The Lewis and Clark Collection

Black Moccasin, a Hidatsa chief, by George Catlin, 1832. Black Moccasin remembered Lewis and Clark to the artist, who rendered this portrait thirty years later.
Black Moccasin, a Hidatsa chief, by George Catlin, 1832. Black Moccasin remembered Lewis and Clark to the artist, who rendered this portrait thirty years later.

Lewis and Clark gave many of the Native American objects that they acquired to Thomas Jefferson.  Jefferson kept and displayed some of them in the entry hall of his Virginia home, Monticello. None of those objects survive today.  Fortunately, Jefferson, Lewis, and Clark also gave some seventy Native American objects to Charles Willson Peale's Philadelphia Museum, then the largest and most diverse institution of its kind. When Peale's Museum folded in 1850, P.T. Barnum purchased some of the contents in partnership with Moses Kimball, proprietor of the Boston Museum.  After a fire damaged the Boston Museum in 1899, many Peale Museum objects from around the world, including the remnants of Lewis and Clark's collection, were transferred to the Peabody Museum (as accession 99-12).  The Peabody's Lewis and Clark materials are the only surviving Native American objects that can be documented as having been collected during their expedition. However, identifying these objects and verifying their link to the Corps of Discovery required years of careful research. (How was this done?: See Lesley Bannatyne, "Striving to Solve History's Mysteries," Christian Science Monitor, August 31, 2004).  While the tribal origin of some of the objects remains unknown, they are among the oldest and most meaningful examples of Native American cultural arts in any museum collection.