Although considered a bad move at the time, the United States bought the Alaska territory for $7,200,000 from the Russians at the behest of William Seward, Secretary of State. Opposition in the House of Representatives postponed appropriation of purchase funds for over a year. The new territory enlarged the geographical size of the United States by 20 percent. All doubts about the purchase of “Seward’s folly” or “Seward’s icebox” subsided with the discovery of gold in 1896. In 1959, Alaska became the 49th state.
Visit the Alaska Reading Room on the 4th floor of the Seattle University Law Library for a permanent exhibit about Alaska’s move to statehood. The materials in the exhibit include unique photos and letters donated by Mary and George Sundborg, parents of the President of Seattle University, Father Stephen Sundborg, S.J. Mr. Sundborg was a leading advocate in the Alaska statehood movement.
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