A big deal: the U.S. purchased Alaska 150 years ago

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Author: Natalie Smith
Date: Mar. 27, 2017
From: Scholastic News/Weekly Reader Edition 4(Vol. 79, Issue 18)
Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
Document Type: Article
Length: 475 words

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On March 30, 1867, the United States signed a treaty to buy what would later become the largest state. U.S. Secretary of State William Seward agreed to pay $7.2 million for Alaska.

Russia had established settlements in Alaska beginning in the late 1700s. (At the time, the area was already home to tens of thousands of Native Alaskans.) But after losing a war with England and France in the 1850s, Russia needed money. Its leaders turned to the U.S. to make a deal, and Seward was eager to buy. He thought that having a territory along the Pacific Ocean would make it easier for the U.S. to trade with countries in Asia. Much of Alaska was unexplored. But the U.S. believed the area's abundant resources could be useful.



The treaty was quickly approved by the U.S. Senate and signed by President Andrew Johnson. However, some newspapers poked fun at the deal. They nicknamed it Seward's Folly (Folly means "foolish act.") Critics believed the land was worthless--nothing but snow and ice. N

But doubts about Alaska's value were forgotten after several major discoveries of gold during the 1880s and 1890s. As word spread, about 100,000 people flocked there, hoping to strike it rich.

Alaska was considered a U.S. territory before it officially became the 49th state in 1959. Today, it's still recognized for its natural resources. Two of its biggest industries are oil and fishing. Each year, nearly 2 million people visit Alaska to see its scenic national parks and wildlife.


If Alaska were placed on top of the lower 48 states, it would extend nearly from coast to coast.

17 of the 20 tallest peaks in the United States are in Alaska-including the highest, Denali.


estimated number of bald eagles in Alaskamore than in the rest of the U.S. combined.

-79.8[degrees]F I temperature at Prospect Creek in northern Alaska on January 23,1971, the coldest ever recorded in the U.S.

In summer, the northernmost town in Alaska, Utqiagvik (OOT-kee-AHG-vik), can go more than 80 days without a sunset. But in winter, the town (formerly known as Barrow) may not see any daylight for more than two months.

WORD to know

abundant (uh-BUHN-duhnt) adjective, existing or available in large quantities; plentiful

Caption: William Seward


Visit Alaska!

Here's a performance task students can complete after reading about the 150th anniversary of the Alaska Purchase.

Context: As you read on page 6, Alaska is the largest state in the U.S. and is recognized for its wealth of natural resources.

Task: Pretend you're a travel agent. Use the information you learned in the article, including the sidebar and map, to create an Alaska travel brochure. Encourage people to visit America's largest state by letting them know about the interesting things they'll see in Alaska.

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A491311473