This Day in History: On Oct. 18, The United States takes Possession of Alaska from Russia

Ashton Waldron | Herald Contributor

On Oct. 18, 1867, the United States took possession of Alaska, formerly owned by Russia. This is the first time the American flag flew high and proud in the Alaskan air, marking American territory. The land was purchased for $7.2 million, which equates to two cents an acre. Alaska is about twice the size of Texas, expanding at 586,412 square miles.
The land was officially part of the United States after William Henry Seward, the Secretary of State, championed it. Seward was under the belt of President Andrew Johnson. Still not officially a state, Alaska was only owned property at the time. The Russians were looking to sell the isolated land to the Americans over losing it in a future war to the British. Many negotiations took place until the $7.2 million was agreed upon. The deal was known as “Seward’s Folly” and “Andrew Johnson’s Polar Bear Garden.”
When the US took possession, Andrew Johnson sent army officials out with Army General Jefferson C. Davis. There were 500 men sent in order to control the land while Congress worked on establishing the civil rights. Lawmakers made Alaska what is known to be called a customs district at the time. Therefore, no other steps were taken to create a civilian structure for the land and the people. This led to a vast amount of tension between the natives and a few of the settlers on the land. The arguments caused naval forces to be called in to enforce control. After this, Alaska was governed by the Navy from 1879 to 1884. With Alaska under the wings of the United States, they were able to gain treasures that were discovered such as valuable resources of gold and oil. It was not until January 3, 1959 that Alaska became the 49th state of the United States of America.