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Alaska State History

History | Symbols | Interesting Facts | Famous People


1741—Russia explores and claims Alaska

1778—British Captain James Cook charts the coast of Alaska

1784—Russians create a settlement at Three Saints Bay on Kodiak Island

1823—Father Ivan Veniaminov, a Russian missionary, serves the Aleuts

1867—The United States purchases Alaska from Russia for $7.2 million

1878—The first commercial salmon cannery is built in Klawock

1884—District of Alaska is created

1896—Gold is discovered in the Klondike River

1912—Alaska is organized as a US territory

1935—Over 200 families move to Alaska for inexpensive farmland

1942—Japan attacks the Aleutian Islands during World War II

1943—The Alaska Highway is complete, connecting Canada to Alaska

1957—Oil is discovered on Kenai Peninsula

1959—Alaska becomes the 49th state

1964—The largest earthquake of North America kills 131 people in Alaska

1977—The Trans-Alaska Pipeline is completed

1989—The worst oil spill in US history hits a reef in Prince William Sound

When the first European explorers discovered Alaska, three groups of natives were found living there--Eskimos, Aleuts, and Indians.  The explorers were in search of a sea route between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. 

In 1741, Russians discovered Alaska and found a vast amount of sea otters around Kayak Island.  Whalers and fur traders arrived in the Aleutian Islands a few years later.  In 1784, a trading post was established on Kodiak Island.  When furs became harder to acquire, few people from Russia remained in Alaska because of the harsh cold.

American fishing and mining companies wanted to explore Alaska.  In 1867, Russia sold Alaska to the United States for $7.2 million, less than two cents an acre.  Some salmon canneries and a few sawmills opened in 1878, but at the time few Americans wanted to live there either.

In 1880, gold was discovered and the town Juneau established.  Thousands of miners rushed to Alaska.  In 1898, gold was also found in Nome and Fairbanks in 1902.

At this time, the boundary between Alaska and Canada was unknown and causing conflict between the two countries.  An international commission decided in favor of the United States in 1903, and set the present boundary.  In 1912, the Alaskan Territory was created with Juneau as the capital.  Coal and copper mines opened and Alaska grew quickly.

During the Great Depression, many mines and mills closed leaving people without work.  The U.S. government moved families to farm in the Matanuska Valley and paid people to construct roads.  This program was called The New Deal.

World War II started in 1941, when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor.  In 1942, the Japanese captured the Aleutian Islands of Agattu, Attu, and Kiska.  One year later the United States regained the islands.  This was the only fighting on United States’ land during the war.

Because of this, the government built the Alaska Highway in 1942.  It joined Alaska to Canada and the rest of the United States.  Military bases were also built to protect the land and people that lived there.

In 1959, Alaska became the 49th state and Juneau remained the state capital.  On March 28th, 1964, the biggest earthquake ever known to hit North America occurred around the Anchorage area.  It killed 131 people and caused more than $400 million in property damage. It is known as the "Good Friday Earthquake".

In 1968, when oil was found in Prudhoe Bay, the Trans-Alaska Pipeline underwent construction.  It carries oil 800 miles to Valdez in Alaska.  Alaska is very wealthy in oil and natural resources.