Louisiana: European Explorations and the Louisiana Purchase

detail from an early map of Louisiana
[Detail] Louisiana. From Arrowsmith & Lewis New and Elegant General Atlas, 1804.
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Overview

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The Louisiana Purchase is a landmark event in American history, one that had a lasting impact not only on the size of the United States, but also on its economic, cultural, and political makeup. Before President Thomas Jefferson's administration purchased the territory in 1803, parts or all of the territory had been under the control of various Native American nations. From the 16th century onwards the Spanish and later the French controlled the territory.

This presentation focuses on the various documents—from maps to newspapers to cultural artifact—that help to describe the region of North America that stretched from as far east as Alabama into what is now the state of Montana.  The 119 items presented here come from the various special and general collections of the Library of Congress.

Essay

European Explorations