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Happy Alaska Day

President Obama Changing Mt. McKinley Name Back To Denali
(Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)

America has made some major mistakes in our 200-plus year history but three land purchases stand out as being real bargains: Manhattan Island for $24 worth of beads from the local indigenous Indian tribes, if you believe that story; the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 for about $.03 per acre; and Alaska from the Russians for $7.2 million or about $.02 per acre.

Take, That Russia

Today is the anniversary of the day, in 1867 that the US government officially took possession of Alaska after purchasing it from the Russian government.

We officially owned all 586,412 square miles, or an area twice the size of Texas and about 1/5th the size of the lower 48 states.

Why It’s A Bargain

In addition to the land we currently get 25 percent of our oil production and 50 percent of our seafood from Alaska. And as an added bonus, you could throw in Sarah Palin. OK, two out of three ain’t bad.

Why Did Russia Sell?

Russia had a problem. While Alaska was just 2,500 nautical miles across the Bering Strait it was not well populated and would be difficult to defend against a rival such as Great Britain. So they decided to bite the bullet, make a buck or two, and sell the territory instead.

The Alaska Purchase Wasn’t Popular

As you can imagine, a land with few people in a colder climate was not exactly seen as the bargain it turned out to be. Most considered it a barren wasteland at best.

The idea was first championed by William Henry Seward who was the Secretary of State to President Andrew Johnson, Abraham Lincoln’s Vice President and took office after Lincoln’s assassination. Johnson would eventually be impeached.

Opposing forces to the deal called the intended purchase “Seward’s Folly” and “Andrew Johnson’s Polar Bear Garden.”

Congress eventually ratified the deal and public opinion soon changed when gold was discovered in a tributary of the Klondike River in 1896.

Some Final Thoughts

The history books tell us that Alaska became the 49th state of the union on January 3, 1959.

I had the pleasure of being the keynote speaker at the Alaska Business Expo about 10 years ago. They became the first of two universities to create a business class using one of my three books as the textbook.

Driving from Anchorage to Seward was an amazing scenic experience. Alaska is simply Montana on steroids.

Everything looks just like it does here but twice as big.

So let me be the first to thank our Russian friends for this amazing acquisition and even if you did meddle in our election we still got the sweet end of the stick on the Alaska deal.

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