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This Day In History: U.S. Formally Takes Possession Of Alaska from Russia

October 18, 2016

This day in history, October 18, 1967, the U.S. formally takes possession of Alaska from Russia after purchasing it from Russia for $7.2 million, which is equivalent to less than 2 cents an acre.

The purchase was championed by William Henry Steward, the Secretary of State under President Johnson.

The Alaska territory was being overrun by American settlers and with fear that the territory might be lost in battle with a rival, Russia elected to sell it. Negotiations between Seward and the Russian minister to the U.S., Eduard de Stoeckl, began in March, 1867.

Many people thought the purchase was a bad idea thinking that it was just a barren wasteland. It was called “Seward’s Folly” and “Andrew Johnson’s Polar Bear Garden”.

Congress eventually ratified the Alaska deal and many people came to change their opinion on Alaska after gold was found in a tributary of Alaska’s Klondike River in 1896, resulting in a gold rush to the land.

On January 3, 1959, Alaska would become the 49th state for the United States of America.