Philadelphia Chapter Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation

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Essays on the city of Philadelphia's role in the Expedition and full-length articles about Lewis's mentors


Contributions of Philadelphia to Lewis and Clark History
Part I-- Prelude (1803)

by Paul Russell Cutright

2. The Mission of Meriwether Lewis in Philadelphia

The United States Congress, early in 1803, approved President Thomas Jefferson's request to send "an intelligent officer with ten or twelve chosen men fit for the enterprise" (1) to explore the trans-Mississippi West. Jefferson chose Captain Meriwether Lewis, his personal secretary at the time, to head the expedition, and instructed him to leave for Philadelphia at once. Lewis's mission to that city was two-fold; one, to assemble necessary supplies and equipment for the expedition, and two, to call upon important scientists who would provide him with "a greater familiarity with the technical language of the natural sciences, and a readiness in the astronomical observations necessary for the geography of his route." (2) (1) Thwaites, Reuben Gold, Original Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition (New York, 1904-05), VII, 208. (2) Coues, Elliot, Ed., History of the Expedition Under the Command of Lewis and Clark (New York, 1893), I, xxii.
Continued in 3. President Jefferson writes to five mentors about instructing Lewis


Updated October 15, 2001