Today in History, August 14, 1784:
Russian Grigory Shelikhov founds Three Saints Bay on Kodiak Island, establishing Alaska for Russia. Over the next several decades Russian fur trappers moved into the interior, and down into California, where they were turned back by American frontiersmen.
By the 1850’s Russia was ready to sell Alaska and offered it to the United States. The negotiations were delayed during the American Civil War, but in 1867 Secretary of State William H. Seward negotiated it’s purchase for .02 cents per acre.
He was excoriated for the purchase; it was called “Seward’s Folly” or “Seward’s Icebox”. The treaty passed the Senate by just one vote. Since then Seward has been vindicated, with gold and oil and nature.
Today in History, March 30: 1867 – “Seward’s Folly”. US Secretary of State William H. Seward signs a treaty with Russia, purchasing Alaska for $7 Million, about 2 cents per acre. He was excoriated in the press for using public funds to buy a frozen landscape. One of his contemporaries described Seward as, “one of those spirits who sometimes will go ahead of public opinion instead of tamely following its footprints.” This would be borne out with the realization that the United States now owned some of the most beautiful landscape on Earth, which was larger than Texas, California and Montana combined and contained gold and oil that would replace Seward’s investment exponentially. Seward had been a leading contender for the Presidency in 1860, but was beaten by Abraham Lincoln, who asked him to be Secretary of State. Their initially rocky relationship soon changed, and Seward soon became a faithful friend to Lincoln. On the night Lincoln was assassinated, one of John Wilkes Booth’s co-conspirators nearly murdered Seward in his home, stabbing him repeatedly. But he survived and continued to serve.