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General Map of the Kingdom of New Spain, from 16° to 38° North Latitude, by Alexander Von Humboldt, 1804

Geographer Alexander von Humboldt drew this map using new information he gathered from Spanish archives in Mexico. His sharing of this map with President Jefferson on an 1804 visit to Washington helped the United States better understand what lay west of the Mississippi River, especially the territory controlled by Spain.

Records of the Office of the Chief of Engineers, National Archives and Records Administration

General Map of the Kingdom of New Spain

Exploring the Continent - 1

Appropriations from Congress funded the exploration of the West. In 1803, President Thomas Jefferson ordered Captain Meriwether Lewis to organize a Corps of Discovery and persuaded Congress to fund this expedition charged with finding a water route to the Pacific Ocean and developing trade with the native tribes. After the purchase of the Louisiana Territory from France later in 1803, the Corp’s mission was also to chart and report on this newly acquired land that doubled the size of our young nation.