Posts Tagged ‘historical figures’

It’s Not Easy Being the First

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

No one can say this more than Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. Their transcontinental expedition was filled with unpredictability, natural dangers, and Native communities who were not ready to have anyone move into their territory. The story itself, without any embellishment, is dramatic with equally intriguing characters including Thomas Jefferson, a young Shoshone woman named Sacagawea, and a team of men known as the Corps of Discovery who faced a landscape that had never been navigated or mapped.

Why had it taken until 1804 to even start exploring the Pacific Northwest? It was a project that Jefferson had been pondering while living in France in the 1780s, knowing it could lead to huge opportunities for the very young United States of America. He also heard talk that King Louis the XVI of France was interested in exploring the region. While the royal had officially proposed a scientific expedition, Jefferson felt the French King had a political mission in mind.

Knowing the expedition was extremely dangerous, President Jefferson provided peace medals to the Corps to introduce themselves to the various tribes they met along the way. But on the trail, it was Sacagawea and her infant son, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, who slept wrapped on a cradleboard, that reassured the tribes that the group meant no harm.

Although Lewis and Clark are best known for laying the groundwork for westward expansion and creating the first maps of the region, their observations were also useful to scientists researching the natural wildlife that the Corps of Discovery encountered. Even though they were never intended to be a scientific expedition, their work helps us preserve the indigenous species and natural landscape of the early 19th century.

Explore the natural landscape as the Corps of Discovery would have seen it on the In the Wake of Lewis and Clark: Aboard the National Geographic Sea Lion tour. 

Do you think Lewis and Clark have received enough credit for their contribution to American history? Share Below.


Smithsonian Spotlight: Read up on Lincoln

Thursday, February 12th, 2009

Today is Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday. It is said that Lincoln didn’t talk much about religion, even with his closest friends, and he didn’t belong to any church. Instead, he said, “When I do good, I feel good; when I do bad, I feel bad. That’s my religion.”

President A. Lincoln reading the Bible to his son, Tad

President A. Lincoln reading the Bible to his son, Tad, 1864. Photograph by Anthony Berger. Courtesy Library of Congress

Smithsonian magazine has put together a comprehensive look at the life of Abraham Lincoln. Take a lookwe found that it is full of interesting facts and great articles. The journey begins with a fascinating multimedia timeline of his life and work.

To experience the life of Lincoln firsthand, click here.

Browse our recommended books about Lincoln here.

Click here to order the special Lincoln issue of Smithsonian magazine.

Video: In the Footsteps of Lincoln's Assassin

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

As we celebrate the life of Lincoln here at the Smithsonian Institution, Study Leader Ed Bearss follows in the footsteps of actor John Wilkes Booth, Lincoln’s assassin.  Watch a clip of Stories from the Vaults host Tom Cavanaugh trying to keep up, courtesy of the Smithsonian Channel.

If you plan to be near Washington, D.C. anytime soon, click here to see a list of Lincoln-related events.

Video: Courtesy of Smithsonian Channel

The Photograph that Made Lincoln President

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

Photo by Mathew Brady. Courtesy the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

On February 27, 1860, Abraham Lincoln gave a speech in New York City that convinced his audience that he was a serious constitutional thinker and an eloquent representative for the Republican party. Before the speech, he had his portrait taken by Mathew Brady, a portrait that became known as the “photograph that made Lincoln president.”

We Recommend: Smithsonian Celebrates Black History Month

Friday, February 6th, 2009
Frederick Douglass, ca. 1879. Photograph by George K. Warren (d. 1884). Photo: National Archives

Frederick Douglass, ca. 1879. Photograph by George K. Warren (d. 1884). Photo: National Archives

The son of former slaves, scholar and author Carter G. Woodson created the first Negro History Week in 1926 to coincide with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. Fifty years later, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History designated the first Black History Month.

In honor of this year’s celebration, discover all Smithsonian has to offer, including events and exhibitions at Smithsonian museums and across the country.

This year’s feature event is a family festival at the Ripley Center on February 8 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The day includes kalimba music, art activities, free performances, and a panel discussion on the history of the Shaw neighborhood. Self-guided tours of the new National Museum of African American History and Culture’s exhibition Road to Freedom are also available. The event is free and open to the public; no reservations are required.