Seward’s Day is an official holiday to commemorate the purchase of the state of Alaska from Russia in 1867. While celebrations are primarily held in “The Last Frontier,” people in other regions of the country may also observe the holiday, which is held every last Monday in March. This is not a federal holiday, but Seward’s Day marks an important milestone in our country, and Americans continue to enjoy the resources that are derived from Alaska every year.
A Purchase from Russia
The purchase of Alaska came about relatively easy. The United States was interested in the land, and Russia was eager to get rid of the territory for monetary reasons. A price was negotiated for $7.2 million, which was extremely controversial during a time when a big portion of the United States was still recovering from the aftermath of the Civil War. Still, the American government unanimously agreed that there was potential in the large piece of land, and they went on with the agreement.
Secretary of State William Henry Seward was largely responsible for the negotiations, and he subsequently signed the treaty for the sale. This is why the holiday has its name of “Seward’s Day.” The transaction officially took place on March 30, 1867. However, the official transfer took months to complete. Some Americans who opposed the transaction referred to it as “Seward’s folly.” Little did they know that Alaska would prove to be a valuable resource; unfortunately, Seward died five years later before he had a chance to witness this.
Seward’s purchase from Russia proved to be a financial success years later. The transaction came about during the height of the frontier period, where adventure and fortune seekers were already scouring the western states for new opportunities. In 1897, miners discovered gold along the Klondike River, which attracted even more inhabitants to the new frontier.
While gold certainly prompted many people to relocate to the area, Alaska has provided numerous other resources over the decade. Examples include seafood, lumber, oil and natural gas. Such resources are not only utilized by U.S. residents and exported to other nations, but they also create numerous jobs for hardworking people.
Alaskans are proud to celebrate Seward’s Day as a new beginning to what would become the nation’s 49th state in 1959. Residents celebrate the holiday through parades, public educational events and history lessons surrounding the era. Schools often have special events and assignments surrounding the week of Seward’s Day. Residents and visitors can also access parks and monuments dedicated to Secretary Seward around the capital of Juneau.
Better yet, many people get the day off of work and school on Seward’s Day. Government offices and public schools are closed for the holiday. It is a state holiday, so such closures do not extend to other areas of the country. If you are visiting Alaska around Seward’s Day, it is important to be prepared for increased traffic on this holiday so you can make transportation plans accordingly.
Seward’s Day vs. Alaska Day
Seward’s Day is often confused with Alaska Day. The latter holiday is celebrated on October 18, which commemorates the official transfer of Alaska from Russia. On October 18, 1867, Russia made the transfer, nearly seven months after Secretary Seward signed the treaty. Both Seward’s Day and Alaska Day are celebrated by residents of the Last Frontier. Many residents also enjoy paid time off during both holidays.
Ben Seward Bowie