Museum Minute: Charles Clarke's Collection On Lewis And Clark

Jan 23, 2020

Lewis and Clark Expedition Journals
Credit McCracken Research Library

In the early 1900s, Charles Clarke was a southern California teen runaway who worked setting up bowling pins. But his life changed in one moment, said Eric Rossborough, an associate librarian at the McCracken Research Library at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West.

“He walked by a vacant lot with a lot of commotion going on. It was one of the first ever movie sets, and they told him to come back tomorrow if he wanted a job,” said Rossborough.

Clarke did come back and became a famed cinematographer. He worked on dozens of films, which gave him the money to pursue other interests like his passion of collecting books.

“He started out with Lewis and Clark, but his interest grew to include California history,” said Rossborough.

When Clarke's daughter approached the McCracken Research Library to give his collection of books on Lewis and Clark and California to the library, the Center of the West wasn’t unsure if Cody was the right place. But it ultimately decided his large collection on Lewis and Clark was important enough to the West.