2004 37¢ Meriwether Lewis
Issue Date: May 14, 2004
City: Astoria, OR and various cities
Printed By: Ashton-Potter (USA) Ltd
Printing Method: Lithographed, engraved
Perforations: Serpentine die cut 10 ½ x 10 ¾
Color: Blue and multicolored
Meriwether Lewis (1774-1809), President Jefferson wrote, was “brave, prudent, habituated to the woods and familiar with Indian manners and character.” The President selected Captain Lewis to lead the Army Corps of Discovery to explore the new Louisiana Territory.
Lewis and Clark Explore the American Northwest (1804-06)
When Thomas Jefferson became president in 1801, he and his private secretary, Army Captain Meriwether Lewis, began to plan an expedition to explore the American West. Jefferson had many goals for the expedition. He hoped to establish a land-and-water route from the Atlantic to the Pacific, make contact with Indian tribes, and gather scientific information. In 1803, Congress appropriated funding for the expedition. Then, with the surprise acquisition of the Louisiana Purchase, the necessity of a survey of the West increased the importance of the journey. It was also hoped that the expedition would make land claims to the Oregon Territory.
Jefferson named Lewis the head of the expedition, and Lewis in turn named William Clark as his co-commander. The expedition members traveled about 8,000 miles on their journey. They departed from a camp near St. Louis, Missouri, in May 1804 and returned to the city in September 1806. The explorers had traveled up the Missouri and Jefferson Rivers, crossed the Rocky Mountains (with the help of the female Indian guide Sacajawea), then followed the Clearwater, Snake, and Columbia Rivers down to the Pacific Ocean. On the return trip, the party split up to cover more ground. Lewis went down the Marias River, and Clark descended the Yellowstone. The expedition was greeted by cheering crowds as they returned to St. Louis on September 23, 1806.
An enormous success, the Lewis and Clark expedition allowed the U.S. to claim the Oregon region, which included the modern states of Oregon, Washington, and Idaho. It established peaceful contact with many Indian tribes, and described the area’s natural resources. As a result, it opened vast new territories to American settlers.