History Of Alaska: The widest state (in the area) of the United States. Alaska was granted to the union as the 49th state in 1959 and lies at the acute northwest of the North American continent. Brought in by the United States in 1867, the territory was designated “Seward’s Folly” after U.S. Secretary of State William Seward. He organized to purchase the land from Russia. Experts of the purchase considered that the land had nothing to offer, but the detection of gold in the 1890s created a stampede of prospectors and settlers.
Alaska is encircled by the Beaufort Sea and the Arctic Ocean to the north; Canada’s Yukon Territory and British Columbia zone to the east; the Gulf of Alaska and the Pacific Ocean to the south; the Bering Strait and the Bering Sea to the west; and the Chukchi Sea to the northwest. The capital is Juneau.
State abbreviation/Postal code: Alaska/AK
Governor: Bill Walker, Independent (to Dec. 2018)
Lieut. Governor: Byron Mallott, D (to Dec. 2018)
Senators: Dan Sullivan, R (to Jan. 2021); Lisa Murkowski, R (to Jan. 2023)
U.S. Representatives: 1
Atty. General: Jahna Lindemuth (Since 2016)
Organized as territory: 1912
Entered Union (rank): Jan. 3, 1959 (49)
Constitution Ratified: April 24, 1956
Motto: North to the Future
- Flower – Forget-me-not (1949)
- Tree – Sitka Spruce (1962)
- Bird – Willow Ptarmigan (1955)
- Fish King – Salmon (1962)
- Song – Ealaska’s Flag (1955)
- Gem – Jade (1968)
- Marine Mammal – Bowhead Whale (1983)
- Fossil – Woolly Mammoth (1986)
- Mineral – Gold (1968)
- Sport Dog – Mushing (1972)
Nickname: The state is commonly called The Last Frontier or Land of the Midnight Sun
Origin of name: Corruption of Aleut word meaning great land or that which the sea breaks against
10 largest cities (2013): Anchorage, 291,826; Fairbanks, 31,535; Juneau, 31,275 Sitka, 8,881; Wasilla, 7,831; Kenai, 7,100; Ketchikan, 8,050; Palmer, 5,937; Kodiak, 6,130; Bethel, 6,080;
Land area: 570,641 sq mi. (1,477,953 sq km)
Geographic Center: 60 mi. NW of Mt. McKinley
Number of Boroughs: 27
Largest Boroughs by Population and Area: Anchorage, 298,294 (2012); Yukon-Koyukuk, 145,900 sq mi.
State Parks: more than 100 (3.5 million acres)
Population (as of 2015): 738,432
Population Distribution (as of 2010): 710,231 (47).
- Male: 369,628 (51.7%)
- Female: 340,603 (48.3%)
- White: 473,576 (64.7%)
- Black: 23,263 (3.3%)
- American Indian and Alaska Native: 104,871 (14.8%)
- Asian: 38,135 (5.4%)
- Other Race: 11,102 (1.6%)
- Two or more Races: 51,875 (7.3%)
- Hispanic/Latino: 39,249 (5.5%)
- 2010 percent population 18 and over: 522,853
- 65 and over: 54,938
- Median Age: 32.8
First Man Arrival or Discovery
The first human beings landed in Alaska about 13,000 BC. At that time Alaska was part of a land bridge that stretched across to Siberia. People followed the herds of animals they hunted. Europeans landed in the area in the 18th century. In 1741 a Dane called Vitus Bering led a Russian trek to Alaska.
They detected there was great wealth in Alaska in the form of animal furs. Sadly, they also brought diseases to which the native people had no immunity. The British reach in 1778 when Captain Cook sailed there. (Cook Inlet is named after him). George Vancouver crossed to Alaska in 1794.
Meanwhile, in 1772 the Russians made a settlement at Unalaska. Then in 1784, they made a settlement on Kodiak Island. However, by the 1860s, the Russians had dropped interest in Alaska. Over-hunting had drained the supply of furs and it was tough to supply bases such a long way off. So they resolved to try and sell Alaska to the Americans.
In 1867 US Secretary of State William Henry Seward signed a treaty to buy Alaska for $7.2 million – less than 2 cents an acre. This purchase was popularly known in the U.S. as “Seward’s Folly“, “Seward’s Icebox,“ or “Andrew Johnson’s Polar Bear Garden“, and was dumpy among some people at the time. Anyhow, it took 6 months to prompt Congress to uphold the deal. Alaska formally passed to the USA on 18 October 1867.
- The new area was at first called the Department of Alaska.
- In 1884 it was changed to the District of Alaska.
- Till in 1878 the first cannery opened in Alaska.
- In 1880 gold was discovered in Alaska, in Juneau.
- Then in 1896 gold was discovered in Yukon but the easiest way to reach it was to sail to Skagway in Southeast Alaska.
- In 1899 gold was discovered in Nome in Northwest Alaska. Another gold scramble began in 1902 when gold was discovered near Fairbanks.
- In a single decade, the population of Alaska escalated. In 1890 the population of Alaska was just over 32,000 but by 1900 it had exceeded 63,000.
- Then in 1912 Alaska became a territory. Anchorage was invented in 1915 and Denali National Park was set up in 1917. The Alaska Railroad was completed in 1923.
- President Warren G Harding went to Alaska to drive in a golden spike in a ceremony to mark the event.
- Women in Alaska were given the right to vote in 1913.
- In 1937 Nell Scott became the first woman to serve in the Alaska legislature.
