Seward’s Day commemorates the signing of the treaty with the Russian Empire on 30 March 1867 that secured the purchase of Alaska. This holiday differs from Alaska Day, which commemorates the “formal actual transfer” of Alaska.
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The treaty was single-handedly negotiated by Secretary of State William Seward, which arranged for the vast territory’s purchase at only $7.2 million. Russia was willing to sell because, at the time, Alaska was costing them more to maintain as a territory than it was producing in revenues. Thus, Seward was mocked by many and his purchase dubbed “Seward’s Folly” and, other times, “Seward’s Icebox.”
However, in 1897, the discovery of gold in the Klondike River and the subsequent Alaska Gold Rush quelled the objections of “the doubters.” Seward, having passed away in 1872, never lived to witness his vindication.
Later, the discovery of large oil, gas, and coal deposits and the development of the lumber and fishing industries proved once again how valuable Alaska was economically. Another factor to remember is that the removal of Russian influence from the North American continent was a significant political benefit the U.S. gained from the deal.
Seward’s Day is observed every final Monday of March in Alaska, and many are off work or school. There are events held every year in Anchorage, Sitka, and Seward.