In America, we love to celebrate pioneers. Some of them are famous, like the frontiersman Daniel Boone, or the aviator Amelia Earhart. Other pioneers are not so well-known, but their influence is just as far-reaching and important. One of these unsung heroes is Mildred Jefferson, the first black female doctor to graduate from Harvard.
Born in 1927 in Pittsburg, Texas, she was the only child of Millard and Guthrie Jefferson. Her dad, Millard, was a minister, and her mom, Guthrie, was a schoolteacher. Mildred was a very precocious little girl. While she was still very young, she would often accompany the local doctor as he visited patients. “I would follow him around asking questions, and he would always answer,” she later said in an interview. “I said, ‘I want to be a doctor just like you,’ and he said ‘If you want to do that, you just go right ahead.’ ”
It didn’t take her long to start achieving her dream. At age 16, she graduated summa cum laude (with highest honors) from Texas College with a bachelor’s degree, and then earned her master’s at Tufts University. At age 20, she entered Harvard Medical School, graduating 4 years later in 1951.
After graduating, she became the first woman to serve as a surgical intern at Boston City Hospital, the first to serve at Boston University Medical Center, and the first to become a member of the Boston Surgical Society. But she didn’t limit herself to practicing medicine.
As if she didn’t have her hands full already, she also became a political activist. She became actively involved in the Republican party, and sought the Republican nomination for the Senate multiple times, though unsuccessfully. However, she was very influential in shaping Republican party policy, especially when it came to abortion, an issue she was passionate about. She felt that abortion was particularly harmful for minority groups, such as blacks. Ronald Reagan, a Democrat who, by the 1960s, had switched to the Republican party, credited her with changing his position on abortion from pro-choice to pro-life. Back in the ‘60s and early ‘70s, neither party even had a position on abortion, although the majority of the American public was against the abortion mandate issued by the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade. In 1968, Jefferson helped to found the high-profile pro-life group National Right to Life. She became an outspoken voice against abortion, and was very persuasive, appearing on TV and radio. One of her viewers was Reagan, the governor of California at the time. A few years before, he had been persuaded to sign a bill making abortion legal to protect the life or health of the mother. To his disappointment, this loophole was widened to allow abortions for just about any reason. He wrote Jefferson, “You made it irrefutably clear that abortion is the taking of a human life. I’m grateful to you.”
With the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision, the pro-life movement grew exponentially. Jefferson was elected vice chairman of the National Right to Life Committee that year, and chairman the year after that. In 1975, she became president of the organization, leading it until 1978. Until her death in 2010 at the age of 84, Jefferson traveled the country speaking in front of groups of all political persuasions about the abortion issue. Her personality, experience, and speaking ability gave her a tremendous impact.
In a cartoon published by the satire magazine Punch in 1899, an inventor looking for a patent clerk was told that since everything had already been invented, the clerk was unnecessary and had been eliminated. Since then, thousands of new inventions have radically changed the world in ways no one could have imagined. Some were labored on for years before finally being perfected, while others were invented by accident. Here are the stories of some inventions that almost weren’t invented.
It was 1853, and George Crum was having a rather crummy day. He was working his shift as a chef at a posh resort in Saratoga Springs, New York when a customer decided to be difficult. The man kept sending his french fries back to the kitchen, complaining that they were too thick and soft. Crum decided to teach his fussy customer a lesson. He sliced a potato paper-thin and fried it to a crisp. But instead of being angry, the customer loved the crispy potatoes. Soon, word got around about Crum’s new version of a french fry, and customers began requesting more.
Crum began stocking what he called “Saratoga chips” at his restaurant, and tourists began visiting Saratoga Springs specifically to eat his crunchy potatoes. Eventually, they made their way into grocery stores, and became the popular snack they are today, selling over a billion pounds per year.
Another "chance" invention of one of today's popular snacks happened in 1930, with the chocolate chip cookie.
Ruth Wakefield and her husband owned the Toll House Inn, famous for its home-cooked food. One day, Ruth was in a hurry. She was whipping up a batch of her famous chocolate cookies, when she realized she was out of baker’s chocolate. She chopped up a chocolate bar instead and mixed it in the dough, expecting the chocolate bits to melt and be absorbed into the cookies. But instead, she wound up creating the first chocolate chip cookies, which were a huge hit with her customers. Nestle, the company that Ruth bought her chocolate from, made a deal with her in order to print her chocolate chip cookie recipe on their packages. They also included a small chopper in their packaging, and eventually started manufacturing “Toll House Chocolate Morsels” to make things easier. These we know today as chocolate chips.
