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.