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High-TEK mapXchange

Page history last edited by Bob-RJ Burkhart 9 years, 3 months ago

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When Thomas Jefferson sent Lewis and Clark into the West, 

he patterned their mission on the methods of Enlightenment science: 

to observe, collect, document, and classify.


Such strategies were already in place for the epic voyages made by explorers like Cook and Vancouver. Like their contemporaries, Lewis and Clark were more than representatives of European rationalism. They also represented a rising American empire, one built on aggressive territorial expansion and commercial gain. (Extractive Economics


But there was another view of the West: that of the native inhabitants of the land. Their understandings of landscapes, peoples, and resources formed both a contrast and counterpoint to those of Jefferson's travelers. This part of the exhibition presents five areas where Lewis and Clark's ideas and values are compared with those of native people. Sometimes the similarities are striking; other times the differences stand as a reminder of future conflicts and misunderstandings.



Euro-American explorers were not the only ones to draw maps of the western country.

As every visitor to Indian country soon learned, native people also made sophisticated and complex maps. Such maps often covered thousands of miles of terrain.


At first glance Indian maps often appear quite different from those made by Euro-Americans. And there were important differences that reflected distinctive notions about time, space, and relationships between the natural and the supernatural worlds. William Clark was not the only expedition cartographer to struggle with those differences. But the similarities between Indian maps and Euro-American ones are also worth noting.


Both kinds of maps told stories about important past events, current situations, and future ambitions. Both sorts of maps used symbols to represent key terrain features, major settlements, and sacred sites. Perhaps most important, Euro-Americans and Native Americans understood that mapping is a human activity shared by virtually every culture.


Nicholas King's 1803 Pre-Expedition Map

orientation mapIn March 1803, War Department cartographer Nicholas King compiled a map of North America west of the Mississippi in order to summarize all available topographic information about the region. Representing the federal government's first attempt to define the vast empire later purchased from Napoleon, King consulted numerous published and manuscript maps.


This composite map reflects Jefferson and Gallatin's geographical concepts on the eve of the expedition. It is believed that Lewis and Clark carried this map on their journey at least as far as the Mandan-Hidatsa villages on the Missouri River, where Lewis annotated in brown ink additional information obtained from fur traders. 



Fort Mandan Map

orientation mapThroughout the winter of 1804-1805 at Fort Mandan, William Clark drafted a large map of the West --what he called "a Connection of the country." That map, recopied several times by Nicholas King, provided the first accurate depiction of the Missouri River to Fort Mandan based on the expedition's astronomical and geographical observations.


Drawing on "information of Traders, Indians, & my own observation and idea,"

Clark sketched out a conjectural West--one characterized by a narrow chain of mountains

and rivers with headwaters close one to the other, still suggesting an easy water passage to the Pacific Coast.



Calculating Distance (Land Navigation) 

In order to make astronomical observations that would aid in calculating distances, the Corps took a sextant on their journey.

On July 22, 1804, while the expedition was above the mouth of the Platte River in eastern Nebraska, Lewis gave a detailed description of the operation of the sextant and other tools that reveals his struggle to use the complicated instruments. A select number of books were taken on the expedition including British astronomer Nevil Maskelyne's Tables Requisite to be Used with the Nautical Ephemeris for Finding the Latitude and Longitude at Sea.




Fort Clatsop Map

orientation mapThis post-expeditionary map prepared by Washington, D.C., cartographer Nicholas King, probably in 1806 or 1807, most likely incorporates information from a map prepared by Lewis and Clark in February 1806 at Fort Clatsop on the Oregon coast.


Although the original map no longer exists, such a map is mentioned in the expedition's journals. 
Using King's 1805 base map, which records information observed as far as Fort Mandan, this present copy 
                                   adds geographical observations from Fort Mandan to the west coast, as well as data from the return trip. 




First Published Map of Expedition's Track

orientation mapThis was the first published map to display reasonably accurate geographic information of the trans-Mississippi West. Based on a large map kept by William Clark, the engraved copy accompanied Nicholas Biddle's History of the Expedition (1814). As the landmark cartographic contribution of the expedition, this "track map" held on to old illusions while proclaiming new geographic discoveries.

Clark presented a West far more topographically diverse and complex than Jefferson ever imagined.


From experience, Clark had learned that the Rockies were a tangle of mountain ranges
                                   and that western rivers were not the navigable highways so central to Jefferson's geography of hope.


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