October 20: Louisiana Purchase

On this date in 1803, the United States Senate ratified Jefferson’s treaty to purchase Louisiana from France. Two months later on December, at a flag-raising ceremony on the Plaza de Armas, France turned over New Orleans to the United States. In March of the following year, another ceremony was held in St. Louis to transfer Upper Louisiana first from Spain to France and then from France to the United States. This second exchange is celebrated as Three Flags Day.

Louisiana Purchase Banner

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French Louisiana

A map of North America showing the French posts and forts at the beginning of the French and Indian War (1754) from the Maps ETC website.

Robert Cavalier de La Salle

Portrait of Robert Cavalier de La Salle from the ClipArt ETC website. La Salle (1643-1687) was an explorer who claimed the entire Mississippi River basin for France.

Thomas Jefferson

One of many Jefferson illustrations from the ClipArt ETC website. Jefferson was President at the time of the Louisiana Purchase. He argued that even though the U.S. Constitution did not contain explicit provisions for acquiring territory, his constitutional power to negotiate treaties was sufficient to make the purchase.

Robert R. Livingston

Portrait of Robert R. Livingston from the ClipArt ETC website. Livingston was the U.S. Minister to France from 1801 to 1804 and helped negotiate the Louisiana Purchase. After signing the purchase agreement, he stated, “We have lived long but this is the noblest work of our whole lives … The United States take rank this day among the first powers of the world.”

James Monroe

Portrait of James Monroe from the ClipArt ETC website. President Jefferson sent Monroe to France to assist Ambassador Robert R. Livingston in negotiating the Louisiana Purchase.


Portrait of Napoleon from the ClipArt ETC website. Napoleon sold Louisiana to the United States for $15,000,000.

Jefferson's Sate of the Union, 1803

President Jefferson used his annual message to Congress, October 17, 1803, to explain the reasons for moving forward with the Louisiana Purchase and the expected benefits regarding security and trade.

Jefferson's Sate of the Union, 1804

President Jefferson used his annual message to Congress, November 4, 1804, to review issues related to the Louisiana Purchase and the establishment of temporary government in the territory.

Meriwether Lewis

Meriwether Lewis (August 18, 1774–October 11, 1809) was an American explorer, soldier, and public administrator, best known for his role as the leader of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Portrait from the ClipArt ETC website.

Lewis & Clark Map

The route of Lewis and Clark through the Louisiana Territory to the Pacific Ocean. Map from the Maps ETC website.

US Expansion Maps

Over a hundred maps in this collection document the territorial growth of United States from the original 13 colonies to the Pacific Ocean.

Louisiana Purchase Exposition

View of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition from the ClipArt ETC website. The fair celebrated the centennial of the Louisiana Purchase.