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Document Number: AJ-160
Author: Frazer, Robert
Title: Prospectus for the Publication of Robert Frazer's Journal of the Lewis and Clark Expedition [manuscript]
Source: Frazer, Robert. Prospectus, ante 1810. Archives of the Wisconsin Historical Society.
Pages/Illustrations: 2 / 0
Citable URL: www.americanjourneys.org/aj-160/

Author Note

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.

Document Note

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 331-333.

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 225-252.

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 at http://www.archives.gov/digital_classroom/lessons/lewis_and_clark/ 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/.

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