One of the most interesting invention stories is also one of the most important: penicillin.
In 1928, Dr. Alexander Fleming, a bacteriologist at a London hospital, left some slides full of staph bacteria out and forgot about them. When he finally remembered them, he discovered that they were contaminated with mold. But instead of throwing them away, the doctor decided to investigate them under a microscope first. What he found was amazing: the mold was actually preventing the bacteria’s growth.
Dr. Fleming discovered that the mold, called penicillium, contained a substance called penicillin that killed bacteria. There was only one problem: at the rate the mold was growing, Dr. Fleming would never have enough to create a drug from it. So he sent his assistants on a mission - scouring grocery stores and markets for moldy fruits and veggies.
Finally, one assistant came up with a cantaloupe covered with golden mold. This mold was another type of penicillium, and it produced over 200 times more penicillin than the original mold. Chemists were able to increase this number by over 500%. After years of growing mold and extracting its juice, scientists were finally able to administer penicillin for the first time. In World War I, the death rate from pneumonia was 18%, which dropped to 1% during World War II, with penicillin’s help. When it became available for civilian use, the results were equally dramatic with previously incurable bacterial infections. Who could've guessed that a moldy melon would be so valuable?
Whether you’re a baseball fan or not, you couldn’t have helped but notice the Chicago Cubs’ history-making World Series win on November 2nd. Now people can finally stop talking about the "Billy Goat curse," "the black cat curse," Steve Bartman, and other superstitions fans either exaggerated or dreamed up to explain the Cubs’ previous lack of a World Series win since 1908.
The Chicago Cubs, founded in 1870, was the first American professional sports team to play in any sport. It began as the Chicago White Stockings (not to be confused with the Chicago White Sox). The White Stockings featured many top players of the time, including Cap Anson, who later became the team manager. Another early member of the team was Billy Sunday, who would later become a famous evangelist.
Apparently, the team couldn’t make up its mind about its name, though, because it later became known as the Orphans, Colts, Panamas, Rainmakers, Spuds, Trojans, Microbes, and Zephyrs. In 1902, a sportswriter commented on the number of young players on the Chicago team. His nickname for the team, the Cubs, stuck; the team officially adopted it in 1907.
The first decade of the 1900s was good for the Cubs. In 1906, they not only won the major league record for number of wins in a single season (with 116 wins) and the record winning percentage (.763), but they won their first pennant. That year, for the only time in history, the two final teams at the World Series were both from Chicago, as the Cubs faced the White Sox. The White Sox won, but the Cubs fought back, winning the pennant again in 1907, along with the World Series that year and the next. In 1910, they won the pennant yet again, for a total of four pennants out of five seasons.
Originally, the World Series was played among three major leagues: the Chicago-based National League, founded in 1876; the American League, founded in 1901; and the Federal League, founded in 1913. In 1916, the Federal League disbanded, and its former owner bought the Chicago Cubs and moved them to the ballpark that he had built for his now-bankrupt league. Eventually, the park would become known as Wrigley Field. It is the second oldest ballpark in major league baseball, beside the Boston Red Sox’s Fenway Park.
For the next 100+ years, the Cubs fluctuated between greatness and mediocrity. They managed to win several more pennants, but never a World Series. In 1945, they won another pennant; this would be their last for 71 years, although they came close a few times.
In the end, the cure for the “curse” that plagued the Cubs had nothing to do with superstition. In 2011, the Cubs hired Theo Epstein who, in 2004, had led the Boston Red Sox to their first win in 96 years. (Ironically, the last time the Red Sox had won a World Series prior to that was when they had beaten the Cubs for the title in 1918.)
Epstein’s unconventional methods, used with the Red Sox, proved successful once again; the Cubs, after giving their fans a real cliffhanger, finally won the World Series after 108 years!
November is here, the season for giving thanks and - according to the numbers churned out during Black Friday week - for shopping. But shopping nowadays is quite different from what it was like 100 years ago. Here are the interesting stories of two well-known Midwest grocery store chains which had their beginnings during that time. Their names are probably quite familiar... Piggly Wiggly and Jewel-Osco.
Piggly Wiggly started in 1916 in Memphis, Tennessee. Its owner, Clarence Saunders, had a radical new idea: self-service. Back then, shoppers would bring their grocery lists to store clerks, who would find their groceries for them. Everyone thought Saunders must be crazy to actually let his customers choose their own products.
