• During WWII Alaska served as a west coast location for the half-way point between Tokya and Washington DC. It was during this time, the government realized that an interior route was needed to connect Alaska to the lower 48. The Alaska Highway project began, the highway was built in eight months and two weeks, opening on October 25, 1942.
• By 1941 Alaska had a population of under 8,000 residents. The development of the Alaska Highway and involvement with WWII increased the population to 43,543 by 1945. January 3rd, 1959 Alaska was declared the 49th state.
• The next expansion economic expansion of Alaska was in the late 1950's when oil was discovered in the Cook Inlet. The continued interest in oil development led to the Trans-Alaska pipeline, which began in the early 70's and was completed in 1977. By 1980 Alaska's population had grown to over 400,000.
• By the end of the 70's concern had grown for the importance of protecting the Alaska wilderness. In 1980 the Alaska National Interest Lands Convervation Act was established to set aside 162,500 square miles of wilderness. During this time most of Alaska's National Parks and Preserves were created or expanded.
• In 1741 Bering set sail with another explorer named Alexei Chirikov. Their journey focused on the Inland Passage and what is now known as the Prince of Wales Island. The interest in the land's natural wealth inspired many hunters and traders to seek out fur trade and hunting in Alaska. The first Russian settlement was established in 1772 at Unalaska.
• While looking for a passage from North America to Europe, the famous British explorer James Cook sailed up the Southeast Alaskan Coast and through the Cook Inlet to what is now the city of Anchorage. Even though the British had some interest in Alaska, their involvement was limited by Russian influence and control.
A brief history and time-line for noted events that are a part of Alaskan history...
• The largest Russian city was the town of Sitka. By 1835 the population had grown to 1,350. The overhunting of the seals and sea otters became a problem with the loss of income and trade. By the early 1850's Alaska was becomming a more of a burden to Russia. The great distance and loss of revenue from the decline in fur trade prompted the Tsar Alexander II to offer the sale of Alaska to the US. In 1867 Secretary of State William Seward,worked with congress and President Andrew Jackson to buy Alaska for 7.2 million dollars.
• The American public had little interest in Alaska until 1880, when gold was first discovered in Juneau. With the discovery of the Klondike Gold Fields in the late 1890's the Gold Rush fever spread. The Gold Seeker Stampede ran through the early 1900's, until the larger claims were exhausted.
• The first part of the 20th century brought few changes to Alaska. An interest in the lower 48 was developing around the potential of Alaska's many natural resources. The large supply of minerals, seafood, timber and oil were becomming increasing attractive to the outside world. The Alaska Railroad was developed by 1906 providing a link for shipping from the interior to the sea. Anchorage soon became a major port, providing access to development in the Matanuska Valley. During the depression years the New Deal Act established the Matanuska Valley Colony to provide assistance in development of the local farm communities. .
• Smeon Dezhnev was the first Russian explorer to reach Alaska in 1648. It wasn't until 1728 that Vitus Bering (a Dane explorer) who sailed for the Russian ruler, Tsar Peter the Great explored what is now called the Bering Strait. Vitus Bering was the first explorer that claimed the land for Russia.
Alaska Historical Timeline
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