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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2001 Express Publishing Inc. 
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For the week of June 6 - June 12, 2001


Meriwether Lewis ‘visits’ Blaine County Museum

Express Staff Writer

Ketchum artist Ralph Harris portrays Capt. Meriwether Lewis in a replica of Lewis’s 1804 infantry uniform. Express photo by Peter Boltz

Ketchum artist Ralph Harris led children from Hailey Elementary on a trip through time Monday at the Blaine County Historical Museum.

Playing the role of the explorer, Capt. Meriwether Lewis, Harris talked to children from Mary Gin Barron’s fourth grade class about the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1804-1806. The Corps of Discovery was the first to explore what is now the western United States, between the Mississippi River and the Pacific Ocean.

Holding up a leather bag, Harris asked the children what they thought it was.

"A purse," several said.

"Well, yes, it is a purse," Harris said, "but the men in the expedition called it a ‘possibles bag’.

"They called it a ‘possibles bag’ because they stuffed it with as many things as possible that would help them survive if separated from the main body."

For example, Harris included in his bag the replica of a fire starter kit used by expedition members, or glass beads that explorers used to trade with Native Americans.

Then Harris explained to the children how the men in the expedition pulled a boat, "filled with 40 tons of supplies and about the length of this museum" up the rivers they traveled.

He told them it would take the expedition two days to travel 11 miles, the same distance from Hailey to Ketchum.

Harris’s presentation coincided with an exhibit on the Lewis and Clark Expedition on loan from the Idaho State Historical Society. Harris, himself, works independent of the Society.

He became interested in playing the role of Lewis when he won the 1982 Idaho Muzzle Loader stamp contest. "It got me started," he said.

The uniform Harris wears in his role as Lewis is a replica of Lewis’s 1st Infantry uniform, one of several the explorer took with him in 1804.

"It has taken me this long [since 1982] to get to this replica of the uniform," he said. He mentioned the Smithsonian Institution and the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Interpretive Center as just two of the many institutions he’s researched to get the uniform as authentic as possible.

And it is still not complete. He said he was still working on getting the boots just right.


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.