The Alaska Purchase was the United States’ acquisition of Alaska from the Russian Empire. Alaska was formally transferred to the United States on October 18, 1867, through a treaty ratified by the United States Senate.
Russia had established a presence in North America during the first half of the 18th century, but few Russians ever settled in Alaska. In the aftermath of the Crimean War, Russian Tsar Alexander II began exploring the possibility of selling Alaska, which would be difficult to defend in any future war.
The potential for Alaska’s rich natural resources also played a role in Russia’s decision to sell. William Henry Seward, then Secretary of State under President Abraham Lincoln, saw Alaska as an opportunity to expand American territory and influence in the Pacific Northwest. Seward negotiated with the Russians for months, and eventually secured the purchase of Alaska for $7.2 million – a fraction of its current value.
The Alaska Purchase was met with criticism in the United States, with some calling it “Seward’s Folly.” But over time, Alaska has become an important part of America’s economy and culture. Today, Alaska is known for its breathtaking scenery and rich natural resources.