President Thomas Jefferson was a man who kept incredible, detailed records, and some have speculated that this almost compulsive need to tally fueled his curiosity. While his predecessor, John Adams, had a true worldview, worrying about the French Revolution, Jefferson's sights were closer to home: He wanted to know everything about the new American West, a vast territory extending from St. Louis to the Pacific Ocean. By the early 1800s, westward expansion had become a hot topic for the president, and he secretly ordered Meriwether Lewis to lead an expedition to the area. Jefferson's motives were clear: "To explore the Missouri River and such principal streams of it, as, by its course and communication with the waters of the Pacific Ocean...may offer the most direct and practical water communication across the continent, for the purposes of commerce." Lewis and William Clark used a $2500 expansion stipend to assemble a team of 33. The expedition commenced on May 14, 1804 and ended on September 23, 1806 when Lewis, Clark and the aptly named Corps of Discovery returned to the heartland, leaving behind an 8000-mile trail of hardship and sacrifice and bringing home unfathomably hard-won knowledge.