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The Purchase of Alaska

By the 1850's, the Russian-American Company was no longer interested in the fur trade, and the Russian government had taken over a large part of the company's affairs. After the Crimean War (1853-1856), Russia became eager to sell Alaska.

Russia first offered to sell Alaska to the United States in 1859, believing the United States would off-set the designs of Russia's greatest rival in the Pacific, Great Britain. The looming U.S. Civil War delayed the sale, however.

In 1866, the Russian government again offered to sell the territory of Alaska to the United States, and Secretary of State William H. Seward quickly took up the offer. Seward negotiated for the United States, and Edouard de Stoeckl, Russian minister to the United States, negotiated for Russia. On March 30, 1867, the two parties signed the Treaty of Cession of Russian America to the United States, in which the United States agreed to pay Russia $7.2 million for the territory (about 2 cents an acre). Congress approved the purchase on May 28, and the U.S. flag was raised at Sitka on October 18, 1867.

Below is a depiction of the signing of the Treaty of Cession, from a painting. Baron Stoecki is shown standing at right, Secretary of State Seward is seated at left.

signing the Treaty of Cession

Below is a picture of the actual check issued for the purchase of Alaska. It was dated on August 1, 1868, and made payable to Edouard de Stoeckl.

picture of the actual check used to pay for Alaska

Great Britain
U.S. Civil War
William H. Seward

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The Robinson Library >> Alaska

This page was last updated on June 19, 2018.