Today marks the 147th anniversary of Russia turning Alaska over to the United States. Alaska did not become a state until nearly one hundred years later, but the purchase of Alaska was completed on October 18th, 1867.
The purchase of Alaska was called “Seward’s folly” for many years after William Seward, who lobbied for the purchase from Russia. A cool $7.2 million later, the territory of Alaska was no longer Russian, but American.
It would be thirty years before Seward’s Folly looked like Seward’s Wisdom. The purchase worked out to about 2 cents an acre. Good deal, no? (According to Google, in 2014 dollars, Alaska would have cost $114 million, or about $2 an acre. Still pretty good…)
These days, Alaska Day is observed here in Fairbanks with minimal note. (Only one friend on Facebook posted anything about it–probably because she happens to be a state employee and gets the day off.) But apparently in Sitka, Alaska, there is quite the festival. Why Sitka? Well, that’s where the Russians had set up headquarters. On October 18th, 1867, it was in Sitka that the Russian flag was replaced with a United States flag. Big deal. Literally.
On January 3, 1959, Alaska became a state. Real, honest-to-goodness state. And she’s given the U.S. so much income through gold and oil that many Alaskans believe we should have just become our own country. (Personally, I’m grateful to be an American, but it’s interesting to think what might have been.)
Still, regardless of which side of the fence you stand on, Alaska is one the most unique states of this country.