Alaska Day: Alaska
Celebrating Alaska’s birthday
by Liz Olson
Originally a Russian territory, Alaska was sold to the United States in 1867. The United States bought the Alaskan territory for $7,200,000—about two cents per acre. On March 29, 1867, U.S. Secretary of State, William Henry Seward, and Baron Eduard de Stoeckl, the Russian Minister to the U.S., completed the treaty that ceded Alaska to the U.S. The official transfer of land occurred on October 18, 1867, in Sitka, with a ceremony that included 250 U.S. troops, 100 Russian troops, and the raising of the American flag for the first time over the Alaskan territory.
The first official U.S. census (1880) reported a total of 33,426 Alaskans, all but 430 being of aboriginal stock. The Gold Rush of 1898 resulted in a mass influx of more than 30,000 people to the new state. Since then, Alaska has contributed billions of dollars' worth of products to the U.S. economy.
Alaska Day, also known as Alaska’s birthday, is celebrated annually on 18 October in Sitka, Alaska, commemorating the date Alaska joined the United States. Alaska Day was first celebrated in 1949 with the unveiling of a bronze statue named “The Prospector,” which still stands as a tribute to Alaska’s pioneers. Today, festivities span several days with dance performances, costume balls, races, memorial services, among other events.
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