Learn About History with Your Small Change! (page 3)

Learn About History with Your Small Change!

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Updated on May 14, 2014

The expedition departed from St. Louis in May of 1804. For the rest of that spring and summer, they edged their way up the Missouri River, skirting modern-day Iowa and Nebraska and finally crossing in to the Dakotas. They waited out the winter in the realm of the Mandan Indians, near the site of the present-day Bismarck, North Dakota. In April of 1805, Lewis and Clark resumed their journey.  In early September, pressing up through the Bitterroot Mountains, the expedition encountered its first snowfall of the season as it crested the Continental Divide. It was a punishing march that brought it into the land of the Nez Perce and, finally, to the Clearwater River.

They followed the Clearwater to the Columbia River, which in turn led them to its estuary on the Pacific. In all, according to Clark’s calculations, he and his companions had rowed, sailed, rode, marched, and climbed 4,121 miles to reach that point. On the way back, the expedition split at the Great Divide to explore the Marias and Yellowstone rivers. By late summer, they rejoined one another and on September 22, 1806, paddled the last few miles to St. Louis. At St. Louis, the town’s 1,000 residents thronged the riverbank to see the return of the buckskin-clad adventurers. The Corps of Discovery, by beginning and ending in Missouri—the future Show Me State—had just shown America how to reach the Pacific.


The last coin in the project, and the last state to join the Union, is also the only state to depict a Native American (or Native Hawaiian, to be precise) on its coin. For its part, Hawaii elected to impose an image of King Kamehameha I alongside a map of the islands.

According to legend, Kamehameha was born on the “big island” of Hawaii at the time when Halley’s comet swept past the earth in 1758. As the comet’s journey left a trail of light across the Pacific night sky, the island’s kahunas prophesied that a child would be born who would be the “slayer of kings.” Suitable alarmed, King Alapai ordered the baby killed. Alapai, however, was too late—the worried parents spirited their baby son away, hid him in a cave, and arranged for him to be raised in secret. When the child grew into manhood he took the name Kamehameha, meaning “the very lonely one” or “the one set apart.” Alapai eventually learned that Kamehameha survived and invited him to join him in the royal court.

Later, when local district chiefs revolted against the current rulers, they found a ready ear in Kamehameha. After years of battles and conflicts Kamehameha was left in control of the island of Hawaii. By force of arms, he was able to gain control of all the islands. Kamehameha succeeded in establishing a line of kings and queens that managed to preserve the islands’ independence for nearly a century until the United States annexed them in 1898.

Want to know more? Get all fifty in A Pocketful of History.

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