How the United States Bought Alaska

Alaska is a US state located northwest of Canada. It used to be part of the Russian Empire until it was sold to the United States of America on March 30, 1867. This is a historical event known today as the Alaska Purchase.

According to researches, the Russian settlement came to Alaska sometime in the 17th century. It was considered as an international center of trade. Merchants flocked in and out of Alaska to trade fabrics, tea, coal, and expensive goods such as walrus ivory and sea otter fur. The area was also known to have a number of gold deposits.

Despite its wealth in resources and commercial activity, however, the Russians found it difficult to keep it after they were beaten by Great Britain in the Crimean War. It was in 1959 when Russian Tsar Alexander II was convinced by his younger brother Grand Duke Konstantin to sell Alaska to either the USA or Great Britain. This, according to Konstantin, was better that losing Alaska in the war.

While the USA took interest in the offer, it wasn’t possible to pursue it at that time, because it had more pressing concerns as it was engulfed in the American Civil War. After the civil, war in 1867 Alaska was again offered to the US through Secretary of State William Seward and President Andrew Johnson. The two parties came to an agreement, and Alaska was turned over to the US for a price of $7.2 million.

At the height of World War II, 3 islands located in Alaska, Attu, Agattu, and Kiska, were captured by Japanese forces. They occupied it from June 1942 to August 1943 before letting the islands fall back into American hands.

On January 3, 1959, Alaska was officially named as an American state, together with Hawaii. Today, Alaska is still a US state but there are many Russian nationalists who are demanding that the state be given back to them. The US, however, has been mum on these reports.

Alaska’s Golden History – Prospecting

The gold rush is one of the defining moments in Alaskan history. Throughout the 1860s to the early 1900s, the gold rush attracted multitudes to the cold Alaskan mountains.

After Russia sold Alaska, American prospectors, traders, and workers came to the new territory in search of a better life. In 1880 prospectors found gold in what is now Juneau, the capital city named after one of the founding prospectors.  This event led to a rush of gold and mineral explorations in the north.

Discoveries of gold in the Yukon area further attracted prospectors, and discoveries of gold in the Klondike River  led to the now famous Klondike gold rush of 1896. Droves of prospectors from Seattle and San Francisco came in waves, braving the cold in their search for gold.

Prospectors passed by land using trails at Chilkkoot, White Pass, Dyea, Dalton, and Valdez, while some chose to use the river trail at Stikine. Whether by land or water, the Alaskan climate was punishing to the new settlers.

Discoveries of gold in the Bering Coast, Anvil Creek, Nome Beach, and several other places led to settlements being abandoned and moving to where the gold was more promising.

Though most of the prospectors came for gold, Alaska is rich in several other minerals. Deposits of copper, tin, mercury, silver, and platinum have also been found. The mining of coal and marble strengthened the industry providing more workers with jobs and opportunities.

The shift to mining oil and gas, occurred in the late 1960s and continued on to the present. In the 1980s, Alaska provided almost 20 percent of oil production in the United States, and until today Alaska produces close to 600,000 barrels of oil a day.

Many industries now abound in Alaska, but the Alaskan gold rush was the spark that first started everything.