>  locations   thumbnails

"The object of your mission is to explore the Missouri river, and such principal streams of it, as, by its course and communication with the waters of the Pacific ocean, whether the Columbia, Oregan, Colorado, or any other river, may offer the most direct and practicable water-communication across the continent, for the purposes of commerce.”

Thomas Jefferson to Meriwether Lewis, 1803 Jun 20

The Lewis & Clark expedition was a cartographic expedition with three objectives: Find a Northwest Passage via the Missouri River; Map the territory; and Determine the nature and extent of the Missouri River Basin. The best maps of Western North America available at the time were distinguished by a large blank area between the Yellowstone River and the Columbia River on the Pacific Coast. On one map, carried by Lewis and Clark, the area was labeled "conjectural."

William Clark was the cartographer of the expedition and the results of his efforts were spectacular. The map published in the first edition of the Lewis & Clark journals was a landmark of North American cartography. It accurately depicted, not only the route of the expedition, but delineated much of the West beyond the Missouri River Basin. With this map Lewis and Clark drew the big picture of the Transmississippi West. The details of this picture were filled in throughout the 19th century by artists and photographers.

This exhibit presents selected images of locations along the Missouri River which were important in the course of expedition. Many of these places had a history before Lewis and Clark and, indeed played roles in the subsequent events along the river and in the West. The images are drawn from the works of 19th century artists George Catlin, Karl Bodmer, Alfred Edward Mathews, John Mix Stanley and Gustave Sohon. Each location is described in text from the Lewis & Clark Journals along with notes on its subsequent history and the later prints. They are accompanied by contemporary photographs which reveal that while many of these places are clearly reconizable today, the hand of man has lain heavily on others.

Maps from the 1814 edition of the journals are presented through the kindness and generosity of Cartography Associates and the David Rumsey Map Collection. Those interested in historic map collections are encouraged to visit the David Rumsey Map Collection at www.davidrumsey.com.

Images of Karl Bodmer's prints are presented with the gracious permission of the Yale Collection of Western Americana. These and other treasure can be seen in the Digital Images Online portion of the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library Site at www.library.yale.edu/beinecke/.

Credits:
Alice M. Cornell
Linda Newman
Dustin Montgomery