Library of Congress > Collections with Maps > Louisiana: European Explorations and the Louisiana Purchase

Overview

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.

In order to effectively tell the story of the acquisition of Louisiana by the United States of America from France in 1803 it is necessary to use research materials from throughout the vast holdings of the Library of Congress. The Library of Congress holds extensive resources that permit a thorough study of the major land acquisition in United States' history. This online presentation is intended to alert the researcher of the rich variety of research materials that are represented in the collections of the Library of Congress that provide contemporary sources that address a number of issues surrounding the inclusion of Louisiana into the nation. The Louisiana Purchase event, and its immediate impact, had a profound affect on the history of the United States; the extent of its importance in United States' history can be seen in the books, newspapers, music, images, letters, and maps of the era. Only with an examination of all of these types of materials can a picture of the full importance of the Louisiana Purchase be understood, not only for the United States, but also for the diversity of cultures who became a part of the emerging nation at the time of the Louisiana Territory acquisition.

The 119 items selected here are from the Geography & Map, the Rare Book and Special Collections, the Manuscript, the Prints & Photographs, the Serial & Government Publications, and the Music Divisions, and from the general book collections of the Library of Congress. The selection was made by Geography & Map Division's Senior Reference Librarian Michael Klein while he was preparing his essay Louisiana: European Explorations and the Louisiana Purchase. The items Mr. Klein has identified represent highlights from the Library's rich holdings of early Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century materials and draw upon items from a variety of media, including published monographs, manuscript documents, letters, and maps.

This presentation was made possible by a grant from the Library of Congress Krasnoff Gift Fund.

Rights and Access

The maps in the Map Collections materials were either published prior to 1922, produced by the United States government, or both (see catalogue records that accompany each map for information regarding date of publication and source). The Library of Congress is providing access to these materials for educational and research purposes and is not aware of any U.S. copyright protection (see Title 17 of the United States Code) or any other restrictions in the Map Collection materials.

Note that the written permission of the copyright owners and/or other rights holders (such as publicity and/or privacy rights) is required for distribution, reproduction, or other use of protected items beyond that allowed by fair use or other statutory exemptions. Responsibility for making an independent legal assessment of an item and securing any necessary permissions ultimately rests with persons desiring to use the item.

Credit Line: Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division.

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