Meriwether Lewis was born in 1774 near Charlottesville, Virginia, in what would soon become the United States of America. Lewis entered the military as a young man. At the age of 20, he volunteered under President George Washington to help crush the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794 in western Pennsylvania. He became a captain in the First United States Infantry Regiment at the age of 26 and was hired by President Thomas Jefferson as his personal secretary and aide at the age of 27. In 1803, Lewis, not yet 30, set off to make winter preparations as commander of the “Corps of Discovery” that was to make its way across North America. He was a leader and an observer: his notes pay particular attention to the botany of the regions they passed through. After returning from this lengthy expedition, he filled the position of governor of the Louisiana Territory. In 1809, en route to the United States capital of Washington, he died of gunshot wounds. He was 35. It is thought that Lewis suffered depression and committed suicide, although his family put forward suggestions of murder.
William Clark was born in 1770 in Caroline County, Virginia, and spent his teenage years in Kentucky. Clark came from a family of plantation-owners but joined the militia in 1789 and began serving as an officer in the regular army in 1792. He left the army in his late 20s to run the family plantation, but was later invited to join the “Corps of Discovery” and set off to act as co-commander (with the official rank of second lieutenant) with fellow soldier Lewis. In 1807, following the expedition, Clark was appointed Indian Agent and militia brigadier general for the Louisiana Territory by President Jefferson. In 1813, Clark became governor of the Missouri Territory. Although he was not elected as governor when Missouri became a state, he remained in a governmental role in St. Louis as Superintendent of Indian Affairs, from 1822 almost until his death in 1838.