How it started, how it's going: On Jan. 3, 1959 Alaska became the 49th state - Must Read Alaska
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Tuesday, January 26, 2021
HomeAlmanacHow it started, how it’s going: On Jan. 3, 1959 Alaska became the 49th state

How it started, how it’s going: On Jan. 3, 1959 Alaska became the 49th state


On Jan. 3, 1959, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a special proclamation admitting the territory of Alaska into the Union as the 49th state.

Various statehood bills had been introduced before House Resolution 7999 passed in the House on May 28, 1958, and the Senate on June 30, 1958. Eisenhower signed it into law on July 7 of that year, allowing him to then sign the official proclamation of Alaska Statehood on Jan. 3.

Eisenhower had supported statehood for Alaska but also had concerns about how close Alaska is to the now-former Soviet Union. The admission of Alaska came during the height of the Cold War between communism and the free world. Another concern of his was that 99 percent of the land in Alaska was owned by the federal government and there was no plan in place for transferring the land to the state government.

Read Eisenhower’s remarks after signing the Statehood Proclamation.

How it started: The European discovery of Alaska came in 1741, when a Russian expedition led by Danish navigator Vitus Bering sighted the Alaska mainland. The United States purchased the land from the Russians on March 30, 1867, for the 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 Baron Edouard de Stoeckl.

How it’s going: The work of conveying the federal lands promised at Statehood is not yet complete.

  • The total entitlement to the State of Alaska was 104.5 million acres, roughly the size of California.
  • The remaining state entitlement is 5.2 million acres, roughly the size of New Jersey.
  • The total ANCSA entitlement is 45.7 million acres, roughly the size of the state of Washington.
  • The remaining ANCSA settlement is 1.8 million acres, roughly the size of Rhode Island and Delaware combined.

Read more about the progress of conveyance of the last of the allotment at the Bureau of Land Management website.

When Alaska became a state, its economy was dominated by military activities, commercial fishing, logging, and mining. Today, it is a more diversified economy, with oil being the major private industry, along with commercial fishing, tourism, and cargo hub transportation as important job creators. Forestry as an industry has been destroyed by federal regulations, and mining is facing a similar threat by environmentalists and government.

Alaska’s population was 224,000 at statehood, and has grown to about 730,000 in 2021. The median household income in Alaska is $77,640 according to the U.S. Census.

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • “That original time period was amended through several pieces of legislation that lengthened the amount of time for the state to select lands”. Progress?

  • Federal wanna-be nannies go home. Greenies – do you rally want to be dependent on China for the materials that go into your smart phones? Free Alaska.

  • Suzanne, You’ve always got to push your corrupted opinion on this site don’t ya? Gotta wonder whose depositing into your pockets!! “ and mining is facing a similar threat from environmentalists and government” should read and one particular foreign owned mine project that I strongly favor has been delayed due to government studies but is also strongly opposed by local home grown Alaskans that have a sincere concern for the preservation of an ancient way of life in an area at risk of destruction and irreparably damage to the salmon habitat”.

    • You need to blog on ADN then.

    • Every mine of scale has introduced toxicity to the region and in 100% of those instances that introduction caused significant environmental damage.

      The mine you likely are strongly in favor of would require an sea of toxic muck held back by a dam and it would need to be maintained for about 10,000 years. There’s a problem in that scenario. And remind me, the people all excited about removing Alaska’s wealth are citizens of what country again?

      Anyone recall BP’s exodus six months ago? Predictable? Take the good stuff and bail when the field is aging and the infrastructure is increasingly prone to failure.

      • See here’s the thing – Pebble WILL be mined in the future because those minerals are needed for our Green New Deal.

  • The day we should have become our own country.

  • I was here at the time of statehood and for most of the time since. As we continue our slog to socialism, idleness, dependency and domination by the federal government, I wonder why anyone back in the 50’s wasted their time on us.

    • Exactly. After this last year, I’m in the “Atlas Shrugged” category. Let it burn down.

  • Those 224,000 state residents living at that time still lagged behind seeing the importance making sure state residents saw the value behind books and literacy, there were baby boomer kids not being read to by their parents. The lack of initiative is apparent through the current living generations. The leaders back then failed today’s children and grandchildren by their neglect maybe even incentive maintaining an illiterate population. Now look at the mess our own lack of knowledge and literary development has created. Alaskans today have such a low reading level, they couldn’t even read bible because of its too long and too many words!

    • You can thank the education department for that.

  • Texans remember it as the day they became the second largest state!

  • I was born in 1957 in Anchorage. I keep wondering if I am an American or if I was born in America because Alaska wasn’t a state before that time. At any rate I was born free but now America is Socialist and I’m no longer free, never thought I would see the day. Sad when I think about it. So since I wasn’t born in America, do the socialists still own me and am I now their subject? Just a fleeting thought I had that if I’m not really American then it can mean that I don’t belong to a socialist country. The question remains, am I legally an American?

  • I was 7.5 years old, going to the territorial school in Naknek. Maybe we can become a republic.

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