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:
- OIL – amiright?
- 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).
- Salmon, halibut, king crab (as another aside, this video of a king crab molting is about the scariest thing ever)
- 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).
- Natural Gas (#9 on the export list)
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!”
- Salmon – My kids also think a normal summertime activity is catching enough salmon to last a year.
- 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!
- 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.
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!