Seward’s IceboxMany Alaska city offices and most State of Alaska offices may be closed on today, Monday March 28, 2011. March 30, 1867 was the day that the United States agreed to pay Russia 7.2 million dollars for the frozen northland, and William H. Seward, then Secretary of State was the official who agreed to the deal.
United States House of Representatives stalled the payment for about a year after the U.S. Senate agreed to support the purchase, then on July 14, 1869 the House agreed to the appropriation.
Alaska was paid for with $7.2 Million dollars in gold, and according to wording in the U.S. Library of Congress, the price also included “some remaining assets of the Russian-American Company in Alaska, as well as funds set aside to bribe select American Congressmen to vote for the treaty”*, however no further source was cited for this statement.
“Seward’s Folly”, or “Seward’s Icebox” were the press’s way of mocking this purchase from Russia. When gold was discovered on the Klondike in 1896, criticism waned, though.
Thousands of people migrated from the “lower 48″ contiguous United States to claim gold as their riches from the ground, and in later years, others followed to claim riches in the form of “free” land, and made crops from the rich soil their gold.
In 1974, another major migration occurred when work on the trans-Alaska oil pipeline was in full force.
In all, residents, to the tune of 698,473 of them, and visitors of well over half a million in the past year alone, experience the frozen dark nights and the long summer days of the great north land called Alaska.
To date, Alaska still seems to be the land of milk and honey, with gold and other minerals still being discovered, oil fields as yet untapped, food being produced in it’s fertile soils, and the visitor industry adding money to the mix.
Seward’s Folly, indeed.