The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

Bill Johnson for Alaska House

By LEE REVIS
Editor, Valdez Star 

City Hall, state offices will be closed Monday for Seward's Day

Uniquely Alaskan holiday celebrates signing of Alaska's purchase from Russia

 

March 21, 2018

National Archives photo

William Henry Seward

A holiday many Alaskans forget about is coming this Monday.

Seward's Day, a uniquely Alaskan state holiday, is this Monday, March 26. But unless you have business with the city or a handful of state offices, you might not realize it's an official state holiday.

So what is Seward's Day?

Seward's Day commemorates the signing of the Alaska Purchase treaty on March 30, 1867 by then Secretary of State, William Seward, and the Russian Minister to the United States, Edouard de Stoeckl. In other words, the United States of America, under President Andrew Johnson, purchased Alaska for $7.2 million dollars from Russia, under Alexander II, Czar of the Russian Empire.

Image from National Archives

The actual treasury warrant issued to pay Russia for Alaska, dated August 1, 1868.

Seward had long advocated for the purchase, while others in government failed to see the value in purchasing what was widely believed to be a vast, icy wasteland.

The Library of Congress says on its website: The Senate ratified the Treaty with Russia on April 9, 1867, by a vote of 37 to 2. However, the appropriation of money needed to purchase Alaska was delayed by more than a year due to opposition in the House of Representatives. The House finally approved the appropriation on July 14, 1868, by a vote of 113 to 48.

The deal was commonly derided as Seward's Folly. The laughter stopped during the Gold Rush.

Fast forward to 2018.

Schools are in session in Valdez, but city hall will be closed. The Legislative Information Office will be closed, as will most state offices, including the courts.

 

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