This morning being Christmass, the day was announced by the discharge of our Swivels, and
one Round from our small arms of the whole company.... The Men then prepared one of the Rooms,
and commenced dancing, we having with us Two Violins & plenty of Musicians in our party.--

Private Joseph Whitehouse
25 December, 1804


According the Private Whitehouse's journal entry (above), the expedition carried two fiddles. We know that George Gibson, another member of the party, also played--though the journals don't mention his fiddling nearly as frequently as they do Cruzatte's. How the instruments survived the trip, if in fact they did, I'll never know. In fact, they may not have survived; the expedition reached St. Louis on September 23, 1806, but Cruzatte last fiddles, at least according to the journals, way back on June 8.


The expedition carried many of these for Indian presents. Expedition members may or may not have played them. We know, however, that the Indians did: "they Received them verry thankfully," Private Whitehouse writes of giving presents to the Yankton Sioux, "divided them out among themselves, & play on their juze harps, Sung &c." For more information, visit the Jew's Harp Guild.


The journals frequently mention Indian "tambourines," Only once, however--on New Year's Day, 1805--do we see one in the hands of an expedition member. There's no indication that the expedition carried the kind of tambourine with which most of us are familiar, the kind with metal jingles. More likely, the party either borrowed or bought an Indian instrument.


Probably the instrument we would have heard most commonly on the expedition. The Voyageurs, the French watermen, were famous for belting out French songs while they worked. And the journals frequently talk about the men singing around the fire at night: "our party received a dram," writes Clark less than two weeks before the end of the journey, "and Sung Songs until 11 oclock at night in the greatest harmoney." Also, the men usually celebrated holidays with song: "at day light this morning," Clark writes on Christmas day, 1805, "we we[re] awoke by...a Selute, Shoute and a Song which the whole party joined in under our windows."


Used to signal from boat-to-boat and boat-to-shore, these tin horns are not technically instruments, but the men used them as noisemakers to mark holidays.


They do not appear in the journals of the expedition, but they may have been so common that the journal writers didn't think them important enough to write about. People have been using bones as musical instruments for thousands of years, and the expedition certainly had lots of them. See Rhythm Bones Central for more.


Also not mentioned in the journals as musical instruments, but we know that the expedition carried spoons made of both cow horn and iron (probably pewter). You can find a concise description of how to play the spoons here.

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