January 3

This Day in History

General Interest

Jan 3, 1959:

Alaska admitted into Union

On January 3, 1959, President Eisenhower signs a special proclamation admitting the territory of Alaska into the Union as the 49th and largest state.

The European discovery of Alaska came in 1741, when a Russian expedition led by Danish navigator Vitus Bering sighted the Alaskan mainland. Russian hunters were soon making incursions into Alaska, and the native Aleut population suffered greatly after being exposed to foreign diseases. In 1784, Grigory Shelikhov established the first permanent Russian colony in Alaska on Kodiak Island. In the early 19th century, Russian settlements spread down the west coast of North America, with the southernmost fort located near Bodega Bay in California.

Russian activity in the New World declined in the 1820s, and the British and Americans were granted trading rights in Alaska after a few minor diplomatic conflicts. In the 1860s, a nearly bankrupt Russia decided to offer Alaska for sale to the United States, which earlier had expressed interest in such a purchase. On March 30, 1867, Secretary of State William H. Seward signed a treaty with Russia for the purchase of Alaska for $7.2 million. Despite the bargain price of roughly two cents an acre, the Alaskan purchase was ridiculed in Congress and in the press as "Seward's folly," "Seward's icebox," and President Andrew Johnson's "polar bear garden." Nevertheless, the Senate ratified purchase of the tremendous landmass, one-fifth the size of the rest of the United States.

Despite a slow start in settlement by Americans from the continental United States, the discovery of gold in 1898 brought a rapid influx of people to the territory. Alaska, rich in natural resources, has been contributing to American prosperity ever since.

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This Week in History, Jan 3 - Jan 9

Jan 03, 1521
Martin Luther excommunicated
Jan 03, 1868
Meiji Restoration in Japan
Jan 03, 1924
King Tut's sarcophagus uncovered
Jan 03, 1959
Alaska admitted into Union
Jan 03, 1967
Jack Ruby dies before second trial
Jan 04, 1896
Utah enters the Union
Jan 04, 1974
President Nixon refuses to hand over tapes
Jan 04, 1987
Segovia begins final U.S. tour
Jan 04, 1995
104th Congress under Republican control
Jan 05, 1643
First divorce in the colonies
Jan 05, 1895
Dreyfus Affair in France
Jan 05, 1945
Kamikaze pilots get first order
Jan 05, 1968
Prague Spring begins in Czechoslovakia
Jan 05, 1976
Pol Pot renames Cambodia
Jan 05, 1994
Former Speaker Thomas P. Tip O'Neill dies
Jan 06, 1066
Harold II crowned king of England
Jan 06, 1912
New Mexico joins the Union
Jan 06, 1925
Nurmi breaks two world records
Jan 06, 2001
Congress certifies Bush winner of 2000 elections
Jan 07, 1785
Across the English Channel in a balloon
Jan 07, 1979
Pol Pot overthrown
Jan 07, 1989
Emperor Hirohito dies
Jan 07, 1999
Clinton impeachment trial begins
Jan 08, 1642
Astronomer Galileo dies in Italy
Jan 08, 1815
The Battle of New Orleans
Jan 08, 1867
Congress expands suffrage in nation's capital
Jan 08, 1916
Allies retreat from Gallipoli
Jan 08, 1918
Wilson announces his 14 Points
Jan 08, 1962
Mona Lisa exhibited in Washington
Jan 09, 1768
First modern circus is staged
Jan 09, 1806
Nelson buried at St. Paul's Cathedral
Jan 09, 1972
Queen Elizabeth destroyed by fire
Jan 09, 2007
Steve Jobs debuts the iPhone

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