The Year Was 1803

Louisiana (historical map)The year was 1803, the United States of America was twenty-seven years old, and growing in leaps and bounds. On March 1st, Ohio became the 17th state, joining Delaware (1787), Pennsylvania (1787), New Jersey (1787), Georgia (1788), Connecticut (1788), Massachusetts (1788), Maryland (1788), South Carolina (1788), New Hampshire (1788), Virginia (1788), New York (1788), North Carolina (1789), Rhode Island (1790), Vermont (1791), Kentucky (1792), and Tennessee (1796).
(For more statehood dates, see–

After a successful revolt in Saint-Domingue, the French Emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte saw his dreams of expanding his empire to North America collapse. He had acquired the territory of Louisiana in 1800 through a secret treaty with Spain, and now with the Napoleonic Wars draining his coffers, he was ready to make a deal. Through the Louisiana Purchase, the United States bought the territory for $15 million dollars and thus adding an area that now represents one-third of the continental United States.

The Gettysburg Gazette of 19 August 1803 wrote of this acquisition, “The cession of Louisiana will be considered as one of the most important events in the history of this country that has occurred since the declaration of independence. Mr. Jefferson’s presidency will be hailed by the future inhabitants of that extensive and delightful country, as the period of his birth, and his memory will be regarded with respect for having directed the negotiation, which terminated thus advantageously for his country.”

President Thomas Jefferson had wanted to explore areas to the west and before the Louisiana Purchase was even completed, he had commissioned an expedition. Still largely uncharted, the West held many possibilities, not the least of which was the possibility of a northwest passage to the Orient. Rumors of the creatures and environment of the mysterious land to the west abounded. The expedition was led by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to chart the new territory. By the end of 1803, the expedition was on its way and had reached Camp River Dubois, Illinois.

When the journey ended, they had covered over 8,000 miles in less than two and a half years and the expedition greatly enhanced understanding of the land beyond the Mississippi River.

7 thoughts on “The Year Was 1803

  1. Very good summary of events. I am researching family in Louisiana and this helps in adding historical context.

  2. Thank you for the link to 50 States date/order. This list is very helpful to me because our library’s genealogy section has the books ordered according to the date/order of admission to the union.

  3. We have a tendency to forget dates etc., It always nice to have our memory refreshed and this particular journey by Lewis and Clark was one that we should have permanently inscribed in our mind. Thanks for the history lesson.

  4. Your info is very helpful, however, when I printed the article for my timeline, I got three pages instead of one. The first page is all I wanted and the next two were just wasted paper for me. Is there someway only the info can be printed without the comments and extraneous material? Thank you

  5. Enjoyed very much. It was good to see all the States and the dates they became states.
    to the person who could not print just one page. Just hightlite what you want and then print.

  6. This is for Diane Starnes: On my computer, to print just the part I want, I highlight the part I want to print, click on print, and then when the next menu pops up, click on selection.
    Then I am given the option to click on “okay” or “cancel”. If I don’t click on “selection” when it is offered, the whole thing will print, just as if a portion had not been highlighted!

    I, too, enjoyed the history lesson as my state was admitted to the Union in 1803!

  7. I often go on the computer to look up counties (when only the city and/or state is printed in the bit of information that I just reached. In doing so I can spend hours just reading the history attached to counties I am including in my ancestry. I have learned that there are many counties named the same and that most people travel in family groups. So the same names appear at each stop along the tracing trail.

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