Why is There a Philadelphia Chapter?
From Start to Finish in Philadelphia
From 1804 to 1806, Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark led
a group of soldiers and boatmen on an epic journey of exploration through
the newly-acquired Louisana Territory. President Thomas Jefferson commissioned
this "Corps of Discovery" to find a route to the Pacific Ocean.
As they ventured into what was the unknown, Lewis and Clark mapped the
land, recorded scienticic data, kept detailed journals, and made contact
with numerous Native American tribes. Their successful journey changed
the map of the United States, opened much of the West to trade and settlement,
and furnished new knowledge about the continent and native peoples.
This extraordinary adventure actually began in the spring of 1803
when Meriwether Lewis came to the Philadelphia area for specialized
training and to purchase books, supplies and equipment. First arriving
in Lancaster, he studied under Bucks County native Andrew Ellicott,
the famous astronomer, mathematician and surveyor. While in Philadelphia,
Lewis met with some of America's leading experts in botany and anatomy
such as his medical advisor, Dr. Benjamin Rush, signer of the Declaration
of Independence. At the conclusion of the expedition, Lewis returned
to Philadelphia in 1807 with the journals and maps to be published.
In addition, the zoological and ethnological specimens were turned over
to artist Charles Willson Peale's museum in Independence Hall.
Today, the Philadelphia area is home to many of the artifacts and points
of interest related to the Corps of Discovery: The American Philosophical
Society, near Independence Hall, where the original diaries are preserved;
The Academy of Natural Sciences where over 200 plant specimens collected
by the explorers are housed; The Andrew Ellicott House in Lancaster
where Lewis learned to use the chronometer and sextant.