On the reverse (back) of the Missouri quarter, before a separate image of the "Gateway to the West" (the Arch in St. Louis), are three men rowing in a dugout canoe. The men in the front and rear of the boat are Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark - two incredible explorers who made history in ways that put their exploration in the background.
Did you know...
- When the group of worn-out men in the Corps of Discovery finally reached the Pacific Ocean, Sacagawea, the young Shoshone Indian girl who assisted them in their journey across the Rocky Mountains, was given a VOTE to help them determine where to stay for the winter. This was long before women...or Native Americans...were allowed a part in the democratic process.
- York, the third man on the quarter, was also given a vote. Clark was raised alongside his slave, York, and he brought him with him on the incredible journey. No other black man was allowed to vote for some 150 years. This is absolutely incredible. In fact, are you aware that York is the first black man to appear on a circulated U.S. coin? A fitting tribute!
- The real Gateway Arch in St. Louis sits on the Mississippi River, but Lewis and Clark were primarily on the Missouri River, basically beginning at the confluence of the two rivers.
- The river on the quarter flows between the two legs of the arch, not down the hill from the arch as in reality.
- It goes without mentioning (but I'll mention it anyway) that the arch was not constructed until 1965, not at all near the same time that our heroes made history.
- The curvature of the arch on the quarter is not the actual inverted catenary shape of the real monument.
- Their canoe would not have been alone, since there were 30-40 other men accompanying the captains.
- The picture on the quarter must represent the men's glorious return to civilization: there were a couple of large canoes on the trip west, the men had to make their own dugout canoes after crossing the Rockies and on the return trip. However, it would appear - due to the water flowing behind their oars - that they are rowing upstream instead of going with the flow of the river.
There may not be many better examples of my basic teaching philosophy - that we need more wonder, exploration, and discovery in our classrooms. If you're interested in digging deeper, I encourage you to visit our webpage about the Corps of Discovery.