But his “crazy” idea worked. Not only did his customers not steal from him, as many had predicted, but they loved being able to actually do their own shopping. The self-service model also allowed Saunders to lower his prices in comparison with other stores.
Piggly Wiggly’s innovations didn’t stop with self-service. It was also the first grocery store to use checkouts, shopping carts, refrigerated displays for produce, and uniforms for its employees. It was the first store to price all its merchandise, market its own national brands, and issue franchises to other stores that wanted to use its self-service model. By the 1930s, it already had hundreds of franchises. Today, Piggly Wiggly boasts over 530 stores in 17 states, including Illinois and Wisconsin.
No one knows how Piggly Wiggly got its name. Saunders took that secret to his grave. It probably was to arouse curiosity in the hopes of generating business. In that, Saunders was certainly successful.
Jewel-Osco is another grocery store with an interesting history. In 1899, it started in the Chicago area as the Jewel Tea company. Its founders, Frank Ross and Frank Skiff, used horse-drawn wagons to deliver coffee and tea from house to house. As their company expanded, the two Franks added hundreds of delivery routes, and eventually made their products available by mail order. The company also began acquiring grocery stores. Eventually, the whole company came to be known as Jewel Food Stores.
In 1961, Jewel Food Stores decided to expand yet again, with the purchase of the Osco Drug company. For several decades, Jewel and Osco stores maintained different locations. After 1983, most Jewel and Osco stores shared facilities but operated separately. In 1999, Albertson’s, another grocery store chain, purchased Jewel and Osco (along with other chains) from Jewel’s parent company, American Stores. In 2010, Jewel and Osco officially merged, becoming the Jewel-Osco company.
Jewel-Osco currently operates 185 stores in Illinois, Iowa, and Indiana, as part of a larger chain of over 2,200 stores. It’s come a long way from the horse-drawn tea delivery business that it started from!
Halloween is a holiday often associated with weird and scary things. Of course we understand these things are not real. But that was not the case on October 30, 1938. For many people that day, fiction became reality, causing otherwise normal people to behave totally irrationally.
It began with a radio show and a young actor named Orson Welles, a child prodigy, gifted in writing, acting, and directing. At 23, Orson became director of a radio show that aired on CBS, called “The Mercury Theater” that dramatized stories by using sound effects and the voices of famous actors. Welles wanted to adapt a novel, making it seem like it was actually happening as the show aired. He eventually chose War of the Worlds, a science fiction novel written by H. G. Wells about aliens and space invasions. Orson decided to air the dramatized broadcast the day before Halloween, on October 30th. His idea was to rewrite the book as a fake news broadcast, formatted as a play-by-play of events to make it seem real to listeners.
As the show began, an announcer introduced the program, explaining that it was based on the 1898 sci-fi novel War of the Worlds. But millions of people tuned in late, missing this announcement. All they heard were the increasingly alarming fake news broadcasts about a Martian army with giant space vehicles landing in Grover’s Mill, a tiny town in New Jersey. The Martians were supposedly destroying Newark, NJ, and New York City, NY.
The announcers (well-known actors, including Welles himself) read fake news bulletins about the aliens sending out “heat rays” that killed everything in their path. Supposedly, the U.S. military was fighting them, facing heavy losses as the “heat rays” decimated their forces.
Many listeners believed the broadcast was real. They panicked, thinking that the end of the world had arrived at the hands of aliens from outer space. Thousands got into their cars and fled, fearing a poisonous gas attack from Mars.
In Newark, the panic caused traffic jams. Emergency phone lines became jammed from all the panicked citizens trying to call them. Many people had to be treated for shock. Even politicians and other famous people believed the fake news broadcast. Geologists from Princeton University began looking for a Martian meteor that had supposedly landed in Grover’s Mill.
All this hysteria took place in less than an hour. Halfway through the show, CBS production supervisor Davidson Taylor suggested that Orson Welles remind listeners that the show was just a reenactment. But Welles waited until the end of the hour-long broadcast. By then, pandemonium had already spread. Questioned by police and reporters afterwards, Welles unconvincingly claimed to be totally innocent of the chaos he had caused.
Ironically, the notoriety that Welles received from the broadcast launched his Hollywood career. He would later go on to direct and act in the movie classic Citizen Kane, as well as other movies.
When you hear the name Phelps, who comes to mind? Probably Michael Phelps, the champion swimmer, who holds the world record for most Olympic medals won, 28. Everything about Phelps seems larger than life, including the 5 times he has competed in the Olympic games (spanning 20 years!). In the Rio Olympics alone, he won 6 medals, 5 of them gold.
