On March 30, 1867, the United States signed a treaty with Russia known as the Alaska Purchase. The treaty allowed the U.S. to acquire the territory of Alaska from Russia for $7.2 million, equivalent to about $125 million today. It also added 586,412 square miles, 1,518,800 kilometers, of new land to the United States cost.
The Alaska Purchase was controversial at the time, with many Americans questioning the value of the land and others worried about the potential for conflict with nearby Canada. The deal was organized and signed by Secretary of State William Seward. The purchase quickly became referred to as “Seward’s Folly.” Nevertheless, it was ultimately approved by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Andrew Johnson.
The acquisition of Alaska turned out to be a wise investment for the United States in terms of its vast natural resources, including gold, timber, and fish. It also provided a strategic foothold in the Pacific, especially as tensions with Japan and Russia grew in the years leading up to World War II.
Today, Alaska is the largest state in the United States and a major contributor to the country’s economy. The anniversary of the Alaska Purchase is celebrated annually on Seward’s Day.