When white men first went to Alaska, they found Eskimos, Aleuts, and Indians living there. In fact, Alaska was one of the last large areas of the world to be discovered and explored by white men.
In the early eighteenth century, the Russians were moving through Siberia to the Pacific Ocean. In 1728, Vitus Bering, a Dane in the service of the Russian navy, sailed east from Kamchatka. He drifted along St. Lawrence Island but failed to reach the Alaska mainland. In 1741, Bering led a second expedition in two small ships.
One ship, St. Peter, was under his command, and St. Pall was commanded by Alexei Chuikov. The two ships were separated during a storm, but both reached Alaska.
For the next two hundred years, Russian fur traders hunted fur- bearing animals throughout Alaskan waters. They established many settlements, and in some of these places the quaint churches built by Aleuts and Indians under the guidance of Russian missionary priests can still be seen.
Later on, sea captains from Spain, France, and Great Britain explored the Alaska coast. But it was the Russians who used Alaska as a source of fur, and millions of these furs were sent by the Russians to European capitals. Then some of the fur-bearing animals began to be wiped out, and by the 1820’s the Russians began to leave the Alaskan coast.
The Russian tsar, Alexander II, was not very interested in Alaska. William H. Seward, secretary of state under Abraham Lincoln, urged the United States to buy Alaska from the Russians. In 1867, the Alaskan territory was sold to the United States for $7,200,000. It was bought at less than two cents an acre! Today, Alaska is not only the 49th state in the United States, but its value to this country could hardly be measured in dollars!
When Was Alaska Established?
January 3, 1959.