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Alaska is one of the youngest states of the Union, but its history is no less significant. With ties to the earliest migrations of Eastern people to current day oil production, Alaska continues to play a vital role. At Alaska Stock Images, you will find a wide variety of Alaska photos including some of the most interesting Alaska History Photos. To find more pictures of Alaska and its history, visit our search page.

Prehistoric Glacier Field
Juneau Icefield
Dinosaurs were among the first residents of this “Great Land.” With their decline, bison and the wooly mammoth followed. Although Europeans arrived only in the last 260 years, the first people to come across the Bering Land Bridge were nearly 20,000 years ago. The continuing generations of these first people can still be found in 15% of the state’s population. The Alaskan Indian and Eskimo cultures exist both in their traditional subsistence roles as well as contributing to some of the most viable corporations in the state.
Nome Gold Rush
Miners on Seward Peninsula

On March 30, 1867, Secretary of State William H. Seward signed an agreement with Baron Edouard Stoeckl, the Russian Minister to the United States. The agreement, often called "Seward's Folly" (and "Seward's Icebox") transferred possession of the land of Alaska to the United States for a scant $7.2 million dollars. At the time, many did not understand what use there was for 586,000 square miles of virtual “unusable” wilderness.

The Klondike Gold Rush of 1897 and 1898 was the first event to provide significant exposure for the great, white North. Between 1897 and 1900, more than 30, 000 people surged into the Yukon Territory and Alaska when gold was discovered in places like Dawson, Fairbanks, and Nome. Other support industries such as fishing, trapping, and mineral production developed and a true economical base was created. Still in Territorial status, many began to complain that Alaska was being treated like the colonists just before the revolutionary war. Natural resources were being exploited but without the status of a state, no care was given to the people, policies, and financial needs of the state. Alaska had a population of about 58,000 in 1916 when James Wickersham, a Delegate to Congress, introduced Alaska's first statehood bill. It failed due to lack of interest.

Matanuska Valley colony farm
Matanuska Valley Farms
During the Depression, Alaska’s main commodities declined: fish and copper ore. Wages and workers dropped rapidly. However, with the passing of various “New Deal” programs, Alaska’s Matanuska Valley received revitalization from the transplanted farmers and ranchers sent by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He imagined that Americans from depressed agricultural areas could be transplanted to Alaska's Matanuska-Susitna region and given a fresh chance at farming and ranching. Around 1,000 colonists were selected from some 15,000 applicants.

However, perhaps one of the biggest economic booms for Alaska was World War II. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Attu Island, found on the western edge of the Aleutian Islands, was occupied by the Japanese military. This “Forgotten War” resulted in billions of dollars in defense spending which came into the state for construction of the Alaska Highway, the capture and eventual fortification of the Aleutian Islands, and the construction of military bases throughout the state.
the Forgotten War memorial
WWII memorial, Attu

Even with the influx of military dollars, Alaska still was widely without roads, hospitals, and the needed infrastructure. Alaska's governor, Ernest Gruening, felt that the only way by which Alaskans could improve their conditions and to end treatment as a “colony” was to become a state with representation in the House and Senate. The Alaska Statehood Committee was formed in 1949 to ralley efforts toward statehood. On January 3, 1959, President Eisenhower signed the official declaration, which made Alaska the 49th state. The new American flag featured seven rows of seven stars each.

Alaska’s inclusion into the United States brought the advantage of Federal support. Roads and cities continued to expand. But a short time later, one of the largest natural disasters to both Alaska and the Nation occurred. The 1964 earthquake was recorded on seismic stations around the world. In fact, some waves traveling along the surface of the Earth made many complete trips all the way around before they died down. The earthquake generated a tsunami that devastated towns along the Gulf of Alaska including Seward and Valdez. Total damage from the earthquake and tsunami was between $400 and $500 million.

Earthquake Damage
Earthquake damage, Turnagain Arm

In 1974, the Federal “right-of-way” was granted and construction began on the Alaska Pipeline. The 1970’s brought re-growth and wealth to Alaska by the construction of the Pipeline. Today, Alaska's economy is largely supported by oil revenue. However, tourism also plays an important role. Ever since the 1920’s, people have been in love with the wilderness appeal of Alaska, and today, thousands of tourists enjoy the views, wildlife, and adventure offered by Alaska. Each Alaska community has its own traditions, festivals and attractions. Visitors spend approximately $952 million dollars a year, which puts Tourism as the second most contributing industry to Alaska’s revenue.

"We're In" newspaper headline
"We're In" newspaper headline

Books of Interest:

Alaska's History: The People, Land, and Events of the North Country

The Alaska Almanac: Facts About Alaska - It's back! Once again, Alaska Northwest Books(tm) proudly presents a newly revised edition of THE ALASKA ALMANAC(r), the best-selling reference book about the Last Frontier. This annual guide to America's vast northern state is chock-full of amusing and informative details, sidebars, history, maps, recipes, and tips on living in the Far North. Yearly highlights featuring news of the Northland and a recommended reading list also are included.

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