mastadon jaw bone on display at Monticello was unearthed by
William Clark in Kentucky and moved to Brooks Hall after Jefferson's
down Lewis and Clark artifacts
By Matt Kelly
of the souvenirs of the trip are missing.
search is on for artifacts from the Lewis and Clark expedition.
The explorers sent a variety of items to U.S. President Thomas
Jefferson in 1805. Some of them later ended up at Harvard, some
were given to U.Va., but, with a few exceptions, most have been
worth turning over every stone, said Elizabeth Chew, associate
curator at Monticello.
At this point, we just want to know what happened to things.
artifacts through nearly 200 years of history can be daunting.
Chew said that Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, two Virginians
Jefferson charged with exploring the Louisiana Purchase, had sent
the bulk of the items to Jefferson in after their winter in North
Dakota. They sent soil and mineral samples, plant specimens, Indian
artifacts, animal skins, horns and skeletons.
is seeking out specifically items that Thomas Jefferson had displayed
from the expedition in his front hall collection of curiosities,
mixing natural and native artifacts with European artwork and
statuary. The records of what Jefferson exhibited are drawn from
his letters, Lewis and Clarks shipping inventory and the
written remembrances of visitors to Monticello. Jefferson, in
a letter to Charles Willson Peale, said he retained for his display
horns, dressed skins, utensils &c
are some original items, such as the elk antlers, on display now
that were featured there in Jeffersons time. But there are
others, such as a buffalo robe with a battle scene painted on
it and a map of the Missouri River between the Platt and Yellowstone
rivers, also on buffalo hide, that have disappeared.
who described these two hides as show-stoppers, said
they were listed in visitors accounts of what was on display at
Monticello. But there is no record of what happened to them, whether
they were donated to the University after Jeffersons death,
sold off to pay his debts or stayed in the family for a while.
paper trail gets harder to follow after Jefferson died. Chew said
that Thomas Jefferson Randolph, planning a sale at Monticello
to pay off the late presidents debts, donated some items
to the University, but there is no inventory of what was donated.
Chew said there were citations from the minutes of a Board
of Visitors meeting in 1827 noting a donation from the
Rector, referring to Jefferson. Katherine Woltz, a U.Va.
graduate student in American art history, said she is searching
for the letter, which she thinks might have contained an inventory
of the items being donated. She said Board of Visitors references
to the Lewis and Clark artifacts continue through the 1940s.
can track things donated to U.Va. for a while, knowing that the
Board of Visitors dedicated a small Rotunda room in 1826 for the
preservation and exhibition of natural and artificial curiosities.
In 1828 the items were moved into a basement room, a year later
moved to an upper gallery, and then in 1840 moved into the Rotunda
library. In 1848 they were moved into a room on the Lawn, Chew
collection may have been scattered, according to Chew, who said
that some of it was put under the jurisdiction of the professor
of chemistry in 1829. Woltz fears some of Jeffersons specimens
may have been combined with educational pieces from other collections
and lost their identities.
far, no trace of the Indian artifacts have been found on Grounds.
Some of these items, of which there are rudimentary descriptions,
are being duplicated by artist Wallace Butch Thunderhawk
and some of his art students at the Tribal Art Institute in Bismark,
map is hard to recreate because there are not a lot of examples
of Native American cartography, Chew said.
working through the U.Va. archives, said she found an article
in a contemporary student newspaper about Jeffersons collection
moving into Brooks Hall in 1876.
Hantman, the unofficial historian of Brooks Hall, said he has
not seen any records indicating that Lewis and Clark artifacts
were displayed in Brooks Hall, which was a natural history museum.
There is certainly nothing there now from them, he said.
the 1970s when we moved the anthropology department [into Brooks
Hall] we went through everything, Hantman said. There
was nothing that was from the Plains Indians or the Northwest
sent some of the Lewis and Clark collection to Peale, an artist
and museum impresario in Philadelphia. Peales collection,
which included most of the skins and skeletons as well as a living
magpie and a prairie dog, was later divided, with part going to
showman P.T. Barnum and the remainder to Moses Kimball. Kimballs
share of the artifacts became part of the Peabody collection at
Harvard, the largest known collection of Lewis and Clark items.
said elk horns from Lewis and Clark and moose antlers and a mastodon
bone (which Clark unearthed in Kentucky after the western expedition)
were on display in Brooks Hall, along with a rack of sheep antlers
unconnected with the Lewis and Clark expedition. Some of these
items were returned to Monticello in 1949, when Brooks Hall closed
as a museum. Some of the items from Brooks were thrown out, she
said. In 1960, the geology department returned to Jeffersons
estate Clarks mastodon bone.
would have been some other threats to them as well. In October
1895 the Rotunda was destroyed by fire and if some of the Lewis
and Clark items were there, they would have been destroyed. In
1829 some of the items fell under the jurisdiction of the chemistry
department, and the chemistry building was destroyed by fire in
January 1917. Chew said author Sylvio Bedini, in his book on Jefferson,
Statesman of Science, speculated that some of the Lewis and Clark
artifacts were destroyed then. Woltz said she found no evidence
that any of the collection was held in the chemical building.
would have just become old artifacts, Chew said. They
were all organic, they would deteriorate, they would be eaten
said there is a slim chance that some of the artifacts still exist,
in private collections or in the accumulations of people who dont
know what they have.
Its hard to say how valuable these things would be,
Chew said. They would have historical value because there
are so few native American artifacts.
with information about artifacts should contact Elizabeth Chew