#OnThisDay: Russia Transferred Alaska to US, 1867

The thought of Russia selling Alaska to the United States in 1867 – or any other time – makes my head spin. My first thought was, I bet the Russians are still kicking themselves over this! That led to me look up the origins of the idiom to kick oneself.

According to my handy reference book, The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms, by Christine Ammer, this idiom, which means to berate or reproach oneself, dates back to the late 1800s. One wonders if the expression was coined by the Russians after selling Alaska to the United States, but I guess not.

Back to Russia Selling Alaska to the US

Back to the topic of today’s blog post… I remember reading about something called “Seward’s Folly” in a lower grades’ history book, but if given only seconds to come up with the answer I’d be hard pressed to recall that it refers to U.S. Secretary of State William Seward negotiating the transaction.

Many Americans thought it foolish to purchase Alaska for the exorbitant price of $7.2 million, or around two cents per acre. That converts to a mere $120 million or so in 2021.

Photo credit: Hari Nandakumar on unsplash.com

Putting the event in historical context, though, it makes sense that people were up in arms over the federal government spending $7.2 million for a place a world away. It was a place virtually no one in the nation expected to visit. To a great extent, that still holds true today.

A four-year civil war had taken a terrible toll on the nation. The Confederate states were being brought back into the fold of the United States, although there were deep-seated hatreds on both sides of that conflict – so deeply ingrained that remnants of those feelings still exist 160 years later.

In 1867, just two years after the end of that war, the federal government pays more than $7 million for a vast wilderness at the top of the world. No wonder it seemed like folly to the average American.

Photo credit: Deon Van Zyl on unsplash.com

All that taken into account, today Alaska seems like a bargain any way you look at it. It’s one of the places I’d like to visit, but that’s highly unlikely now. The photographs of the landscape and the wildlife are breathtaking.

Just think: 663,267 square miles. Denali and other National Parks. National forests. Wildlife refuges. Fishing. Glaciers. Whales. It’s one-fifth the size of the rest of the United States put together.

Alaskan Salmon, for crying out loud! It’s delicious and so nutritious.

Photo credit: Peter Hansen on unsplash.com

Alaska became a US territory on May 11, 1912 and was admitted as the 49th state in the Union on January 3, 1959.

Fifteen percent of Alaska’s population is indigenous. Nearly two dozen native languages are spoken in Alaska. No other US state is so rich in natural beauty, wildlife, natural resources, and human history.

Thank you, William Seward!

Since my last blog post

I continue with the eight-week online writing course. A couple more weeks to go.

We had beautiful days in the mid- and high-80s last week. It was probably summer’s last gasp. I’ll miss the warm weather. The weather last week was perfect for taking care of some yardwork. It’s time to get the yard ready for the coming winter.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. My reading for pleasure lately has been almost nil.

I look forward to getting my Covid-19 Moderna booster shot soon.

Janet

15 thoughts on “#OnThisDay: Russia Transferred Alaska to US, 1867

  1. Seward’s “folly” indeed! One of the best acquisitions in history I would say. I have visited Alaska twice and it is a place like none other I have ever seen. I went to Seward, Alaska, fished for halibut in freezing weather, but caught two whoppers! I drove hundreds of miles through that incredible Kenai Peninsula, visited Homer, Soldotna, with the beautiful Russian Orthodox Churches and found myself, while looking for a gas station, in a town that seemed to have materialised from the old, old west. It is called Hope, Alaska, and weird is not a good descriptive adjective, you have to see it…in any event, Janet, great post, thoroughly enjoyed the information, which I did not know, and I wish you all the luck in the world with the online course and with your novel, which I am sure you will write and will succeed! I did read a book during these past two weeks (although I had read the first chapter in May!) and greatly enjoyed it. It is a novel about the life of Leonardo da Vinci written by a writer from my own hometown, Valencia. I would recommend it but it is in Spanish and there is no translation…take good care and all the best, greetings from Mediterranean Spain,
    Francis

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m so glad you found my blog post interesting, Francis. I’m envious of your trips to Alaska. I used to think I’d get there some day, but I know that’s not going to happen. Now I’m curious about Hope, Alaska. Will have to see what I can find out about it. The only book I’ve ever read in Spanish was Man of La Mancha — and that was while in college. I do well today to translate one sentence! It’s a spectacular day here in North Carolina. Janet

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Alaska is very enchanting and very different, the “last frontier” they call it and they’re right! And beautiful days here in València as well Janet. The summer of San Miguel as we call it here when it is still rather warm at this time of year…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The natural resources in Alaska the Russians gave away must be a sore point in their history. Amazing the stories of how history was changed – what if there were no Seward, or if the US had not made the Louisiana Purchase!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Absolutely, Rebecca! My sister and I were talking about that recently. What a different US there would be if Russia owned Alaska, Mexico still owned the American Southwest, France still owned from the Gulf coast to Montana, and Spain still owned Florida! Mind-blowing!

    Liked by 1 person

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