But today I’m writing about another man named Phelps. Although nowhere near the league of Michael Phelps, he was also an Olympic gold medalist, among other things. His name is Mason Phelps. Born in Wisconsin in 1883, he lived most of his life in Lake Forest, Illinois. His parents were Elliott and Sarah Phelps. Shortly after he was born, his father suffered heavy financial losses in an economic crash that occurred in 1885. Soon after, the father died, leaving his wife and little son to make do with what was left. Sarah was a very determined woman, however. In spite of everything, she made sure that her son had a good education, sending him to attend the Harvard Boys School, and later a college prep school and Yale University on a full scholarship. Phelps started playing golf about this time, and he soon excelled at it. At Yale, Phelps started to take his game to a new level, finishing 43rd in the U.S. Open in 1904. The same year, he made the U.S. Olympic golf team, winning the gold medal with his teammates.
After Yale, Phelps started his own business, the Pheoll Manufacturing Company. As well as being a good athlete, he was also an inventor and businessman. One of his inventions was a nut-and-bolt-making machine. It was the first of many successful inventions, and it helped launch Phelps' company, which eventually started supplying heavy-duty fasteners for the auto industry. Soon, he had to build a new plant to keep up with the rapidly increasing demand for his products. The company continued to expand until the Depression hit in 1929, bringing hard times for everyone. However, Phelps' business skills helped weather the financial storm. He refused to fire any of his workers, instead reducing hours when necessary.
At 40, Phelps married a woman named Louise Lamb. They had a son, Mason, Jr., and a daughter, Marian. His children inherited their father’s sense of adventure. When Mason, Jr. grew up, he joined the Marines, while Marian became a deep-sea diver.
Phelps had a soft heart. During the Great Depression, when he was on his way to work, he was stopped by a would-be robber who pointed a gun at him, demanding money. Instead of being scared, Phelps asked the man why he was trying to rob him. The man replied that he was destitute and needed money to support his family. Phelps promptly gave him a job, and the man eventually became the manager of his company, working for him for thirty years.
Phelps was only sixty years old when he died in 1942. By that time, sales had tapered off. But his son, though only 19, was determined to save his father’s business. He began working his way up from the lowest level of the company to the top, so that he could learn every aspect of running it. His trainer was the same man who had tried to rob his father at gunpoint years earlier. With the help of his staff, Mason, Jr. was able to turn the company around.
In 1951, he bought another company that made airplane parts. Taking advantage of another trend, as his father had with cars, Mason, Jr. soon began to design extremely strong titanium parts for the space industry. When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon for the first time, parts of their spacecraft came from Mason, Jr.’s company.
As for Marian, after a long and interesting life, today, at the age of 90, she still lives in Lake Forest, in a house her father built. In 2013, she wrote a book about her memories of her father and the rest of her family, called The Collage of My Life.
In 1945, 50 different countries came together to form an organization called the United Nations that would enforce world peace and human rights. But after 70 years of existence, the UN has yet to realize its founders’ hopes. Wars continue, and human rights abuses are worse than ever.
But this was not the first United Nations. That distinction belongs to the Iroquois Confederation, a much more successful organization that continues to this day. It was formed when five powerful American Indian nations, the Oneida, Onondaga, Mohawk, Cayuga, and Seneca, decided to stop fighting each other, and instead cooperate to form a communal government. Historians’ best guess is that this occurred in 1451 A.D.
These five nations were often referred to as Iroquois (literally meaning “rattlesnakes”) by outsiders, but they preferred the name Kanonsionni, which means “people of the longhouse” after the long structures they built out of tree bark and saplings. Their form of government was also the first American democracy. Centuries later, American patriots like Benjamin Franklin would recommend patterning the U.S. government after the Iroquois’ unique arrangement.
For centuries, the Iroquois had been hated and feared by the other Indians for their cruel and warlike reputation. Then a man known as the Peacemaker came to the five nations. He said that the Creator wanted them to follow a new way, to give up their cruelty and warring ways. The new way the Peacemaker preached was called the “Great Law.” An important part of the Great Law was women’s rights. The Peacemaker taught that women were life-givers, and should be honored. They had a major role to play in the peace that would follow. One of the first to listen to the Peacemaker was a man named Hiawatha. He helped persuade the five nations to band together and follow the Great Law.
