Lewis and Clark Compass

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Lewis and Clark Compass
One of the most popular objects in the Smithsonian's vast collection
Stock Number Item Description Availability Price Order Qty
18M01.01 Lewis and Clark Compass

In stock


An arguably beautiful replica of the famous pocket compass that guided the Corps of Discovery on their search for an across-continent water passage to the Pacific Ocean (without a doubt, the most fruitful "failed" expedition in American history). 2-1/2" aged bronze compass has a period-accurate paper dial face, and is housed in a 3" x 3" x 1" mahogany case complete with faux wormholes. A wonderful gift to be treasured by any modern adventurer.

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In the spring of 1803, Meriwether Lewis began to purchase scientific and mathematical instruments for a pending expedition into the northwestern region of North America. Among the items he purchased from Philadelphia instrument maker Thomas Whitney were three pocket compasses for $2.50 each, and this silver-plated pocket compass for $5. It has a mahogany box, a silver-plated brass rim that is graduated to degrees and numbered in quadrants from north and south, a paper dial, two small brass sight vanes, and a leather carrying case. Whether Lewis purchased the silver compass for himself or intended it as a special gesture for William Clark is not known.

The Corps of Discovery, under the leadership of Lewis and Clark, ascended the Missouri River in May 1804, instructed by President Thomas Jefferson to obtain detailed information on the natural resources of the region, to locate the long sought water passage to the Pacific, and to make official diplomatic contact with Indian leaders.

By the time they returned to St. Louis in September 1806, few of the instruments that were purchased for the trip had survived the journey. The pocket compass, however, was kept by Clark as a memento. He later gave the compass to his friend, Capt. Robert A. McCabe, whose heirs donated it in 1933 to the Smithsonian Institution.

Today, the Lewis and Clark compass is the most popular object in the Smithsonian's vast collection, a bigger draw even than Dizzy Gillespie's trumpet and Thomas Edison's light bulb.

With many thanks to the American Museum of Natural History

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5 reviews 0 5 3.8
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  • Cheep and arrived broken

    Loc, 2/17/2013 My kids had just entered a unit in school on Lewis and Clark so I ordered this with expedited shipping. Opened it with flare and excitement --- Bummer, broken in transit and cheaply made. Returned it, have not received notice of receipt of return.
  • Lewis & Clark

    Garrett Moore, 3/8/2011 Very nice replica, which went straight to my curio cabinet of survying and mapping instruments. Since I live near the Smithsonian, I plan to take my replica there to compare it with the original.
  • Compass

    MIke Neal, 2/21/2011 Nicly reproduced, but the pointer is not very smooth maybe will work itself out .
  • Perfect

    Bobby V, 12/19/2010 very well done,, could not be more pleased
  • Gift for a sailor

    Barbara Carney, 11/28/2010 This item is a Christmas present for my brother who just recently refurbished a 45 ft sail boat and I thought this would look real sharp on the boat. It has a nice wooden case that was made to look old, they did a good job.
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