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

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.


Updated August 26, 2001