Alaska was only considered a territory of the United States after the United States purchased it from the Russian Empire in 1867. It was not recognized as a state until 1959, remaining in the territorial status all along. Alaska was officially recognized as a state on January 3, 1959 after long struggles that lasted for decades.
Why Alaska was Denied Statehood
Alaska was earlier denied the state recognition because of its several incapacities. It was very sparsely populated and therefore did not match the standards of being recognized as a state. There was a minimum required number of people for it to be considered a state. Furthermore, the economy of Alaska was very fragile and unstable, convincing most legislators that Alaska not worth being one of the states that formed the United States. Also, Alaska is isolated and distant from the other states. Due to the isolation it was considered as an independent territory.
Alaska Before Statehood
After the United States purchased Alaska from Russia, it was set aside and was considered as a military district. Most of the military activities and military training took place in Alaska. The status of Alaska was upgraded in 1884 from a military district to a judicial district. Clerks, judges, marshals, and other officials were appointed by the federal government to help run and manage the Alaskan territory. Even after the gold rush, Alaska was still considered a district and the government offered little attention and concentration to the district. The Alaskans pushed for self-government from 1916 after they presented the bill the Congress. The struggle to attain statehood status went on until it bore fruits in 1959, decades later.
Alaska’s Journey to Statehood
Alaska was a Russian territory until 1867 when The United State bought it for $7.2 million. The campaign to have Alaska as one of the US states began in the early 20th century. However, the factors highlighted above always hindered Alaska from being granted the statehood recognition. During World War II, the Japanese and another invasion of Alaska discovered the potential Alaska had. Japan highlighted that Alaska was very strategically positioned to stage their attacks and other invasions.
The discovery of oil was the turning point for the weak economy and negative perception of Alaska. Oil discovery at Swanson River on the Kenai Peninsula and its strategic position completely changed people’s perception towards Alaska leading to a journey towards statehood. There was also a major population increase in Alaska due to the Klondike Gold Rush. In 1916, the Congress received a bill that would lead to Alaska being recognized as a state. However, the push for statehood was not taken seriously until after World War II.
On July 4, 1958, President Dwight Eisenhower signed the Alaska Statehood Act which granted Alaska the statehood. It was not until on January 3, 1959 that Alaska was proclaimed a state. Juneau, which was the territorial capital, continued to serve as the state capital after Alaska was granted Statehood. William A Egan was the first governor of Alaska. It became the 49th state of the United States.