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part iii Memories Map 4. The Lewis and Clark trail. From the cover of Lewis and Clark Trail Commission, The Lewis and Clark Trail: An Interim Report to the President and to the Congress (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1966). In the post–World War II era, the figure of Sacajawea had fallen out of favor among expedition enthusiasts and scholars alike. Hence the official logo for the Lewis and Clark trail eliminates the once familiar silhouette of Sacajawea pointing the way for the two explorers. The changed depiction of the expedition also corresponds with new ways to commemorate Lewis and Clark. As the map indicates, they include a new emphasis on automobile tourism and outdoor recreation along the “Trail.” T hough largely ignored for almost a century, the Lewis and Clark expedition began to take on new meaning and attract new attention in the late 1890s. In the process, this neglected historical subject was transformed into an epic quest that has never since lost its central place in the nation’s collective memory. The expedition has become an origin story of the first order that invariably portrays Lewis and Clark as prophets of the future, as if the history of national development were a natural occurrence and the two explorers simply on a journey into the future—with each group of commemorators as their chosen destination. Lewis and Clark, and Sacagawea even more than the coleaders, were honored in the first decades of the twentieth century with the publication of several books about the expedition, a new edition of the journals, the holding of a successful exposition, and the placement of numerous statues and monuments throughout the country. In every instance, the expedition was celebrated as the foremost symbol of a new century’s faith in material progress and overseas empire. By midcentury, the desire to commemorate the expedition with monuments and celebrations was replaced by an increased fascination with the expedition route itself. “The Trail” became a sort of national pilgrimage route, a development that reflected the rise in automobility, along with postwar prosperity and a growing middle-class interest in outdoor recreation. Lewis and Clark’s ability to capture the spirit of every age that sought to commemorate them also made the expedition a powerful symbol for critiquing the values it represents. For this reason, the expedition has also served as the subject for potent counternarratives about American progress and development. The three essays in this section speak to these issues in various ways, but all remind us of how memories of Lewis and Clark have often taken on more significance than the expedition itself —and in the process have a great deal to tell us about the way national identity is defined and contested. This page intentionally left blank ...


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