Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Silver Dollar
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 a Native American 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 Native American 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.