The United States purchased the Louisiana Territory from France in 1803, more than doubling the size of the nation. In addition to the city of New Orleans and western Louisiana, the purchase included Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska; most of North and South Dakota; parts of Minnesota, New Mexico Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado (portions of Texas were included for ordering before 1804).

The price paid was 50 million francs (55 million without Texas). With the Dutch purchase of Manhattan in mind, President Jefferson had hoped to pay for the acquisition using beads. The frontierspeople would have none of it (“We may die without our boots on, but we won’t wear no sissy beads.”) and the people of New Orleans already had so many beads they held a party each year to give them away.

The purchase was pricey compared to the Dutch purchase of Manhattan ($15 million versus $24 in American currency; but since there was no American currency when the Dutch bought Manhattan, the comparison is like comparing guilders and tulips – and guilders and tulips went a lot farther back in 1626).  In another comparison, the United States paid 223 million rubles for Alaska. That’s 7.2 million dollars, 32 million francs, 18 million guilders, or 41 million tulips.

The only other comparable land purchase was a parcel along the Mexican border for a few pesos. The remaining portions of the United States were liberated from various other sources, usually native American or Spanish.

 

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