March 30, 1867 - This was the day that 586,412 square miles of Alaska were purchased from Russia for $7.2 million.
The man behind the deal was Secretary of State William Seward. A big believer in expanding the reach of America, Seward lobbied hard for the acquisition, but he had more than his share of critics. Horace Greeley, the outspoken editor of the New York Tribune had this to say about the purchase:
The territory included in the proposed cession was not contiguous to the national domain. It lay away at an inconvenient and a dangerous distance. The treaty had been secretly prepared, and signed and foisted upon the country at one o'clock in the morning. It was a dark deed done in the night...
The deal which cost the United States about 2 cents an acre became known as "Seward's Folly." Alaska was mockingly referred to as "Seward's icebox" and a "polar bear garden."
Of course when gold was discovered in Alaska in the 1890s, public opinion about the value of this vast northern territory changed dramatically.
In 1959 Alaska became the 49th state in the Union.