On this date in 1867, the United States bought Alaska from the Russian Empire for $7.2 million. Even though that is less than two cents per acre, some people criticized the purchase as a waste of money. Many politicians in Washington thought it was foolish to spend so much money on such a far-away chunk of land.
Secretary of State William Seward and President Andrew Johnson were especially criticized for their decision to purchase Alaska. The purchase was called “Seward's Folly,” and the cold, icy land was scorned as “Seward's Icebox” or “Johnson's Polar Bear Garden.” (And what's wrong with polar bears, anyway?)
Of course, with the discovery of oil and gold in Alaska, let alone its natural beauties and wildlife, Alaska turned out to be an amazing bargain!
Even though today is the actual anniversary of the purchase, Alaskans celebrate “Seward Day” on the last Monday of March—which this year was yesterday, the 29th. Most things go on during this state holiday—mail is still delivered, schools are still in session, and so forth—but most state offices are closed.
Did you know...?
Alaska's state flag was designed by a 13-year-old boy. Benny Benson entered a flag-designing contest with other teens (grades 7 through 12) in 1926. Actually, he entered more than one design—but one of them actually won!
Benny won a gold watch with his design etched onto the back, plus $1000. For more info—like what sorts of things were on Benny's non-winning entries, and on most of the other designs entered to the contest—read this.
Tour Alaska Photographics' galleries.
It's like touring the landscapes of Alaska! Gorgeous! (Don't forget to check out the wildlife.)
Learn about Alaska's glaciers.
Glaciers are great masses of snow and ice. They usually move very slowly (about a foot a day), moving outwards or downwards because of their great weight. That's why they are sometimes called rivers of ice.
Glaciers pick up rocks and carry them along, grinding them against the land and rocks across which the glaciers move. With this grinding action, glaciers erode rock and carve out U-shaped valleys. At they move, glaciers push huge piles of rocks into piles called moraines.
- Here is a short video about Alaska's glaciers.
- These videos aren't necessarily about Alaska's glaciers, but they're great! Be sure to watch the top one, “Glacier Power.”
- And here is an experiment you can do with simple materials to see how glaciers move.
Or, if you like your puzzles to be jigsaws, try this one.
There are many interesting native cultures in Alaska.
Color a totem pole on the computer or as a printout.