Monday, October 17, 2011

This Day in History October 18, 1867

The U.S. formally took possession of Alaska on this day in 1867.  They had purchased it from Russia for 7.2 million (less than two cents and acre!).   Alaska comprised 548, 412 square miles, and Secretary of State William Henry Seward was a big proponent of this acquisition.

Russia really wanted to "unload" this property.  Very few people lived there, and it was difficult to defend.  They figured it was better to sell it to the U.S. rather than lose it in battle to Great Britain.  Negotiations began in March of 1867, but the U.S. citizens did not see the merit of this property.  They called it "Seward's Folly" or "Andrew Johnson's Polar Bear Garden."  Part of the problem was that Andrew Johnson was unpopular and impeached the following year (acquitted by one vote).  Even so, Congress did ratify the purchase.  Gold was discovered there in 1896, and the rest is history.  Alaska was finally admitted to the Union as the 49th state on January 3, 1959.  The word "Alaska" means "great land."  Fits well, doesn't it?

I have never visited Alaska.  I have often dreamed of going on an Alaskan cruise or even traveling there in the summer, but I doubt I ever will.  I can assure you I would not want to live there!  Way too cold for my liking!

If you would like more information, check out this site.


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