Beginning this fall, St. Louisans will be able to see the actual document that made what is now Missouri part of the United States.
In 1803, the United States bought more 828,000 square miles of land from France for $15 million – roughly four cents an acre – in a deal known as the Louisiana Purchase.
The parcel immediately doubled the size of the country and eventually became part or all of 14 states from Louisiana to Montana, including Missouri, Iowa and Arkansas.
The National Archives will lend the Missouri History Museum the actual treaty and other related documents for an exhibit called “The Louisiana Purchase: Making St. Louis, Remaking America.”
It’s the fourth most cherished American document, according to a study involving the “U.S. News and World Report,” after the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
The treaty will be displayed under a clear cover, in the original French, with a translation provided. Seeing it will help connect St. Louisans to their past, according to Chris Gordon, the museum’s library and collections director.
“Visitors will be able to gaze upon an actual piece of history,” Gordon said.
Gordon noted that the acquisition of the Louisiana Territory stands out in history for its lack of bloodshed.
“Often, especially in these times, land was taken by force. But this was a very peaceful execution of a land sale,” Gordon said.
The exhibit opens October 25, and runs through April 19.