Editor's note: The following is the fourth in a series of posts on
the historical record that can be tracked through U.S. coins. The
subject is the cover story of our July monthly issue.
To read other stories in the series, click here.
In the years after independence, the young nation faced numerous
challenges, not least of which was grappling with its growth.
In 1803, the United States sought to obtain New Orleans, the port
city a critical juncture if the states west of the Appalachians were
to prosper. Instead, Napoleon offered the whole Louisiana Territory,
and President Thomas Jefferson agreed to the deal, more than doubling
the size of the nation with the Louisiana Purchase.
The event obviously helped define the future growth of the nation
and gave rise to the Manifest Destiny mindset that governed the nation
in the 19th century.
In 2002, the Louisiana quarter dollar highlighted the historic
purchase, in one of many hodgepodge designs — a pelican, trumpet and
map crowd the reverse design — that afflicted the State quarters program.
Nearly a century earlier, a pair of gold dollars (the first
commemorative gold coins) were issued to celebrate the Louisiana
Purchase centennial and an exposition created to mark the anniversary.
One of the coins shows Jefferson and the other honors the
then-recently deceased President William McKinley.