On January 3, 1959, Alaska was admitted to the United States as the 49th state. The population of the state is 626,932, as of 2000. The name "Alaska" is most likely derived from the Aleut word for "great country" or "mainland." The natives called it "Alyeska", meaning "the great land."
Alaska was probably first settled by peoples who came there across the Bering Land Bridge, including Inuit and a variety of Native American groups. Most if not all of the pre-Columbian population of the Americas probably took this route, but continued further south and east.
The first written accounts indicate that the first Europeans to reach Alaska came from Russia. Vitus Bering sailed east and saw Mt. St. Elias. The Russian-American Company hunted otters for their fur. The colony was never very profitable, because of the costs of transportation.
At the instigation of U.S. Secretary of State William Seward, the United States Senate approved the purchase of Alaska from Russia for $7,200,000 on 9 April 1867, and the United States flag was raised on 18 October of that same year (now called Alaska Day). The purchase was not popular in the continental United States, where Alaska became known as "Seward's Folly" or "Seward's Icebox". Alaska celebrates the purchase each year on the last Monday of March, calling it Seward's Day.
In 1976, the people of Alaska amended the state's constitution, establishing the Alaska Permanent Fund. The fund invests a portion of the state's mineral revenue, including revenue from the Trans-Alaskan Pipeline System, 'to benefit all generations of Alaskans.' In June 2003, the fund's value was over $24 billion.
Over the years various vessels have been named the USS Alaska, in honor of the state.
Law and government
The capital of Alaska is Juneau and the current governor of Alaska is Frank H. Murkowski (Republican). Alaska's two U.S. senators are Lisa Murkowski (Republican) and Ted Stevens (Republican). Alaska's Representative is Donald E. Young (Republican).
Alaska is the only state that is both in North America and not part of the 48 contiguous states. Alaska is the largest state in the United States in terms of land area, 570,374 square miles (1,477,261 km²). If you superimposed a map of Alaska on the Lower 48 states, Alaska would stretch from Minnesota to Texas, and from Georgia to California.
One scheme for describing the state's geography is by labeling the regions:
Alaska, with its numerous islands, has nearly 34,000 miles (54,700 km) of tidal shoreline. The island chain extending west from the southern tip of Alaska is called the Aleutian Islands. Many active volcanoes are found in the Aleutians. For example, Unimak Island is home to Mt. Shishaldin, a moderately active volcano that rises to 9,980 ft (3,042 m) above sea level. The chain of volcanoes extends to Mount Spurr, west of Anchorage on the mainland.
Those quick to point out that the sun that baked Arizona and made desert also baked Alaska and made dessert are prone to mention that Alaska is the easternmost state in the Union. The latter claim is true as the Aleutian Islands actually cross longitude 180°.
Much of Alaska is managed by the federal government as national forests, national parks, and national wildlife refuges. There are places in Alaska that are general public lands (BLM land) but they are arguably more spectacular than many national parks in the Lower 48. Many of Alaska's state parks would be national parks if they were in other states.
Much of Alaska is managed by corporations called ANCSA, or native, corporations, of which there are thirteen regional ones and dozens of local ones.
Boroughs and census areas
The state's 1999 total gross state product was $26 billion, placing it 46th in the nation. Its per-capita Income for 2000 was $30,064, 15th in the nation. Alaska's main agriculture output is seafood, although nursery stock, dairy products, vegetables, and livestock are produced and used internally. Manufacturing is limited, with most foodstuffs and general goods imported from elsewhere. Employment is primarily in government and industries such as natural resource extraction, shipping, and transportation. There is also a small but growing service and tourism sector. Its industrial outputs are crude petroleum, natural gas, coal, gold, precious metals, zinc and other mining, seafood processing, timber and wood products.
Alaska has various transportation options. Some of Alaska is connected by roads (and sometimes a tunnel) to the highways of Canada and of the rest of the United States. These places are "on the road system". Along the Pacific Ocean, many places have freight and passenger service from ocean-going ships. Most places have air service, ranging from jets on tarmac to floatplanes on lakes.
The National Statuary Hall of the United States of America is part of the Capitol in Washington DC. Each state has selected one or two distinguished citizens and provided statues. Alaska's are of its first two senators:
Honorae V. Dale
Singer / Poet
Novels about Alaska
The T. Coraghessan Boyle novel Drop City (2003, ISBN 0670031720) tells the story of a group of Hippies who relocate to Alaska.
Marcia Simpson (d. 2003) has written three books which describe what it's like to live in a small coastal community in Alaska: Rogue's Yarn (2003, ISBN 0425191982), Crow in Stolen Colors (2000, ISBN 1890208361) and Sound Tracks (2001, ISBN 1890208728).
Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer is the true story of Christopher McCandless, a college graduate and top student, who donated his entire $24,000 savings account to charity and moved into the Alaskan wilderness. 1997, ISBN 0385486804
Bob Cherry has written two books, "Spirit of the Raven: An Alaskan Novel" (ISBN: 0966543068)and "inua" (ISBN: 0966543017). "Spririt of the Raven" is set during Alaska's territorial days and examines the interactions of a culturally diverse group of characters brought together by a murder. "inua" is set after Alaskan statehood and again examines the intersection of cultures and the impact on the traditional Native Alaskan family.
Important cities and towns
Alaska's most populous city is Anchorage, home of 260,284 people, 225,744 of whom live in the urbanized area. It ranks a distant third in the List of U.S. cities by area. Sitka ranks as the America's largest city by area, followed closely by Juneau. Jacksonville, Florida is the largest city by area in the other 49 states and the fourth largest in the entire country.
Colleges and Universities