On This Day: The U.S. Purchased Alaska for $7.2 Million Dollars 148 Years Ago

On March 30th, 1867, the U.S. officially purchased Alaska from Russia for $7.2 million dollars.  It’s hard to really imagine how big Alaska is.  Alaska is the largest state in the United States in land area: 663,268 square miles, which is two times bigger than Texas. If you’re more of a visual person like myself, maybe this will help:

Alaska-Compare-main

30 Second History Lesson

So here’s the quick back story on the purchase of Alaska from Russia. In 1725, Russian Czar Peter the Great sent Vitus Bering (hence, the name of the Bering Strait) to explore the Alaskan coast. Russia had interest in this region due to its rich natural resources.

As the U.S. expanded westward during the 1800s, the two forces collided. Russia was never really able to establish a real presence in the area, and their defeat in the Crimean War was a blow in their interest in Alaska.

In 1859, Russia offered to sell Alaska, but due to the Civil War, the U.S. delayed the sell.  Secretary of state William Seward than took them up on their offer and decided to purchase it for $7.2 million dollars. The purchase of Alaska was known as “Seward’s Folly”, but the discovery of gold cleared him of his decision.

Did the $7.2 Million Dollar “Investment” Pay Off?

Between 1896 and 1899, there was a period known as the Klondike Gold Rush. Gold was discovered by local miners on August 16, 1896.  Word spread quick and people from Seattle & San Francisco quickly migrated up north.  According to nps.gov, there were more than $27.6 million dollars in gold found. Not only was new-found wealth created, but it allowed other cities, especially Seattle, to quickly flourish. In 1890, Seattle’ population was 42,837.  By 1910, the population had reached 237,194.

Ever Shop at Nordstrom? Thank the Gold Rush… 

Some of the more fortunate miners came back to Seattle and invested their riches in businesses. John Nordstrom invested his $13,000 in a shoe store which marked the beginning of what is known today as Nordstrom.

Today, Nordstrom (JWN) is a $15B company with over 63,000 employees.  So was the $7.2M investment worth it? Without a doubt!

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