Sunday, May 15, 2005

Lewis and Clark Arrive in St. Louis

Lewis and Clark Arrive in St. Louis

Lewis and Clark Arrive in St. Louis (2001)

From the Lewis and Clark Trail Guide:

From December 1803 - May 1904, Lewis journeyed into St. Louis for research and supplies, while Clark screened, hired, and trained additional men at their winter fort, Camp Wood ("Camp River Dubois") which was across the river in Illinois territory, and on the banks of the Mississippi. The area was inhabited by about a thousand French Canadians and migrants from Tennessee and Kentucky, many of whom constituted the engag├ęs, or the 12 professional crewman who regularly made a living on such journeys. Hiring, training, and disciplining them was no easy task.


Since it was at the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, St. Louis was an ideal trade center on the frontier. Rivers functioned as highways and railroads of the early 19th century, delivering goods to and from settlers who were rapidly exploiting rich natural resources. During their stay at Camp Wood, both Lewis and Clark ventured into St. Louis for supplies and research, and after the expedition, made their homes here (likely the lawn around the arch). From March 7-9, 1804, Lewis here witnessed the formal transfer of the land he would explore to the United States.

As an outpost of French civilization, the small but urbane town of St. Louis was doing fairly well when Meriwether Lewis and William Clark arrived at the end of 1803 to prepare for their voyage of exploration. Townspeople wined and dined the two that winter, then sent them on their way up the Missouri River. Their return from the Pacific in 1806 produced more festivities.

A century later, with St. Louis the fourth largest city in the United States, events that had led to the nation's ocean-to-ocean expansion were celebrated with the glittering Louisiana Purchase Exposition, better known as the 1904 World's Fair.

The fair, which featured a giant, 2,160-seat Ferris wheel, introduced to a wide public such American standards as Dr Pepper, ice cream cones, iced tea, Buster Brown shoes, and Borax's 20-mule team. The aged Geronimo signed autographs for 10 cents each, and the young Will Rogers twirled his rope and told jokes. "Meet Me in St. Louis, Louis" seemed the most modern and romantic thing to do, never mind that the song was conceived in New York.

This image imagines the explorers' arrival on a cold winter day. Their amazing journey has only just begun...

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