From the Trail to Monticello
Before they left Ft. Mandan in April 1805, Lewis and Clark packed up a shipment to send President Jefferson. It included Indian objects; animal skins, bones, and antlers; a live prairie dog, four magpies, and a grouse; and plant, soil, and mineral samples. The captains listed the contents on a packing list that they sent ahead of the shipment. The four boxes, two large trunks, and three cages arrived at the President's House in Washington in August while Jefferson was at Monticello; Etienne Lemaire, Jefferson's butler, wrote him that the shipment had come. Having eagerly anticipated its arrival, Jefferson sent instructions for unpacking and caring for the objects.
When Jefferson returned to Washington from Monticello in early October 1805, he annotated the packing list, noting which objects had come. Although we do not know the final destination of every object that arrived in Washington from Ft. Mandan, Jefferson sent material from the shipment to at least three different places: the Peale Museum, the American Philosophical Society, and Monticello.
Jefferson sent a live prairie dog and magpie and some of the animal skins, skeletons, and horns to Charles Willson Peale, the Philadelphia artist and museum impresario, for the Peale Museum, his public gallery of art and natural history. Peale would also receive later donations directly from Lewis and Clark. Jefferson included with Peale's shipment plant, soil, and mineral specimens for the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia.
Jefferson sent a third group of the objects from Lewis and Clark's shipment to Monticello in March 1806. This included elk, deer, antelope, and mountain sheep horns; otter and weasel skins; Indian pipes, leggings, bows, arrows, pottery, and notably, a painted buffalo robe depicting a battle scene. Included in this shipment as well was an Indian map on a hide representing the Missouri River and its tributaries between the Platte and the Yellowstone Rivers, which was sent to Jefferson by General James Wilkinson, governor of the Louisiana Territory.
Elizabeth V. Chew
Associate Curator of Collections, Monticello
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