Top 10 Nation-Building Real Estate Deals

Luck and hard bargaining contributed to the growth of the United States. But with expansion came consequences

The United States expanded from the original 13 colonies in a series of deals that began in 1783 with the Treaty of Paris. (Bettmann / Corbis)

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10. The Greenland Proffer (1946): The one that got away. The biggest consequence of this deal is that it never happened. At least since Seward’s day (see No. 4), U.S. officials had cast a proprietary eye toward our neighbor to the really far north. After World War II, the United States made it official, offering $100 million to take the island off Denmark’s administrative hands. Why? Defense. (Time magazine, January 27, 1947: “Greenland’s 800,000 square miles would make it the world’s largest island and stationary aircraft carrier.”) “It is not clear,” historian Natalia Loukacheva writes in The Arctic Promise: Legal and Political Autonomy of Greenland and Nunavut, “whether the offer was turned down... or simply ignored.” Greenland achieved home rule in 1979.

About T.A. Frail
T.A. Frail

Tom Frail is a senior editor for Smithsonian magazine. He previously worked as a senior editor for the Washington Post and for Philadelphia Newspapers Inc.

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