Wikimedia Commons

Celebrating 820,000 square miles.

Two-hundred-and-ten years ago today, U.S. and French officials signed the Louisiana Purchase.

It was a big deal: President Thomas Jefferson bought 820,000 square miles of land from Napoleon, and what directly followed from this expansion — Lewis and Clark, the Trail of Tears, the Mexican War, and so on — is the text of your U.S. history book.

But whether or not you think history has turned for the better since that fateful day, it is as good an occasion as any to take a look at some of these great maps from the David Rumsey Map Collection, a favorite resource of ours.

Here's a short history of U.S. annexation, mapped for the 100th anniversary of the Purchase in 1903 by Henry Gannett (click through to explore in detail):

Here's a link to Pierre Tardieu's 1820 map of Louisiana and Mexico, both looking quite different than they do today. And finally, here is Aaron Arrowsmith's 1814 map incorporating all the discoveries since Lewis and Clark. Note the high level of detail in Oregon that is lacking to the north and south.

Map: David Rumsey Map Collection. Top image: 1804 map of Louisiana, via Wikimedia Commons.

About the Author

Henry Grabar

Henry Grabar is a freelance writer and a former fellow at CityLab. He lives in New York.   

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