Brief history of Alaska summarized
A brief overview of the history of Alaska, as a summary.
The first humans arrived in Alaska between 15,000 and 13,000 BC At that time, Alaska was part of a land bridge that extended to Siberia. People followed the herds of animals they hunted.
Europeans arrived in the area in the 18th century. In 1741 a Dane named Vitus Bering led a Russian expedition to Alaska. They discovered that there was great wealth in Alaska in the form of animal skins. Unfortunately, they also brought diseases to which the natives had no immunity.
The British arrived in 1778 when Captain Cook sailed there (Cook Inlet is named after him). George Vancouver sailed to Alaska in 1794.
Meanwhile, in 1772, the Russians settled in Unalaska. Then, in 1784, they settled on Kodiak Island. However, by the 1860s the Russians had lost interest in Alaska. Excessive hunting had depleted the fur supply and it was difficult to supply bases so far away.
So they decided to try to sell Alaska to the Americans. In 1867, United States Secretary of State William Henry Seward signed a treaty to purchase Alaska for $7.2 million, less than 2 cents per acre. However, it took 6 months to persuade Congress to ratify the treaty. Alaska formally passed into the United States on October 18, 1867.
The new area was originally called the Department of Alaska. In 1884 it was changed to the District of Alaska. Meanwhile, in 1878 the first cannery in Alaska was opened. In 1880 gold was discovered in Alaska, in Juneau.
Then in 1896, gold was discovered in the Yukon, but the easiest way to get there was to sail to Skagway in southeast Alaska. In 1899 gold was discovered in Nome, in northwestern Alaska. Another gold rush began in 1902 when gold was discovered near Fairbanks.
In a single decade the population of Alaska skyrocketed. In 1890 Alaska’s population was just over 32,000, but by 1900 it had surpassed 63,000. Then in 1912, Alaska became a territory.
Anchorage was founded in 1915 and Denali National Park in 1917. The Alaska Railroad was completed in 1923. President Warren G. Harding went to Alaska to drive with a golden nail in a ceremony to commemorate the event.
Alaskan women were given the right to vote in 113. In 1937 Nell Scott became the first woman to serve in the Alaska legislature.
In 1935 an Agricultural School and a Mining School were inaugurated. It became the University of Alaska in 1935.
In June 1942, the Japanese bombarded the Dutch port of the Aleutian Islands. They also took the islands of Kiska and Attu. The Americans landed on Attu on May 11, 1943. On May 30 they had retaken the island. The Japanese abandoned Kiska Island in August 1943.
Military bases were built in Alaska during World War II, and as a result, some Alaskan cities grew considerably in size. Meanwhile, the Alaska Highway was built in 1942.
In 1957 oil was discovered in Alaska, in the Swanson River, on the Kenai Peninsula. Then, on June 30, 1958, the Senate passed the Alaska Statehood Act. On January 3, 1959, Alaska became the 49th state in the union. Alaska’s first governor was William A. Egan.
On July 9, 1958, an earthquake in Alaska caused a 524-foot tsunami in Lituya Bay. It was the highest tsunami ever recorded. Then, on March 27, 1964 (Good Friday), Alaska was hit by a devastating earthquake. It measured 9.2 on the Richter scale, making it the most powerful earthquake on record in North America. It killed 131 people.
But Alaska soon recovered, and in 1968 oil was discovered in Prudhoe Bay on the Arctic coast. To be exploited, the oil would have to be transported by pipeline to Valdez, and to build the pipeline, land disputes with the natives would have to be resolved.
They were settled by the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971. The natives relinquished their claims in exchange for nearly a billion dollars and 44 million acres. The trans-Alaska pipeline was completed in 1977. As a result, the 1980s were a time of prosperity for Alaska.
However, on March 24, 1989, an oil tanker called the Exxon Valdez ran aground spilling 11 million gallons of oil. Since then, the oil industry in Alaska has lost importance.
However, today tourism is a major industry in Alaska. Meanwhile, in 2006, Sarah Palin was elected Alaska’s first female governor. Alaska’s population today was 739,000.
Share Alaska’s history in a nutshell.