The Alaska Purchase: Americas Icy Acquisition

The Alaska Purchase: America’s Icy Acquisition

Have you ever wondered why Alaska belongs to the United States? Well, it’s all because of a purchase made by the U.S. government in 1867. The Alaska Purchase, also known as Seward’s Folly, was the acquisition of Alaska from the Russian Empire for $7.2 million dollars. In today’s money, that’s over $100 million dollars! Let’s dive into the history of how this acquisition came about.

Why did the U.S. want Alaska?

At the time of the Alaska Purchase, the United States was expanding its territory rapidly. In the 1840s, the U.S. had acquired Texas, California, and the surrounding territory through war with Mexico. The U.S. government also had its sights set on Hawaii and other Pacific islands. With all of this expansion happening, Alaska was seen as a valuable addition to the United States.

Alaska was also known for its rich resources such as gold, timber, and fur. In addition, the Bering Sea was a prime location for fishing. By purchasing Alaska, the U.S. government would have access to all of these resources and could use them for economic gain.

Why did Russia sell Alaska?

The Russian Empire had owned Alaska since 1741, but by the mid-19th century, the territory was becoming more of a burden than an asset. The Russian government was facing financial difficulties and could no longer afford to maintain and defend Alaska.

In addition, the Russian government was also afraid that Alaska would be taken by the British or the Americans during a time of war. Selling Alaska to the United States would ensure that the territory remained out of the hands of their European rivals.

Finally, the Russian government also saw the sale of Alaska as an opportunity to strengthen their relationship with the United States. The U.S. government had been a neutral party during the Crimean War, and by selling Alaska to them, the Russian Empire hoped to establish a partnership with the U.S. for future conflicts.

How was the Alaska Purchase received?

The Alaska Purchase was met with mixed reactions from the American public. Many people thought that the land was barren and worthless and criticized the government for spending so much money on it. Others believed that the purchase was a good investment and would bring economic benefits to the country.

The media of the time ridiculed the purchase, calling it “Seward’s Folly” after Secretary of State William Seward who negotiated the deal. However, as time went on, the value of Alaska’s resources became clear, and the purchase was ultimately deemed a smart move by the U.S. government.

What happened after the Alaska Purchase?

After the Alaska Purchase, the U.S. government set about establishing its authority over the territory. This was not an easy task, as Alaska’s vastness and extreme climate made travel and communication difficult. The government established military posts and encouraged settlement and industry in the region.

One of the most significant events to happen in Alaska after the purchase was the Klondike Gold Rush in 1896. The discovery of gold in the Yukon region of Alaska and Canada brought thousands of prospectors and entrepreneurs to the area, sparking a period of growth and prosperity.

Alaska officially became a U.S. territory in 1912, and in 1959, it became the 49th state of the United States.


The Alaska Purchase may have been seen as a foolish move by many at the time, but it ultimately proved to be a valuable acquisition for the United States. Alaska’s vast resources and strategic location have helped to shape the country’s economy and national defense for over 150 years. It’s a great reminder of the many bold moves our leaders had to take to ensure that the United States remained one of the most powerful nations in the world.

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