Tag Archives: Charles Willson Peale
Th: Jefferson presents his acknolegements to mr Perrein for the offer of his collection in Natural history [plant or animal specimens for observation]; but his pursuits in life having never permitted him to think for a moment of forming a museum himself, he cannot avail himself of mr Perrein’s proposition. on the contrary, whatever he recieves worth preservation he is in the habit of giving either to the Philosophical society or to mr Peale.
Thomas Jefferson to Jean Perrein, March 8, 1805
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
A wise leader can love something without taking it on.
Perrein knew Thomas Jefferson’s passion for natural history and offered his collection to establish a museum. The President declined, not out of lack of interest but knowing other responsibilities precluded his ever “forming a museum.”
Jefferson suggested two destinations for Perrein’s collection, both in Philadelphia. One recipient was the American Philosophical Society, the nation’s premier science organization. The other was Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827), founder of America’s foremost museum.
Of Lewis and Clark’s 300 plant and animal specimens delivered the following year, Jefferson kept a few for display at Monticello. The rest went to the Society or Peale’s museum. The Society still holds a major portion of Lewis and Clark’s original journals from their epic 1804-1806 adventure.
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NOTE: The link to Thomas Jefferson’s letter is subject to change by Founders’ Archive. It was accurate when this post was written. If the link is now wrong, search FoundersArchives.gov or call me. I’ll help you find it.
the articles which had been forwarded by capt Lewis … I am now packing up for you …
2. skins of the white hare
2. skeletons of do [ditto].
a skeleton of the small or borrowing wolf of the prairies
a male & female Blaireau [badger] … with the skeleton of the female
13. red fox skins
skins of the male & female antelope with their skeletons.
2. skins of the burrowing squirrel of the prairies
a living burrowing squirrel [prairie dog] of the prairies.
a living magpie
a dead one preserved.
these are the descriptive words of capt. Lewis.
To Charles Willson Peale, October 6, 1805
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Leaders need their own “kid in the candy store” moments.
When Jefferson’s Corps of Discovery (aka Lewis & Clark Expedition) headed west into the unknown in April 1805, Lewis sent all the specimens collected in their first year back to the President. Jefferson was probably beside himself with excitement when these arrived!
He examined all of them, kept a few to display at Monticello, and forwarded the rest to Philadelphia, where Peale could display them in his renowned museum.
Note several entries near the bottom of the list. The Corps captured several live prairie dogs and magpies to send east. One of each survived a journey of months and 1,500 miles to delight the nation’s premier naturalist.
In this 1822 self-portrait, Peale draws the curtain back to reveal some of the wonders of his museum.