The American West was an idea born out of the American Revolution, from conceived by the thoughts of Thomas Jefferson that American would become a small agrarian republic that was controlled by state government and not by a large Federal government. This theory was never truer then when President Thomas Jefferson signed for the Louisiana Purchase that nearly doubled the size of the United States. This new plot of land will be mythicized and romanticized by those in the east looking to break away from the life that they always knew. This new westward expansion would also change the economy and the culture of the newly formed republic.
President Thomas Jefferson looked to the west from his desk and in his mind but it was his protégé Meriwether Lewis who shared similar background, both being men of Virginia and having a natural curiosity about them. Lewis also recruited William Clark to join him on the adventure of a lifetime by exploring the new Louisiana Territory. Jefferson was a man of science and was interested in what Lewis and Clark would find and bring back to him. They did so by shipping back live specimens that they had never scene themselves. There is an account where the caravans are crossing the plain that was unfamiliar since all of the men were from the eastern seaboard where trees were plentiful and the plains offered miles of open grasslands. When the men are cross they see prairie dogs which they believe Jefferson would enjoy so they take time to catch one and send it back to Washington D.C. This is an interesting story, it illustrates the shear wonder that the men were experiencing and highlights that the president himself was just as wide-eyed.
Thomas Jefferson had other plans as well with the new territory and an alternative motives when it came to the Lewis and Clark expedition. Scientific curiosity was certainty part of it but much like anybody no matter in private life or public would not turn down a chance to make money. Jefferson wanted Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to find the illustrious Northwest Passage. This passage if true would be a trade route that would cut though North America, which would make it easier for goods to be traded.
Despite the long journey and a surprising low number of deaths and stories to fill volumes of books when the Lewis and Clark expedition returned home they had not discovered the Northwest Passage that Thomas Jefferson was hoping for.
The Corps of Discovery was not the only expedition into the west that was looking for economic opportunity, another romanticed group of people that are known as the mountain men made their way to the west to chance after commerce. Described as one of the saddest group of people in American life, the mountain man spent much of his time alone in the woods where they were isolated from the world. They had a job to do and that job was trapping beaver. The fur trade was a large lucrative business that was fueled by a beaver hat trend in Europe. This new...