The United States purchased Alaska from the Russian Empire on March 30, 1867, for 7.2 million U.S. dollars. The area underwent several administrative changes before becoming organized as a territory on May 11, 1912. It was admitted as the 49th state of the U.S. on January 3, 1959.
It is the largest state by area, the 3rd least populous, and the most sparsely populated of the 50 United States. Population estimates from 2015 put Alaska with almost 740,000, with approximately half of those living within the Anchorage metropolitan area. Alaska’s economy is dominated by the fishing, natural gas, and oil industries, resources which it has in abundance. Military bases and tourism are also a significant part of the economy.
The state provides breathtaking ocean coasts, rushing rivers, rainforests, and majestic mountain peaks.
State Nicknames include “The Last Frontier,” “Land of the Midnight Sun,” and “Seward’s Icebox.” The state motto is “North to the Future.”
The flag of Alaska consists of eight gold stars, forming the Big Dipper and Polaris, on a dark blue field. The Big Dipper is an asterism in the constellation Ursa Major which symbolizes a bear, an animal indigenous to Alaska. As depicted on the flag, its stars can be used as a guide by the novice to locate Polaris and determine true north, which varies considerably from magnetic north.
The state seal contains rays above the mountains representing the famous Alaskan northern lights. The smelter symbolizes mining; the train stands for Alaska’s railroads, and ships denote transportation by sea. The trees pictured in the seal symbolize the state’s wealth of timber, and the farmer, his horse, and the three shocks of wheat stand for Alaskan agriculture. The fish and the seals signify the importance of fishing and seal rookeries to Alaska’s economy.
The Alaska Triangle – Disappearing Into Thin Air
Committee of 101 – Protecting Skagway
Dyea – Ghost Town of the Klondike Gold Rush
Frank Canton – Cowboy, Outlaw, and Lawman
Seattle & the Klondike Gold Rush
Skagway – Jumping Off to the Klondike
Soapy Smith – Bunko Man of the Old West
The SS Baychimo – Disappeared in the Arctic
Women of the Klondike Gold Rush
Kate Carmack – Discovering Gold in the Klondike
Nellie Cashman – Pioneering the Mining Camps
Harriet “Ma” Pullen – Entrepreneur of Skagway, Alaska
© Kathy Alexander/Legends of America, updated January 2023.
Ghost Towns & Mining Camps Across America
Mining on the American Frontier