Of all the inventions that Thomas Alva Edison worked on during his 60-year career, the light bulb was one of the hardest. His light bulb burned a little wire called a "filament" to make light...but every material he tried to use just burned up too quickly.
But Edison was a born inventor, curious and hard-working. His recipe for genius was "one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration." After many trials and thousands of notes, he found that the best filament for his light bulb was a specially treated cotton thread. Even that filament burned for only a few hours in 1879...but with more work, light bulb filaments were made to last for hundreds of hours each, lighting homes and cities around the world. Today, cities glowing with Edison's light can be seen from outer space!
Edison created or helped refine probably more modern wonders than any other one person. The work that sprang from his Menlo Park, New Jersey, lab earned him the nickname "the Wizard of Menlo Park." This commemorative coin honors Edison for his outstanding work.
Want to try your own skills at the new game Inventor's Challenge? You could be the next Edison!
In 1803, President Thomas Jefferson purchased the vast area called "Louisiana" and asked his 27-year-old secretary, Meriwether Lewis, to form an expedition to check out this new land. Lewis invited his friend William Clark to co-lead the expedition.
In May of 1804, the Lewis and Clark expedition of about 50 men left St. Louis, Missouri, calling themselves "the Corps of Discovery." Over the following two and a half years, thirty-three of the explorers not only reached the Pacific Ocean and returned, but kept detailed journals of all the plants, animals, lands, and peoples they met with along the way. Lewis and Clark's expedition opened a new chapter in the history of the growth of the United States.
Lewis and Clark and their "Corps of Discovery" are American heroes, and their expedition was a triumph for the young United States. What a model of harmony the Corps of Discovery is for America today, as an American Indian woman, an African-American man, and dozens of mixed-heritage soldiers all worked together to make their mission succeed. They not only mapped a route across the continent to the Pacific Ocean, but made friends with and learned about the Indian nations along their route.
Part of making friends meant giving gifts like blue beads, iron tools, flags, and uniforms...but above all, silver "peace medals," stamped with the sign of peace that everyone knows: hands clasped in friendship. Presidents had given such medals before, and presidents after continued to give them through most of that century. You can learn more about Peace Medals here.
To celebrate that adventure of 200 years ago, a new commemorative silver dollar has been created. Donna Weaver, one of the sculptor/engravers at the United States Mint, created the coin's designs.
On the front, captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark stand on a stream bank planning another day of travel and exploration.
The design on the back includes two feathers and seventeen stars, symbols that also appear in the insignia of the National Council of the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial, the group sponsoring the coin along with the National Park Service. The feathers stand for the many American Indian cultures that the explorers met; the seventeen stars are for the number of states in the Union in 1804 and during the journey.
A circle in the center surrounds the design used on Jefferson's Peace Medal. In addition to the symbolic handshake of peace, the Peace Medal design shows a pipe crossed with a tomahawk and the motto "Peace and Friendship."
Are you a good explorer like Lewis and Clark? Try the Lewis and Clark Adventure on the Games page and find out!
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