Seward's Folly: Happy Alaska Day

Seward’s Folly (Happy Alaska Day)

Let me tell you a little story about taking chances that people think are stupid.

There once was a guy who bet $7.2 MILLION DOLLARS on real estate. I mean, Crazy right? And this was WAY back in 1867, so those dollars were worth WAY more back then!

His name was William Henry Seward and his purchase? ALASKA! He bought the state for the equivalent of 2.5 cents per acre!

Yesterday was Alaska day which celebrates the day the U.S. took possession of the state of Alaska (Seward’s Day in March celebrates the purchase date). While we can all now thank Seward for his forward thinking purchase, a lot of people thought he was an idiot. The press was harsh. Alaska was headlined as “Seward’s Folly” (now the name of an Anchorage burger joint), “Seward’s Icebox” or “Johnson’s Polar Bear Garden.”

Andrew Johnson was president at the time, but Seward had been appointed Secretary of State under Lincoln and was a bit at odds with Johnson. Seward was actually part of the attack plotted that killed Lincoln. While Booth was shooting Lincoln at the theater, Seward was being attacked in his bed with a knife. Though recovery was long, Seward survived the attack.


In 1896, Gold was discovered in Alaska and everyone quickly changed their minds about Seward being an idiot. He traveled extensively at the end of his life (including to Alaska) and his last words are rumored to have been: “Love one another.”

Now did Seward anticipate GOLD? No! But he took a chance and it paid off in ways he never imagined! Next time you think “should I take this chance?” think about good ‘ole Seward. Maybe you’ll strike gold.

Alaska is Still Worth It!

Our gold reserves may be pretty much gone, but Alaska is still a great deal! Here are a few reasons why we should all thank Seward for purchasing Alaska from Russia:

  1. OIL – amiright?
  2. If he didn’t, RUSSIA would own it… and I feel like they’re already a bit too close for comfort (no, I can’t see Russia from my house, though at the closest, Russia and Alaska are only 2.4 miles apart at the Diomede Islands).
  3. Salmon, halibut, king crab (as another aside, this video of a king crab molting is about the scariest thing ever)
  4. Ores – apparently the state’s number one export is Zinc Ore (with petrol, natural gas, and seafood taking up the top 25 spots… not sure how “wrist watches” snuck in at #24).
  5. Natural Gas (#9 on the export list)
  6. ROI – A 2012 article proposing to sell Alaska to pay for the national debt predicted Alaska could fetch “at least $2.5 trillion and maybe twice that amount” (hilariously, the article proposed selling the state to Donald Trump…) $2.5 trillion would be a 347,221% return on the original investment!

Alaska is Still It’s Own Place

Despite being a part of the United States, Alaska is very much its own place. I remember my very first time seeing a man grocery shopping in nothing but long johns and a winter coat… now I’m just as likely to meander to the store in who knows what! In celebration of this lovely state, I give you a list of things that make this place amazing:

  1. Vistas – Since moving here, at least once a week I am completely floored by an amazing sight. Maybe it’s the sun rising on Denali, the glitter that the air produces in the winter when it’s cold, the hoar frost, an animal, the mountains, the water… it NEVER gets old.
  2. Moose – Moose really are everywhere. I literally saw one cross the freeway yesterday. Having a moose in your yard is a legitimate excuse for being late for school or work.

    Moose family

    Moose twins in my yard!

  3. Northern Lights – (For the record, please don’t plan to come see them in the summer when the sun is up all night… you’d be surprised how many people don’t think through this one…) They are as amazing and surreal as you would imagine. They’re impossible to predict, but when you happen upon them, it’s unreal.August Update
  4. Glaciers – My kids think a normal summertime activity is climbing all over a glacier. Tourists come and hire the special glacier guides with all the special glacier equipment and my kids are running around in snow boots yelling: “Don’t go this way, there’s a CLIFF!”Glacier Pond
  5. Salmon – My kids also think a normal summertime activity is catching enough salmon to last a year.
  6. Ice Skating – My oldest gets to ice skate at recess during the winter. My favorite is when things freeze before snowing and you can ice skate on the wetlands and see the fish swimming under you!
  7. Whales! Dall Sheep! Bears! All the wildlife – I can drive five minutes from my house to see the Dall Sheep up on the rocks and the Belugas migrate through. Just another day in paradise.Humpback Tail

So, Alaska may be an expensive place to live (with goods notoriously hard to ship up), but they do pay us to live here. And we may have no fashion sense at all, but Alaskans always take shoes off at the door and know how to spend a dark winter partying.

Thank you, Seward. And Happy Alaska Day to you all!


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  1. Matt @ Optimize Your Life

    Mmmmm Alaskan King Crab…

    That said, it seems like the real treasures are the sight-seeing and activities in the second half. I’d love to get up to Alaska at some point just to experience the nature up there.

  2. The Green Swan

    Happy Alaska Day! It certainly sounds like a beautiful place, I look forward to visiting one day.

  3. I always love reading about your experiences (especially with young children) living up in Alaska. We will definitely come to visit someday. Although, I’m a little worried about the kids wandering too close to glacier cliffs!

  4. Man, I miss Alaska! Everything except the permafrost that drove us into debt. Still, I’d move back in a heartbeat if I could.
    But, good news! Me and my husband are thinking about moving to the Puget Sound area after he graduates in a few years. We’ve got some friends there and I have the chance to get in on all the sea life action I missed out on when I lived up in Fairbanks (crab, salmon, clams, and halibut? Yes please!). It’s a bit more civilized for the husband, yet part of me is still ecstatic that it’s just a tiny bit closer to AK! 🙂

    • MaggieBanks

      Where in the Puget Sound area are you considering? My parents have a gorgeous view of the sound and it’s amazing. I am super allergic down there in the summers though.

      • We’re looking at the Olympia area, way down in the south of the sound. But, Zach still has about two years to go before he graduates, so who the hell knows what’ll happen between now and then. But I’m rooting for it right now, and so is he.
        Sorry to hear about your allergies! Zach was really allergic to all the birch pollen up there in the summers. He’s better down here. We’re both still mildly allergic to our snuggly kitties, but of course we had to bring them with us. 🙂

        • MaggieBanks

          We love the Olympia area and looked at moving to Lacey before finding a job up here.

  5. A wise decision Mr. Seward! I can’t wait to visit. It’ll happen. It’ll happen.

  6. Thanks for letting me live vicarously in Alaska for the last 78 seconds while I read your post. I worked in Glacier Bay National Park when I was in college, and have traveled to Alaska several times since. An amazing treasure, and one of my favorite places on earth.

    • MaggieBanks

      Oh AMAZING! That’s so awesome! I would love to hear all of your stories of working in Glacier Bay!

  7. I would be 100% lying if I didn’t tell you that I first read this list very quickly and saw ores as oreos. Alaska is on the top of my bucket list. My husband and I would LOVE to go! Unfortunately, all-inclusives are so much easier to plan and seem much more affordable. Alaska/Canada might be our summer project!

    • MaggieBanks

      I would LOVE it if we were a big exporter of OREOs! Ha ha ha. Alaska is expensive to visit, but the Alaska Airlines Visa is easy to get (you and your husband could each get one, and you’d have enough miles to get up here!)

  8. OHMYGOSH — That picture of the moose family in your yard! I die. Amazing. And is it just an optical illusion, or does Penny have an epic goggle tan in that pic on the glacier??? I am thankful that Alaska is part of the U.S. and I am all kinds of crazy excited for the day when we’ll get to come visit you there! And then go hug all the grizzly bears like Timothy Treadwell did. (Kidding! No grizzly man aspirations around here.) 😉

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