- An Agricultural College and School of Mines launched in 1922.
- It became the University of Alaska in 1935.
- In June 1942 the Japanese bombed Dutch Harbor in the Aleutian Islands. They also took the islands of Kiska and Attu. The Americans landed on Attu on 11 May 1943. By 30 May they had retaken the island. The Japanese abandoned the island of Kiska in August 1943.
- During the Second World War military bases were built in Alaska and as a result of some Alaskan towns incredibly increased in size. Meanwhile, Alaska Highway was built in 1942.
By the turn of the 20th century, an evolution forward for Alaska statehood began, but in the neighboring 48 states, the administrator was distressed that Alaska’s population was too infrequent, far-flung, and lonely, and its economy was too unstable for it to be a profitable extension to the United States.
World War II and the Japanese invasion highlighted Alaska’s critical importance, and the issue of statehood was taken more seriously, but it was the discovery of oil at Swanson River on the Kenai Peninsula that dispersed the image of Alaska as a weak, vulnerable region. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Alaska Statehood Act into United States law on July 4, 1958, which surfaced the way for Alaska’s admission into the Union on January 3, 1959.
Juneau, the territorial capital, pursued as the state capital, and William A. Egan was sworn in as the first governor. Alaska does not have counties, unlike every other American state except Louisiana. (Louisiana has parishes). Instead, it is divided into 16 boroughs and one “unorganized borough“ made up of all land, not within any borough.
Boroughs have formulated area-wide governments, but within the unorganized borough, where there is no such government, services are provided by the state. The untidy borough is divided into artificially-created census areas by the United States Census Bureau for statistical purposes only.
On March 27, 1964, the Good Friday earthquake hit South-central Alaska, swirling the earth for four minutes with a magnitude of 9.2. The earthquake was one of the most powerful ever recorded and killed 139 people. Most of them were flooded by the tsunamis that tore apart the towns of Valdez and Chenega. Throughout the Prince William Sound region, towns and ports were smashed and the land was uplifted or thrust downward.
The uplift ruined salmon streams, as the fish could no longer jump the various newly created blockades to reach their spawning grounds. Ports at Valdez and Cordova were beyond reconstruction, and the fires ruined what the mudslides had not. At Valdez, an Alaska Steamship Company ship was lifted by a huge wave over the docks and out to sea, but most hands survived.
At Turnagain Arm, off Cook Inlet, the incoming water wiped out trees and caused cabins to sink into the mud. On Kodiak, a tsunami wiped out the villages of Afognak, Old Harbor, and Kaguyak and harmed other communities, while Seward lost its harbor. Despite the breadth of the catastrophe, Alaskans rebuilt many of the communities.
- Russia handled most of the area that is now Alaska from the late 1700s until 1867 when it was purchased by U.S. Secretary of State William Seward for $7.2 million, or about two cents an acre.
- During World War II, the Japanese took up two Alaskan islands, Attu and Kiska, for 15 months.
- Alaska encloses 17 of the 20 greatest peaks in the United States. At 20,320 feet, Mt. McKinley is the tallest mountain in North America.
- Alaska has roughly 5,000 earthquakes every year. In March of 1964, the toughest earthquake recorded in North America showed in Prince William Sound with a magnitude of 9.2.
- The most powerful volcanic explosion of the 20th century showed in 1912 when Novarupta Volcano erupted, creating the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes in Katmai National Park. The temperature dropped to a record -80 degrees Fahrenheit at Prospect Creek Camp in 1971.
- The state of Rhode Island could fit into Alaska more than 420 times.
- People have resided in Alaska since 10,000 BCE.
- At that time a land bridge drawn-out from Siberia to eastern Alaska, and migrants followed herds of animals across it. Of these migrant groups, the Athabaskans, Aleuts, Inuit, Yupik, Tlingit, and Haida remain in Alaska.
FAQ’s About Alaska
Why Did The Us Buy Alaska From Russia?
Russia Offered To Sell Alaska To The United States In 1859, Believing The United States Would Off-set The Designs Of Russia’s Greatest Rival In The Pacific, Great Britain. This Purchase Ended Russia’s Presence In North America And Ensured U.S. Access To The Pacific Northern Rim.
Why Did Canada Not Buy Alaska?
Alaska Is A Part Of The Usa And Not Of Canada Because Usa Had Purchased Alaska From The Russian Federation In 1867 For Us $7.2 Million ($121 Million In 2015 Dollars) By A Treaty Ratified By The Us Senate. Alaska Is Not “In Canada”.
What Was Alaska Before It Became A-State?
Alaska Was A Russian Colony From 1744 Until The Usa Bought It In 1867 For $7,200,000. It Was Made A State In 1959. Hawaii Was A Kingdom Until 1893 And Became A Republic In 1894. It Then Ceded Itself To The USA In 1898 And Became A State In 1959.
Who First Discovered Alaska?
Vitus Jonassen Bering
Outsiders First Discovered Alaska In 1741 When Danish Explorer Vitus Jonassen Bering Sighted It On A Voyage From Siberia. Russian Whalers And Fur Traders On Kodiak Island Established The First Settlement In Alaska In 1784.
Why Did USA Want Alaska?
Russia Offered To Sell Alaska In 1859 Because They Were In Debt From The Crimean War. Seward Was Laughed At For His Purchase. Many U.S. Citizens Called It “Seward’s Ice Box” Or “Seward’s Folly.” The U.S. Did Not Initially Make This Purchase Because Of Civil War Debts.