Contributors to the Publication

Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and their assembly of adventurers returned as a whole (minus Charles Floyd, the only Corps member who died during the journey) to St. Louis on September 23, 1806. Congress awarded all the men double the pay they were promised along with land grants. After several galas and other celebrations honoring the men and their accomplishments, the Captains settled into new governmental positions. Lewis served as Governor of the Louisiana Territory, and Clark accepted the position of Indian Agent and Brigadier General for the Territory.

By 1807, Jefferson believed that Lewis had started to organize his notes and papers from his journal for publication. The captains had virtually identical journals, and in 1806 they jointly purchased the thoroughly kept journal of Sergeant John Ordway for $300 to integrate into their own (Moulton, 2003. p. xvi).

Jefferson envisioned the published work to be both an account of the journey and scientific analyses of plants and animals found along the way. The plant and animal specimens collected throughout the trip had been disseminated to various experts that Jefferson recruited to help analyze, draw, and categorize them.

Drawing of Clarkia Pulchella by Frederick Pursh

These experts included Dr. Benjamin Smith Barton, a respected botanist in Pennsylvania. Barton published many works that furthered the natural sciences in the United States at the turn of the nineteenth century. He was a member of the American Philosophical Society, where he became acquainted with Jefferson. Lewis and Clark collected many plants along their route, and sent them periodically to Jefferson throughout the expedition. Jefferson then passed the plants along to Barton for analysis and categorization.

Jefferson sent the astronomical observations to Ferdinand Rudolph Hassler, a respected mathematician, to correct the calculations and work on drawing maps of the territory covered. Hassler emigrated to the United States from Switzerland after studying science and mathematics in Germany. He taught at West Point Military Academy and was a professor there when Jefferson asked him to correct the observations that the explorers made of the night sky in order to make a map.

Noted artist Charles Willson Peale, acquainted with Jefferson through the American Philosophical Society and a mutual interest in the natural sciences, also assisted in the categorization and study of the plants and animals sent back by the Corps of Discovery. Peale maintained a museum in Philadelphia which would eventually house some of the items, and painted many of them to illustrate Lewis's proposed journal.

Unfortunately for Thomas Jefferson, Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and perhaps the public good, Lewis published a prospectus, but not a product by 1807. There was a journal from the voyage published, however. Sergeant Patrick Gass, who claimed his entire formal education occurred over a 19-day period after he joined the army (but prior to the expedition) published his record from the journey that year. Gass, realizing that his compositional skills lacked the polish needed to publish a book, recruited a Kentucky schoolteacher, David M'Keehan, to edit and publish his journal. M'Keehan published a prospectus concurrently with Lewis's search for subscribers to his journals. Lewis published a notice to readers of the Pittsburgh Gazette, as well as other newspapers, that M'Keehan's edition of Gass's journal would be inferior to his, and it would be in one's best interest to subscribe to Lewis's edition and not M'Keehan's. M'Keehan responded, and a notable press battle ensued. For all intents and purposes, M'Keehan won. He both beat Lewis to print, publishing a journal from the expedition in July 1807, and outsold the "official" journals when they were finally published in 1814. By that year, Gass's edition had already been translated to French and German, published in England and three more times in America, amounting to six editions of Gass's Journal published in six years. Images of the notices exchanged between the two men are contained in this collection.(Moulton, 2003, xiii)

No draft for a manuscript of Lewis's intended publication exists. Lewis committed suicide in Tennessee on his way to Washington, D.C. in October of 1809. Several months before his death, Lewis had visited Philadelphia and contracted with C. and A. Conrad and Company, to publish the journals. C. and A. Conrad led the publishing industry from the 1790s until 1807. The company suffered severe financial losses during the embargo of 1807-08 which prohibited certain exports. In November of 1809, John Conrad informed Jefferson of the contract made to publish Lewis's work. Jefferson assumed responsibility for the agreement and re-assigned the task of preparing the journals for publication to William Clark.

Clark, while educated, lacked superior writing abilities due to his frontier education. In February of 1810, Clark contacted a brilliant young lawyer named Nicholas Biddle. Biddle wrote for a literary magazine based in Philadelphia, The Port Folio, and had graduated from both the University of Pennsylvania and Princeton by the time he was 15. Clark asked Biddle to edit the journals, write a manuscript, and publish it. Clark, like Lewis, envisioned the journals published in two volumes, with a map sold separately. Initially, Biddle declined the request, explaining he had "neither health nor leisure to do sufficient justice to the fruits of [Clark's] enterprize and ingenuity." (Biddle to Clark, 3 March 1810). Barely three weeks later, however, Biddle again wrote Clark to accept the task. "Being unwilling to dissapoint you I was afraid of undertaking a work when I feared I might not be able to execute to my own or your satisfaction. Having since then seen Mr. Conrad & Dr. Barton, what I learnt from them, joined with a prospect of better health & more time than I had originally expected induced me to consent."(Biddle to Clark, 17 March 1810).

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