Once the Five Nations joined the Confederation, the Peacemaker helped them form a government under new rules. In all five nations, men were chosen as chiefs from every family group, or clan. Every clan had a “clan mother,” a wise older woman chosen to lead her clan. These clan mothers were the ones who chose the chiefs. Together, the chiefs formed the governing council of the Iroquois. These chiefs met together to discuss matters and vote on them. Their system consisted of two houses of government, similar to the U.S. Congress. The Seneca and Mohawk chiefs were represented in one house, while the Oneida and Cayuga were in the other. The Onondagas were assigned to break any ties that came up, and veto decisions when necessary. The Five Nations also had an unwritten, though well understood, Constitution.
Centuries after they first banded together, the Five Nations voted to come to the aid of the struggling Tuscarora Indians, who were decimated by disease and starvation. In 1722, they were accepted into the Confederation as its sixth member. My grandmother, who passed away last year, was a full blooded Tuscaroran. She was born and raised on the Tuscarora Reservation, located near Niagara Falls.
Today the Six Nations of the Iroquois still assemble together for yearly festivals and celebrations, just like they did hundreds of years ago. My father and my sister, Kath, attended this year's Tuscaroran festival in July. They had a great time visiting with relatives and attending the festivities.
What’s the biggest state in the United States? Texas? Not quite. Although Texas is the biggest state in the “lower 48,” or continental, United States, Alaska could comfortably swallow 2½ states the size of Texas. Despite its remoteness, this giant state has provided many important resources for the U.S.: gold, platinum, zinc, copper, and oil are just a few, not to mention an astonishing array of wildlife and natural beauty. Interestingly enough, though, when the U.S. first acquired the Alaskan territory from Russia in 1867, most people regarded it as completely worthless. It might as well have been Antarctica, for all they knew.
Russia had been intrigued by the Alaskan wilderness for over a century. In 1725, the Russian czar, Peter the Great, sent a Danish explorer and Russian army officer, Vitus Bering, to investigate the Alaskan coast. (The Bering Strait is named after him.) Some Russians later settled there, and Russia tried to establish some military outposts. Meanwhile, American explorers and settlers were also making their presence known. Russia found it difficult to compete with America’s influence in Alaska, particularly after its 1856 defeat in the Crimean War at the hands of Britain and its allies.
Soon Russia decided that Alaska was more of a burden than an asset. In the hope of offsetting Great Britain’s power somewhat, it offered to sell it to the U.S. in 1859, when James Buchanan was president. But the government was preoccupied with a looming Civil War, which broke out when Abraham Lincoln was elected the next year.
Lincoln chose a fellow Republican and abolitionist, William Seward, to be his secretary of state. Seward, the former governor of New York, had actually been expected to win the Republican nomination over Lincoln that year, but he was too outspoken on the slavery issue for many voters.
Tragically, Lincoln did not survive his presidency. A few days after the Civil War’s end, he was shot by an assassin, John Wilkes Booth. Booth was not acting alone; he was one of ten conspirators. Their plan was to kill not only Lincoln, but also his vice president, Andrew Johnson, Secretary of State Seward, and General Ulysses Grant at the same time that day.
At the time Lincoln was shot, Seward was bedridden, recovering from a serious carriage accident. One of the assassins burst into his room, stabbing Seward's face and throat and severely injuring his son and others as they tried to protect Seward. Amazingly, they all survived. The only thing that saved Seward’s life was the heavy iron neck brace he was wearing. In spite of his injuries, Seward somehow continued his duties as Secretary of State under the new president, Andrew Johnson.
When Russia renewed its offer to sell Alaska to the U.S., Seward negotiated the purchase of 663,300 square miles of land for $7.2 million. In spite of their frosty relationship with the new president, Congress approved the purchase treaty. The press made fun of the Alaska purchase, calling it “Seward’s Folly” and "Seward's Icebox.” But the critics were silenced a few years later when gold was discovered there, triggering the Klondike gold rush in 1896. Today, Alaska, the “last frontier,” is one of America’s most valuable assets, thanks to William Seward, the Secretary of State who almost didn’t make it.
On May 14, 1804, Meriwether Lewis and his friend William Clark set off on their trip with 33 other men, starting up the Missouri river in one large boat and two smaller ones. On the way, they stopped at Fort Mandan to pick up supplies. The Mandan Indians who lived near the fort were very impressed by York, Captain Clark’s slave. They felt his face and tried to rub the color off his skin. They were disappointed, though, that Lewis and Clark didn’t have any gifts with them.
At Fort Mandan, a Frenchman, Toussaint Charbonneau, and his pregnant Shoshone wife, Sacajawea, joined the expedition. She turned out to be the most important member of the expedition, as she was able to translate for them with the Indian tribes. Her presence also made it obvious to the tribes that the mission was peaceful. Lewis and Clark, however, had a low opinion of her husband.
