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Primary Documents in American History

Treaty with Russia for the Purchase of Alaska

Portrait of Secretary of State William H. Seward, officer of the United States government
Portrait of Secretary of State William H. Seward, officer of the United States Government.
Brady National Photographic Art Gallery (Washington, D.C.), photographer.
[Between 1860 and 1865].
Prints and Photographs Division.
Reproduction Number:
LC-DIG-cwpb-04948

On March 30, 1867, the United States reached an agreement to purchase Alaska from Russia for a price of $7.2 million. The Treaty with Russia was negotiated and signed by Secretary of State William Seward and Russian Minister to the United States Edouard de Stoeckl. Critics of the deal to purchase Alaska called it "Seward’s Folly” or “Seward’s Icebox." Opposition to the purchase of Alaska subsided with the Klondike Gold Strike in 1896.

Library of Congress Web Site | External Web Sites | Selected Bibliography

American Memory Historical Collections

An American Time Capsule: Three Centuries of Broadsides and Other Printed Ephemera

In 1868, Joseph Wilson, Commissioner of the General Land Office, wrote a letter to Nathaniel Banks, Chairman of the House Committee of Foreign Affairs, outlining his support for the purchase of Alaska.

A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation

The Senate ratified the Treaty with Russia on April 9, 1867, by a vote of 37 to 2. However, the appropriation of money needed to purchase Alaska was delayed by more than a year due to opposition in the House of Representatives. The House finally approved the appropriation on July 14, 1868, by a vote of 113 to 48.

Search in the 40th Congress using the word "Alaska" to find additional Congressional documents on this topic.

The Nineteenth Century in Print

Includes a speech by Senator Charles Sumner from 1867 on the purchase of Alaska. In addition, this collection contains an article in Harper's New Monthly Magazine on the history of Alaska during the years 1867 to 1877.

America's Library

Jump Back in Time: Purchase of Alaska, March 30, 1867.

Chronicling America

The Chronicling America site allows you to search and view millions of historic American newspaper pages from 1836-1922. Search this collection to find newspaper articles about the Treaty with Russia

A selection of articles on the Treaty with Russia includes:

In addition, the Newspaper and Current Periodical Reading Room has created a series of topics guides to the newspapers included in Chronicling America, including a guide on the U.S. purchase of Alaska.

Global Gateways

Meeting of Frontiers

A bilingual, multimedia English-Russian digital library that tells the story of the American exploration and settlement of the West, the parallel exploration and settlement of Siberia and the Russian Far East, and the meeting of the Russian-American frontier in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest. Meeting of Frontiers includes a section on the purchase of Alaska that contains the official Russian and American copies of the treaty.

The Teachers Page

Lesson Plan - The Alaska Purchase: Debating the Sale from Russian and U.S. Perspectives

The 1867 Treaty of Cession, in which the United States purchased Alaska from the Russian empire, marked an unusually peaceful transition. The purchase of Alaska was done under amicable circumstances, and both Russia and the U.S. felt they gained from the Treaty. In this lesson, students use primary sources from Russia and the U.S. to examine the respective Russian and American rationales for agreeing to the sale.

Today in History

March 30, 1867

Secretary of State William H. Seward agreed to purchase Alaska from Russia for $7.2 million on March 30, 1867.

Link disclaimerExternal Web Sites

Our Documents, Check for the Purchase of Alaska, National Archives and Records Administration

Purchase of Alaska, Department of State

Selected Bibliography

Farrar, Victor John. The Annexation of Russian America to the United States. New York: Russell & Russell, 1966. [Catalog Record]

Hinckley, Ted C. The Americanization of Alaska, 1867-1897. Palo Alto, Calif.: Pacific Books, 1972. [Catalog Record]

Jensen, Ronald J. The Alaska Purchase and Russian-American Relations. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1975. [Catalog Record]

Kushner, Howard I. Conflict on the Northwest Coast: American-Russian Rivalry in the Pacific Northwest, 1790-1867. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1975. [Catalog Record]

Younger Readers

Clinton, Susan. The Story of Seward's Folly. Chicago: Childrens Press, 1987. [Catalog Record]

Cohen, Daniel. The Alaska Purchase. Brookfield, Conn.: Millbrook Press, 1996. [Catalog Record]

Fremon, David K. The Alaska Purchase in American History. Berkeley Heights, N.J.: Enslow Publishers, 1999. [Catalog Record]

Kent, Zachary. William Seward: The Mastermind of the Alaska Purchase. Berkeley Heights, N.J.: Enslow Publishers, 2001. [Catalog Record]

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  April 18, 2012
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