The House in the Cemetery Podcast Series

Episode 5: Imperial Botany: Lewis and Clark and The Woodlands


In this episode, we will look at how the Woodlands played an important role in the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1803-06. As the home of William Hamilton, an amateur botanist and good friend of Thomas Jefferson, The Woodlands became the site where much of the seeds brought back from the journey were planted. Some of these plants became popular additions to Euro-American gardens and one of them is still a fixture in Philadelphia today. The Lewis and Clark expedition was more than just a scientific exploration, however, as it also paved the way for American colonization of indigenous peoples in the west. This episode will therefore demonstrate how the cultivation of knowledge is instrumental in gaining power, and how the Woodlands must be seen not only as a hub of science, but as a hub of imperialism as well.

What we will discover:

  • William Hamilton’s relationship with Thomas Jefferson
  • The importance of Philadelphia as a center of knowledge and empire
  • The goals and outcomes of the Lewis and Clark Expedition
  • Some of the seeds brought back by Lewis and Clark and their significance
  • The relationship between knowledge and power in imperialism

In this episode’s segment of Primary Exposure, we will look at a letter written by Lewis to Jefferson describing two interesting seeds that would eventually be planted at the Woodlands.

Additional Sites:
Benjamin Rush’s medicine garden at the Mutter Museum
American Philosophical Society Museum
Portraits of Lewis and Clark at the Second Bank of the U.S.
Osage orange trees at Christ Church of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church


About the podcaster: Tom Snow is a second year grad student at Villanova and is studying Public History. He is currently a guide at the Betsy Ross House and is very interested in Early American History.


This podcast is part of "The House in the Cemetery" project, part of the Villanova Public History Program. More information about this project can be found here.