Editor's Notebook

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Keen haggling skills part of U.S. heritage

Americans love bargains, as Kate Marchbanks will show you in this issue's Heart of the Home section. Loyal CAPPER'S readers recount how they've successfully mined flea markets, garage sales and clearance racks to dig up items they've treasured ever since.

Bargain hunting is a huge part of our national heritage. July, this most patriotic of months for America, is a good time to look back on a couple of deals that turned a colony and a fledgling country into the great nation it is today. Everyone remembers how Manhattan Island was purchased in 1626 for 60 guilders or $24 worth of trading goods - the trinkets and beads we read about in grade school. Actually, the transaction cost closer to $600 in today's currency equivalent - still a steal for the island on which one of the world's greatest cities was built.

Nearly 200 years later, in 1806, Thomas Jefferson was bailing Napoleon out of a financial jam resulting from his ambitions to conquer Europe and Asia. Jefferson initially was prepared to offer the French $10 million for the city of New Orleans alone. Jefferson's political foes thought he was being taken. Then the French turned around and offered the entire Louisiana Territory for $15 million - $190 million in today's dollars for the property extending up the Mississippi into the Northwest. That deal worked out to about 3 cents an acre, and 530 million acres were involved. For the record, Americans moving westward were paying 7 to 11 cents for an acre, so Jefferson may have stumbled into the best deal the country ever made.

One of the greatest symbols of America's character, integrity and inclusiveness didn't cost the country a dime. The Statue of Liberty, as everyone knows, was a gift from France. On Page 12, there is a feature on the statue revealing some interesting secrets.

But the freedom Lady Liberty represents didn't come without a cost. As we celebrate the Fourth of July, we should remember those who paid a high price to keep this country free and independent.

Dennis McLaughlin
Managing editor