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Purchase of Alaska

Andrew Johnson

Purchase of Alaska: Andrew Johnson was the 17th American President who served in office from April 15, 1865 to March 4, 1869. One of the important events during his presidency was the purchase of Alaska.

Definition and Summary of the Purchase of Alaska
Summary and definition:
The Alaska Purchase was made by the United States of America from Russia in 1867. The Alaska purchase is also known as " Seward's Icebox" or "Seward's Folly" because the United States Secretary of State, William Henry Seward, purchased Alaska from Russia for $7.2 million which was considered to be a huge mistake by many and an economic liability for the nation. 

The Alaska Purchase
Alaska is the largest U.S. State and about 1/5 of the total land area of the 48 contiguous states (adjoining states). The land that covers 586,412 square miles and has nearly 34,000 miles of tidal shoreline.

Alaska Purchase: Seward's Folly
Why was the Alaska Purchase known as
Seward's Folly? The purchase of Alaska was derisively known as Seward's Folly as most of America thought the price of the land was too high. Seward's Folly is named for William H. Seward who was the Secretary of State under both President Lincoln and President Johnson and was an ardent expansionist and believed in the Manifest Destiny of America. The word folly, rarely used today, means the result of a foolish action, senseless behavior or enterprise. 

Alaska Purchase History for kids
Franklin Pierce, the 14th president of the United States is credited with initiating the first discussions on acquiring Alaska from Russia. In the Monroe Doctrine of 1823 the Czar of Russia had agreed not to establish colonies in the recognized southern boundary of Russian America. The Alaska Purchase took place on October 18, 1867. This famous transaction was initiated by William Seward and President Andrew Johnson who approved a treaty with Russia for the purchase of Russia's American territories to the Senate, for ratification.

 The territories were called Alaska, and included a massive tract of land in the extreme Northwest of the North American continent. The price to be paid was 7.2 million dollars. The Senate was taken by surprise, but it ratified the Treaty of Russia. Full details of important dates and the people involved in the Alaskan acquisition are detailed on the fact sheet.

Facts about the Alaska Purchase for kids
Interesting facts about the Alaska Purchase are detailed below. The history of the Alaska Purchase is told in a factual timeline sequence consisting of a series of interesting, short facts providing a simple method of relating the
history of the Alaska Purchase for kids, schools and homework projects.

What was the Alaska Purchase? It was the acquisition of Russian America by the United States from the Russian Empire.

When was the Alaska Purchase?

  • March 30, 1867: America signed a treaty with Russia, purchasing the Russian
    American territories

  • October 18, 1867: The land was formally transferred from Russian to American control
    at Sitka

  • July 14, 1868: The House of Representatives approved funding for the purchase of
    Russia by a vote of 11 3-48

Who negotiated the Alaska Purchase? It was negotiated and signed at a convention in Washington on March 30, 1867 by Secretary of State William Seward and Russian Minister and Envoy to the United States who was Edouard de Stoeckl

The Treaty of Russia was signed and negotiated on behalf of His Majesty the Emperor of Russia and the United States of America. The Russian Emperor was Tsar Alexander II

Why did Russia sell Alaska? Russia lacked the money required to support military presence and establish new settlements along the Pacific coast of North America. Russia believed that Great Britain would take the land from Russia by force. It was politically and strategically preferable for the United States to buy the land than have it taken by the British. Defeat in the Crimean War further reduced Russian interest in this region. 

How many acres were purchased? 586,412 square miles (1,518,800 km2) which is double the size of Texas

The Treaty of Russia, detailed the amount for purchasing the Russian American territories for the amount of $7.2 million.

The  Treaty with Russia important Dates: Treaty of Russia signed March 30, 1867. Ratification Advised by Senate on April 9, 1867. President Johnson signed the treaty on May 28, 1867. Ratification Exchanged at Washington on June 20, 1867. Proclaimed, June 20, 1867.

The territory was formally transferred from Russian to American control at Sitka, on the Alaskan panhandle, on October 18, 1867

The House of Representatives approved funding for the purchase of the Russian territory by a vote of 113-48 on July 14, 1868

Russia offered to sell the Alaskan lands to the United States in 1859 but negotiations were brought to a halt by the political internal strife in the US which led to the outbreak of the Civil War

The Russians were initially interested in the lands because of the possible raw materials and were especially interested in furs. Peter the Great sent Vitus Bering to explore the North Pacific in 1725 and the Russians claimed the lands. They found the land inhospitable, difficult to settle and were attacked by hostile the native Aleut people.

The transfer ceremony took place in Sitka on October 18, 1867 when the Russian flag was lowered and the American flag raised. Russian and American soldiers paraded in front of the governorís house accompanied by bands and the sound of firing canon.

The newspaper press heavily criticized the acquisition which was given several nicknames including "Seward's Folly", "Seward's icebox" and "Andrew Johnsonís Polar Bear Garden"

William Seward was finally vindicated 60 years later when a Important gold deposit was discovered in the Yukon in 1896 which led to the Klondike gold rush

The strategic and tactical importance of the territory was finally appreciated and recognized during WW2

Alaska became a state on January 3, 1959

Significance of the Treaty of Russia: It was extremely significant as it

  • Ended Russiaís presence in North America

  • Prevented the British taking the lands from Russia

  • Ensured U.S. access to the Pacific northern rim

  • The Klondike Gold Rush began in 1896

  • Alaska provided rich resources such as gold to the United States of America

US American History
1866-1881: Reconstruction Era

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