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Alaska's History. Considered "Seward's Folly" when then Secretary of State William H Seward made the purchase from Russia on March 30, 1867 for 7.2 million dollars. Alaskans voted to approve statehood in 1946, but it wasn’t until 1959 that President Eisenhower signed in Alaska as the 49th state of the Union

Prior to the induction of Alaska as a State, there were three other significant cultural periods in Alaska’s history. The Native Alaskans who are believed by many to have originally come over the Bering Land Bridge from eastern Russia and migrated over time to all corners of Alaska. The name Alaska is derived from the Aleut word "Alyeska," meaning "great land."

During the 1700’s, Russian explorers discover the riches of the land and the Alaska fur trade begins. The 1800’s laid way for a rich trade industry for Russia and Britain.


After the sale of Russia to the US in 1867, adventure seeking men found themselves going north. In 1898, one of the largest events to affect Alaska’s future was the discovery of Gold! The Excelsior reached San Francisco with the first large shipment of Klondike gold. When the Portland reached Seattle on the 17th, the stampede north was on. As Alaska’s reputation spread, the population continued to increase and Statehood seemed to be its destiny.

How Big is Alaska? Alaska contains 586,412 square miles of land. It is one-fifth the size of the lower 48 states, 488 times larger than Rhode Island, two and a half times larger than Texas. With Alaska's 2003 estimated population at 648,818 that equals .90 square miles per person. Alaska is about 1390 miles tall and 2210 miles wide. The mean elevation is 1900 ft. The Aleutian Islands are 1100 miles long. Alaska has both the eastern, western and northern most points in the U.S.


State Nickname: “The Last Frontier”
State Motto: “North to the Future!” Created during the Alaska Purchase Centennial, 1967, the motto is meant to represent Alaska as a land of promise.
State Bird: Ptarmigan
State Gem: Jade
State Tree: Stika Spruce
State Fish: King Salmon
State Fossil: Woolly Mammoth
State Insect: Dragonfly
State Sport: Dog Mushing
State Mineral: Gold
State Land Mammal: Moose
State Marine Mammal: Bowhead Whale

Alaska's Flag and State Bird
Alaska's Flag & State Bird

Alaska State Flag: The design for the Alaska flag was selected in a 1926 contest for Alaska students in grades seven through twelve. The winning design, submitted by 13-year-old Benny Benson of Seward, consisted of eight gold stars on a field of blue, representing the Big Dipper and the North Star.

State Holidays: Alaska Day, Oct.18th - Alaska Day is the anniversary of the formal transfer of the territory and the raising of the US. flag at Sitka on October 18, 1867. Seward's Day March 27 - Seward's Day commemorates the signing of the treaty by which the United States bought Alaska from Russian, signed on March 30, 1867.

Longest/Shortest Day: Alaska is known as the "Land of the Midnight Sun." Alaska's northernmost village of Barrow has the longest day in Alaska. When the sun rises on May 10th, it doesn't set for nearly 3 months. Likewise when it sets on November 18th, Barrow residents do not see the sun again for nearly two months. The longest day ( June 21st, the summer solstice) in

Largest City: Anchorage has about 20 hours of daylight. And conversely on the shortest day ( December 21st, the winter solstice) Anchorage has about 4 1/2 hours of daylight.

Anchorage Alaska Skyline
Anchorage, Alaska Skyline

Temperature Extremes: The highest air temperature recorded in Alaska was 100 degrees F at Fort Yukon in 1915. The lowest temperature ever recorded in Alaska was during the construction of the Alaska Pipeline at a temporary camp named Prospect Creek. The temperature there in 1971 was 80 degrees below zero.

Mountains: Alaska has 17 of the 20 highest mountains in North America with Mt McKinley being the highest at 20,320 ft. The second highest is Mt Saint Elias, at 18,008 ft, in the Wrangell-St.Elias National Park.

Most Glaciers: Alaska has over 29,000 square miles of glaciers. Nearly 5% of the State. The Maslaspina Glacier at 850 sq miles is the largest. There are more active glaciers and ice fields in Alaska than all the remaining states combined - 100,000 glaciers in all.

Shoreline: 33,904 miles

Earthquakes: America's biggest earthquake, on March 27th 1964, devastated much of Southcentral Alaska. The Good Friday earthquake measured 8.6 on the Richter Scale. This has since revised upward to 9.2 - the strongest ever recorded in North America.

Alaska Natural Resources: Alaska's economy is driven by the oil industry, tourism, fishing, timber, mining, and agriculture. Oil is by far the largest contributing industry – nearly 85% of Alaska’s budget is from oil revenue. The Pipeline, built between 1974 and 1977 stretches over 800 miles between Prudhoe Bay on the northern coast to Valdez on the southern coast. As the second largest industry, tourism in Alaska attracts nearly 1.1 million visitors annually. The coastal waters of Alaska also provide a rich economic base for residents. Commercial fishing provides nearly 6 billion pounds of wild seafood to the world from Alaska’s waters every year. Southeast Alaska's Tongass National Forest provides much of Alaska’s exportable timber products including logs, lumber, & pulp. Alaska has an obvious reputation for its Gold, but lesser know are the mining opportunities in zinc and silver. Coal is also an important export. Alaska contains over half of the nation’s coal reserves. Finally, the Matanuska Valley is a vital agricultural center that supplies the state with fresh vegetables. Historically, in 1935 the Alaska Rural Rehabilitation Corporation was created out of need to stimulate the economy during the Great Depression. The government moved 202 families from the economically depressed Midwest to the wilderness of the Matanuska Valley. Today, the Valley is famous for its giant vegetables including cabbages that way more than 90 pounds!

National Parks in Alaska: Alaska has 15 national parks. For a complete listing, photos and more information on these parks visit our Alaska National Park Photos page.

Only in Alaska: Alaska is known for its quirky people, places and idiosyncrasies. Like the recent time linemen were stringing a power line and noticed it was mighty tough to pull it into place. When they drove back along the line to see what was causing the friction they found a 1,200-pound bull moose was tangled in the line and was now dangling by its antlers 50 feet in the air. Alaska is full of those types of stories. We try to report as many as we can in our zany "Only in Alaska" page. Visit it often to read about the latest weird events in Alaska.






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