History & Celebrations Today – August 18

Celebrations Today – August 18

Holidays and observances

Celebrations Today – USA: August 18

National Fajita Day
National Mail Order Catalog Day
National Ice Cream Pie Day
National Helium Discovery Day
National Bad Poetry Day
National Fajita Day
National Serendipity Day

Today in US History: August 18

Meriwether Lewis

Map of Western North America
Map of Western North America,
Manuscript map on paper, 1803.
Geography & Map Division,
exhibited in
American Treasurers of the Library of Congress

Explorer Meriwether Lewis, who joined William Clark to blaze a trail across the continent to the Pacific Ocean, was born on August 18, 1774, near Charlottesville, Virginia.

Lewis grew up roaming the woods of Albemarle County, near Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson. When Jefferson assumed the presidency in 1801, he selected Lewis as his private secretary. Two years later, Jefferson appointed Lewis to lead an exploration of the Louisiana Purchase—the vast territory that the U.S. acquired from France in 1803.

Known as the Corps of Discovery, the expedition set out from Camp River Dubois on May 14, 1804, heading northwest on the Missouri River. They hoped to discover a Northwest Passage—a water route to the Pacific Ocean. The expedition wintered in present-day North Dakota, traveled to what is now Montana, and reached the mouth of the Columbia River in present-day Washington before returning to St. Louis on September 23, 1806.

Lewis and Clark kept a detailed journal of their three-year journey. Originally published in 1814, the journals generated excitement about the unknown region and diminished Easterners’ fears about venturing beyond the Mississippi.

On the Columbia
On the Columbia, near Cape Horn, Vancouver, British Columbia (i.e. Washington),
William Henry Jackson, photographer,
between 1895 and 1910.
Touring Turn-of-the-Century America: Photographs from the Detroit Publishing Company, 1880-1920

York, a slave and childhood companion of William Clark, also participated in the expedition. In the process of compiling a short history of African Americans in Omaha, Nebraska, for the WPA interview “Arthur Goodlet,” Fred D. Dixon remembered the “Negro slave named York, the property of Clark, [who] was with Lewis and Clark when they came to the place where Omaha now stands, in 1805.” At the successful completion of the expedition, York tried to persuade Clark to grant him his freedom in return for the service that he had rendered to the nation. Although Clark refused at first, about ten years later he did free York. For their part in the three-year adventure, Lewis and Clark each received 1,600 acres of public land. Popular acclaim led to Lewis’ assumption of the governorship of the Louisiana Territory and Clark’s appointment as governor of the Missouri Territory. Meriwether Lewis died of mysterious circumstances—either by suicide or murder—on October 11, 1809.

Little Belt Mountain, Lewis and Clark National Park
First Snow of the Season in the Foothills of the Little Belt Mountain, Lewis and Clark National Forest, Meagher County, Montana,
Russell Lee, photographer,
August 1942.
America from the Great Depression to World War II: Color Photographs from the FSA and OWI, ca. 1935-1945

Use American Memory to learn more about the impact of the Lewis and Clark expedition:

Today in History – August 18-External Links

Today’s Weather in History
Today in Earthquake History
This Day in Naval History
Today’s Document from the National Archives
Today’s Events, Births & Deaths –Wikipedia
Today in History by AP
On this Day -1950 to 2005 – Today’s Story–BBC
On This Day: The New York Times
This Day in History –History.com
Today in Canadian History – Canada Channel
History of Britain that took place On This Day
Russia in History –Russiapedia