Celebrating the 221st Anniversary of The Louisiana Purchase with Special Media

To celebrate the 221st anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase on April 30, let’s use the catalog to see related records!

On April 30, 1803, 828,000 square miles of land were purchased by the United States from the then-owner of its territory, France, for $15 million, which today would be about $342 million. Napoleon Bonaparte famously sold the land for funds to fight the British, offering up not just the lucrative port city of New Orleans, but the entirety of the Louisiana territory. 

The French influence on Louisiana is still felt today, with New Orleans street signs displaying names like “Rue d’Orléans” (Orleans Street) and “Rue Bourbon” (Bourbon Street). Though popularly thought to be a reference to the drink, the name “Bourbon” in fact immortalized the name of the then-ruling French royal family when the street was engineered in 1721

Today, the National Archives Catalog, the online portal that provides access to electronic records and digitized versions of our holdings, presents many diverse records about the Louisiana Purchase and the state of Louisiana today, from artists’ renderings and maps to film and audio recordings.

Prior to digitization, it was only possible to access these records in person at the National Archives. Now, a simple search can unlock incredible records.

Here are some tips on the best ways to utilize the NARA Catalog to find special media records, featuring some of our holdings relating to Louisiana:

Enter the subject you’re looking for– in this case, “Louisiana Purchase.”

The following page will yield your search results:

Next, the sidebar has various tabs that help filter results to find what you’re looking for. 

In this case, let’s search for photographs that are digitized for viewing online:

Through this search, we are able to find a photograph of the loan of the Louisiana Purchase to the Louisiana State Museum in 1976.

This is a photograph of the ceremony in the Rayburn House Office Building for the loan of the Louisiana Purchase to the Louisiana State Museum. Pictured are Deputy Archivist James O’Neill (far left), Rep. Lindy Boggs (center), House Speaker Carl Albert (third from right), and John Warner, head of the American Revolution Bicentennial Administration (far right).
April 2, 1976. Local ID: 64-PF-4-2-76 (NAID 286884973). 

Beneath the photograph, the item description, dates, and access information are listed.

In this case, we see the names of those pictured: Deputy Archivist James O’Neill (far left), Rep. Lindy Boggs (center), House Speaker Carl Albert (third from right), and John Warner, head of the American Revolution Bicentennial Administration (far right).

We can also see there are no access or usage restrictions on this item, such as copyright or donor restrictions, as well as location information within the NARA Catalog.

To save the image, click the grey download button in the bottom left corner of the photograph display, and it will be saved to your device.

Next, we can search for maps that date back to the time of the Louisiana Purchase itself.

 To view NARA’s digitized cartographic collection, let’s select “Available to access online” and filter by “Location of Archival Materials” to find where the records are held.

In this case, let’s select “National Archives at College Park – Cartographic” to view all digitized cartographic materials relating to the Louisiana Purchase held in NARA’s Special Media Division in College Park, MD.

Our search yields the following results:

From here, we can view a map of Louisiana and the Mississippi River written in French dating back to 1803:

Map of the Louisiana and the Mississippi River, RG 77, War Department Map Collection. Local ID: 95-2-US (NAID 77452263)

Scrolling down to view the description, you can see the date of creation (1803), the date of compilation (1939-1942), usage restrictions (unrestricted access and use), and the record groups and series that the item belongs to (like the War Department Map Collection).

To download the digitized image, follow the same steps we used to download the photograph.

Finally, let’s search for any sound recordings that relate to the Louisiana Purchase, using the same filtering steps used to find the photograph:

Click “Available to access online” and select “sound recordings.”

This will allow you to view digital recordings from any location within the Archives’ holdings.

For example, held at the Eisenhower Library in Abilene, Kansas, we find a digitized radio broadcast from 1953, marking the Sesquicentennial, or 150th anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase:

Since it has been digitized and uploaded, the nearly-15 minute long recording is available to listen to in your browser, and to download in the same way we downloaded the records above. 

Audio recording of a radio address in New Orleans at the ceremony marking the 150th anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase, RG 111, Radio Addresses Series. Local ID: EL-D16-0022 (RA) (NAID: 329120749)

Knowing these search tips allows catalog users to search more deeply, more efficiently, and with a greater scope.

Louisianans have a special word, lagniappe (LAN-yap), which colloquially means “a little something extra.” Knowledge and understanding of how to use NARA’s catalog can not only provide you with the information you are looking for, but may also offer a little lagniappe–some fascinating tidbits of special media.

3 thoughts on “Celebrating the 221st Anniversary of The Louisiana Purchase with Special Media

  1. Exciting to see such a pivotal moment in history celebrated with special media! Looking forward to diving into the content and learning more about the impact of The Louisiana Purchase.

  2. Such a pivotal moment in history! Looking forward to engaging with the special media content and learning more about the impact of the Louisiana Purchase.

  3. Absolutely fantastic guide on how to explore the treasures within the National Archives Catalog, especially those related to the Louisiana Purchase! 🎉 Your detailed instructions make it so much easier for anyone, from history buffs to students, to navigate this vast repository and uncover valuable documents, photos, and recordings. The step-by-step tips on using filters and understanding archival data are particularly helpful. It’s incredible how much history is accessible right from our devices, allowing us to connect with the past in such a direct and meaningful way. Thanks for sharing this insightful guide, truly a lagniappe for all of us history enthusiasts! 🗺️📜🔍

    Denizli Avukat

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