the things from Marseilles are at New York and may soon be expected at Washington. be so good as to have particular care taken of the squirrel & pie which came with the things from Baltimore that I may see them alive at my return. should any accident happen to the squirrel his skin & skeleton must be preserved.
Thomas Jefferson to Etienne Lemaire, August 17, 1805
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Little things can give leaders great delight.
Lemaire was Jefferson’s steward or butler at the President’s House in Washington City. Writing from Monticello, the President gave instructions for the care of specimens sent by Meriwether Lewis and arriving soon in the nation’s capital. Lewis had shipped these specimens south in April from the Mandan villages on the northern Dakota plains, where he and William Clark had wintered with the men of the Corps of Discovery. These were the items the Corps had collected in 1804 as they journeyed up the Missouri River from St. Louis to the Mandans.
Jefferson gave instructions on how to protect the “skins & furs” from “the worm-fly” and the rest of the goods from the “rats & mice.” Lemaire was to take “particular care” of the “squirrel & pie,” the prairie dog and magpies captured alive and sent to the President. If the prairie dog did not survive, “his skin & skeleton” must be preserved.
The prairie dog and one of the four magpies survived the journey, and Jefferson saw them upon his return to Washington in early October. He sent them on to Philadelphia to become part of Charles Willson Peale’s natural history museum.