||Prospectus for the Publication of Robert Frazer's Journal of the Lewis and Clark Expedition [manuscript]
||Frazer, Robert. Prospectus, ante 1810. Archives of the Wisconsin Historical Society.
||2 / 0
Not much is known about Robert Frazer’s beginnings, and he
may have been from either Vermont or Virginia. He was originally
a part of the return party of the Lewis and Clark expedition, but
on October 8, 1804 was added to the permanent party to replace Moses
Reed, who was expelled for attempted desertion. Private Frazer was
listed as a tailor on the list of expedition specialists, and had
various adventures and misadventures on the expedition, including
nearly hitting Captain Lewis with an errant gunshot while hunting
ducks. Frazer was one of several, besides Lewis and Clark, who kept
a journal on the expedition, and was the first to propose publishing
an expedition account (see document note below).
John R. McBride, who knew Frazer decades after the expedition, recounted
the "permanent impress" that Frazer made on his memory:
"He was a man of education and talent and kept a private journal
of his own. It was in many respects more interesting than that of
his commanders, and in his declining years, the delight of the old
explorer was to sit by the fireside of some friend, read extracts
from this journal, written thirty years before, and add incidents
from memory to the written tale. He was a frequent visitor at my
father’s house in Franklin County, Missouri, and I can distinctly
recall many of his conversations. His rich brogue, grotesque comparisons,
and vivid descriptive powers, made him always welcome." Frazer
died in Franklin County, Missouri in 1837.
Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1804-1806
For a thorough summary of the Lewis and Clark Expedition's historical
context and itinerary, see the 44-page introduction in volume one
(AJ-100a) of the Original Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition,
1804-1806 by the journals' editor, Reuben Gold Thwaites. For
other documents related to the expedition, see AJ-090, AJ-097, AJ-140,
AJ-146, and AJ-147.
At the conclusion of the expedition, Frazer secured the permission
of Captain Lewis to proceed with the publication of his own journal,
which as his prospectus states was to contain "about four hundred
pages octavo" and be printed after a sufficient number of subscribers
had paid three dollars each to cover printing costs. Frazer’s
journal was never published, and is now presumed lost, but his handwritten
prospectus survives in the Archives of the Wisconsin Historical
Society. Frazer had given a copy to John Butler, whom he encountered
in St. Louis in September 1806. Frazer had apparently absconded
with a hat from Butler when both were living in Vermont before the
expedition. He settled his debt to Butler, and the prospectus was
later discovered in family papers by John Butler’s nephew,
James Davie Butler, who donated it to the Society on December 21,
1893. The text of the prospectus was published in articles by Butler,
first in The Nation in 1893 and again the following year
in the Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society
(see reference sources below).
Other Internet and Reference Resources
McBride, John R. "Pioneer Days in the Mountains," in
Tullidge’s Quarterly Magazine, vol. 3, no. 2 (July
1884), pages 311-320.
[Butler, James Davie]. "The New Lewis and Clark" [parts
I & II] in The Nation, vol. 57, no. 1478 (October 26,
1893), pages 312-313 and vol. 57, no. 1479 (November 2, 1893), pages
Butler, James Davie. "The New Found Journal of Charles Floyd,
a Sergeant under Captains Lewis and Clark," in Proceedings
of the American Antiquarian Society, vol. 9 (April 1894), pages
For a short biographical essay on Frazer, and many other informative
articles on the expedition, see "The Personnel of the Lewis
and Clark Expedition: Article 17 — Private Robert Frazer"
on the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s web site at http://www.id.blm.gov/lc/frazer.htm.
The literature on Lewis and Clark is immense, both in print and
on the web. For an online summary of it, see the 1904 bibliography
by Victor Hugo Paltsits in document AJ-100a, pages lxi-xciii. This
should be supplemented by The Literature of the Lewis and Clark
Expedition: A Bibliography and Essays issued by Lewis and Clark
College in 2003, for twentieth-century publications.
A useful starting point for information about the expedition is
the Library of Congress online exhibit, "Rivers, Edens and Empires:
Lewis and Clark and the Revealing of America," at http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/lewisandclark/lewis-landc.html.
The National Archives has created many resources for teaching and
learning about Lewis and Clark within its "We the People" web site
lewis_and_clark.html. This includes digitized documents, background
texts, photographs, and lesson plans.
The official report of the expedition, Nicholas Biddle’s 1814 History
of the Expedition Under the Command of Captains Lewis and Clark,
to the Sources of the Missouri, Thence Across the Rocky Mountains
and Down the River Columbia to the Pacific Ocean, is online
at the Library of Congress “Meeting of Frontiers” project at http://frontiers.loc.gov/intldl/mtfhtml/mfsplash.html.
Other documents relating to the expedition are part of its "Louisiana
Purchase Legislative Timeline" at http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/amlaw/louisiana5.html.
These include the House of Representatives report on the "Explorations
of the Western Waters of the United States" by Lewis and Clark,
various acts to compensate the explorers for their labors, and documents
concerning their appointments as governors of Missouri and Louisiana
after the expedition.
Two web sites built as part of the Lewis and Clark Expedition bicentennial
also contain helpful information and links. The U.S. government's
site at http://www.lewisandclark200.gov/
is a cooperative venture of 32 federal agencies. The non-governmental
National Council of the Lewis & Clark Bicentennial is a joint effort
by historical societies, Indian nations, scholars, businesses, and
all other interested parties; its web site is at http://www.lewisandclark200.org/.