THE ICON: Thomas Jefferson
THE LEGACY: Thomas Jefferson wanted New Orleans. As sitting president, he needed to ensure American access to the Mississippi River, and the best way to do that was to buy New Orleans from France. So, in 1803, Jefferson set in motion a negotiation that would result in one of greatest real estate deals in history. For $15 million — just $5 million more than he was willing to pay for New Orleans alone — he ended up getting 828,000 square miles, including the Crescent City, from Napoleon Bonaparte, enough to double the size of the 27-year-old America. The news of France’s departure reportedly made some in New Orleans cry. But it also made them something else: It made them Americans.
THE ARTIST: Michael McManus, WhereYart.net
THE INSPIRATION: “There is on the globe one single spot, the possessor of which is our natural and habitual enemy. It is New Orleans, through which the produce of three-eighths of our territory must pass to market.” — Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Robert Livingston, the U.S. minister to France