The Purchase of Alaska

For today’s spotlight document we take a look at the treasury warrant used for the purchase of the 49th state.  On August 1, 1868, this check was issued at the Sub-Treasury Building on New York’s Wall Street.  It noted the transfer of $7,200,000.00 to the Russian Minister to the United States, Edouard de Stoeckl, who had negotiated the Alaska Purchase for the Russians.

Treasury Warrant in the Amount of $7.2 Million for the Purchase of Alaska, 8/1/1868. From the Records of the Accounting Officers of the Department of the Treasury. National Archives Identifier: 301667

The Russian government had contacted the United States in 1866 to offer the Alaskan territories for sale.  A year later, Secretary of State William H. Seward eagerly negotiated and purchased the land for American expansion.  The agreed upon deal was that the United States would pay $7.2 million for Alaska—which for nearly 600,000 square miles, added up to only two cents an acre.  Nevertheless, many thought the Alaska Purchase was a waste of American money, and nicknamed the event “Seward’s Folly” and “Seward’s Icebox.”

The purchase was found to be far from foolish just thirty years later though, when in 1896, gold was discovered in the American “icebox.”  The great Klondike Gold Strike proved the territory’s worth to even the harshest of the Alaska Purchase opponents.

Find this treasury warrant and use it to create a teaching activity on DocsTeach, our online tool for teaching with documents.

2 thoughts on “The Purchase of Alaska

  1. It would be nice to see a larger image. The image of the above Alaska purchase check is only about 2.7% of the page area.

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