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The Purchase of Alaska

(1825—1949)

The Russian Empire strived to gain a foothold in the Americas during the 18th century, but after a defeat in the Crimean War, 1853-1856, Russia no longer had the financial capabilities to support its colonies in Alaska. Russia preferred the territory go to the United States rather than Great Britain, Russia’s longtime enemy, but the Civil War kept America’s attention far away from northern Alaska. After the Civil War, Secretary of State William Seward quickly pursued the Russian offer. On March 30, 1867, Seward and Russian ambassador Stoecki signed the treaty for the U.S. purchase of Alaska. The United States paid $7.2 million, roughly two cents per acre, for the large territory that would one day provide the country with gold and numerous natural resources. At first, this event was known as “Seward’s Folly,” but the strategic advantage coupled with the territory’s wealth of resources ultimately made it a wise purchase for the United States.

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Seward Justifies the Purchase of Alaska

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This article from the San Francisco Chronicle on September 5, 1869, records a speech given by former Secretary of State William Seward on his involvement in the purchase of Alaska. In his speech he describes the weather, the beauty, the population, the rivers and seas, the land, and the natural resources of Alaska. Seward uses all these facts to support his decision to purchase Alaska for the United States and prove that buying Alaska was not “Seward’s Folly.”

Event Details

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Event:
Also known as: Seward's Folly 1
Name: The U.S. Purchases Alaska from Russia 1
Important Russian Figures:
Alexander II: Emperor of Russia 2
Baron de Stoecki: Russian ambassador to the United States 2
Grand Duke Konstantin Nicolavaevich: Strongest advocate for the sale of Alaska 2
Prince Aleksandr Mikhailovich Gorchakov: Most resistant to the sale of Alaska 2
Important U.S. Figures:
Andrew Johnson: President of the United States 2
Charles Sumner: Provided key political support for Seward during the purchase of Alaska 2
Nathaniel Banks: Gained support for the purchase in Congress 2
Thaddeus Stevens: Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations 2
William H. Seward: Secretary of State and a singular advocate for Alaska’s purchase 2
Alaska formally becomes part of the U.S.:
18 Oct 1867 3
President Andrew Johnson signs the treaty:
28 May 1867 3
Treaty signed for Alaska purchase:
30 Mar 1867 3
US Senate ratifies the treaty for Alaska purchase:
09 Apr 1867 3
Alaska becomes a U.S. territory:
1912 4
Alaska becomes the 49th U.S. state:
1949 4
Anglo-Russian Treaty establishes Alaska’s borders:
1825 4
Capital city established at Juneau:
1900 4
First Mission School for Eskimos opens:
1835 4
Gold discovered near Juneau:
1880 4
Homestead Act extended to Alaska:
1898 4
Japanese invade Alaskan islands of Kiska and Attu:
1942 4
Klondike Gold Rush:
1897 4
Salmon-Canning Industry started:
1878 4
Place:
Location: Alaska 1

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