- The Washington Times - Friday, March 12, 2004

In 1804, Capt. Meriwether Lewis and Lt. William Clark set out on a voyage to explore the newly purchased land that would more than double the size of their young nation. Two hundred years later the legacy of Lewis and Clark will be firmly impressed on our nation’s coinage.

The U.S. Mint is commemorating the bicentennial of Lewis and Clark’s historic expedition with the release of several redesigned Jefferson nickels over the next two years.

The nickels will feature images of Lewis and Clark’s expedition into the Louisiana Purchase in search of a route to the Pacific Ocean.

The first in the Westward Journey Nickel Series was sent to the Federal Reserve banks at the beginning of the month. The newly designed nickels, the first since 1938, will be officially made available to the public by Mint Director Henrietta Holsman Fore at the Three Flags Ceremony tomorrow in St. Louis where Lewis and Clark first embarked on their journey on May 14, 1804.

“This marks the first time in more than half a century that Americans will see a new design on their nickels,” Miss Fore said in a statement. “Americans will remember the important national events of the Louisiana Purchase and the Lewis and Clark expedition for decades to come when they look at these nickels.”

The first design is based on the original Jefferson Peace Medal that Lewis and Clark handed out to American Indians during their expedition as a token of good will on the tails side.

The design features two hands, one representing the American government, and the other representing the American Indian community. The hands are clasped in friendship symbolizing the good relations the United States sought with the American Indian community, the U.S. Mint said.

A second design is scheduled to be released in August and will feature an illustration of the keelboat that transported Lewis and Clark up the Missouri River.

The Three Flags Festival is a four-day event commemorating the transfer of the Upper Louisiana Territory from Spain to France to the United States on March 9-10, 1804, said Wendall Smith, director of the National Louisiana Purchase Bicentennial Committee.

The festival is only one of many events that will be held in Missouri and other states that fall in the territory of the Louisiana Purchase, Mr. Smith said.

The Louisiana Purchase added 828,000 square feet to the nation, which more than doubled it in size and added all or part of the modern states of Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Wyoming.

“We should examine how these events transformed the life of the nation and of the peoples who lived in the purchase lands,” Mr. Smith said.

For this purpose, commemorative events such as bicentennial balls, festivals, and ceremonies are planned throughout the 13 states, stretching from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains that were once part of the Louisiana Purchase.

The celebrations began in some states last year, 200 years after the Louisiana Purchase was signed by Jefferson and Napoleon in 1803.

Other states and cities will continue to celebrate the expedition until the anniversary of the expedition’s return to St. louis on Sept. 23, 1806. That’s when the nickel will return to its traditional design.

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