Lewis and Clark wrote detailed descriptions in their journals of the animals and plants they encountered along the way, plus each day’s adventures. One of these adventures occurred while Lewis hunted buffalo. While taking a walk on the banks of the Missouri, he saw a large herd of buffalo. He shot one, and before he could reload his gun, a grizzly bear started chasing him. Lewis ran to the river and grabbed a spear from one of the boats, which scared the bear away.
When the expedition reached the Yellowstone River, a storm blew up. For some reason, both Lewis and Clark were on shore when it happened. Charbonneau was steering the main boat, even though he was probably the worst man for the job. When a sudden gust of wind turned the boat, he panicked, almost capsizing the boat. Meanwhile, the equipment and provisions that the men needed were floating away. Lewis was about to swim to the boats, but he realized that the waves were too high. Terrified, Charbonneau screamed while Sacagawea, who was holding her infant son, calmly scooped equipment out of the water as it floated by. One of the men threatened to shoot Charbonneau if he didn’t grab the rudder. Finally, the main boat came under control. It was a good thing; without the boat, the expedition would have lost its most important equipment.
Lewis and Clark were not through having adventures, however. One of their men was chased by a grizzly, which they killed. One day, Lewis and his men were hunting. Lewis was aiming at an elk when he was shot from behind. He never could figure out who had shot him - whether it was one of his men or an Indian. But it took him a while to recover.
Before they crossed the Rocky Mountains, the expedition met up with the Shoshone tribe. Their chief was Sacajawea’s brother. He gave them horses to use in the crossing. Crossing the Rockies was hard, but the rest of the journey was easier. Finally, they reached the Pacific Ocean, after traveling through what is now the state of Oregon. Their journey was over! After celebrating, they retraced their steps back down the Missouri river to where they had started. When they reached Fort Mandan, they said goodbye to Charbonneau, Sacagawea, and their son, Pompey. Then Lewis and Clark continued on to give Jefferson their reports.
Lewis and Clark’s adventures were forgotten at first, but their trip gathered tremendous amounts of information and opened the way to the west for countless pioneers. Finally, almost a century after they had completed their expedition, Lewis and Clark’s journals were finally published, bringing public attention for the first time to their important expedition to unlock the mysterious West. In the year 2000, the U.S. government minted a dollar coin in Sacagawea’s honor, in remembrance of her vital role in the expedition.
The United States was finally independent! It was 1803, only 2 decades since the American Revolution had ended in 1783, and already the country had grown from the original thirteen colonies to twenty states. The newly-elected president was Thomas Jefferson, the man who had written the Declaration of Independence, in which the original thirteen colonies announced their breakaway from Britain. He presided over a hopeful, prosperous and fast-growing country that stretched from the present state of Mississippi to Maine. No one had any idea that within a few months, the United States would double in size.
Napoleon, the French dictator, had a problem. He had recently acquired a huge parcel of land from Spain, called Louisiana. But now that he had it, he found it more of a liability than an asset. How could he possibly develop and defend all that territory? Besides, he needed cash. Napoleon was about to go to war with England, and wars, of course, cost money.
Meanwhile, the U.S. was also having problems. Their cargo ships were being prevented from unloading cargo at New Orleans, a major trading center for the U.S. Jefferson authorized the U.S. ambassador to France to negotiate a treaty that would either allow the U.S. access to New Orleans, or ownership of another port on the Mississippi river. Jefferson also had another plan. He sent James Monroe to France to negotiate the purchase of New Orleans from France for up to $2 million. Napoleon refused, so Jefferson raised the price to $10 million. Imagine the Americans’ shock when France not only agreed to sell New Orleans, but the whole Louisiana territory, totaling 828,000 acres, for a total of only $15 million! The United States rushed to accept the deal before Napoleon could change his mind.
Even before the U.S. bought the Louisiana territory from France, Jefferson instructed his personal secretary, Meriwether Lewis, to prepare for a trip through the American West. Back in 1793, a Scottish explorer named Alexander Mackenzie had traveled across Canada, all the way to the Pacific Ocean. The last thing Jefferson wanted was for a similar British expedition to take place through the Louisiana territory. Lewis and Jefferson were similar in a lot of ways. They both shared the same interests in science, nature, and medicine. For Lewis, Jefferson’s orders were the dream of a lifetime, a chance to explore and open the wild, mysterious West to civilization for the first time.