Seward’s Day in Alaska Date in the current year: March 25, 2024

Seward’s Day in Alaska Seward’s Day is a legal holiday celebrated in Alaska on the last Monday of March. It was named after William H. Seward, the 24th Secretary of State who successfully negotiated the purchase of Alaska from Russia.

The Russians were the first Europeans to reach Alaska. In 1732, a Russian military expedition led by Mikhail Gvozdev and Ivan Fedorov sighted the Alaskan shore for the fist time, which is considered the starting point of the Russian colonization of Alaska. The first Russian settlements in Alaska were established by private individuals and entities, but in 1799, Emperor Paul I of Russia chartered the Russian-American Company Under the High Patronage of His Imperial Majesty, a state-sponsored company responsible for establishing new settlements in the New World (Alaska and California).

At first, Alaskan settlements brought Russia profit from the fur trade, but by the mid-19th century it became clear that the potential profit from further colonization of Alaska would not defray the costs of maintaining and protecting this remote, sparsely populated and vulnerable colony, especially in light of a possible clash with Britain. In addition, revenues from the fur trade began to decline, since the local population of sea otters, which were the main source of fur, was almost extinct at that point.

As a result, Emperor Alexander II began to consider selling Alaska. In 1859, Russia approached both Britain and the United States with the proposal. British Prime Minister Lord Palmerston rejected the offer, claiming that the United Kingdom was already spending too much resources on maintaining its colonies in Canada. The United States didn’t reach the deal with Russia because of the impending civil war between the North and the South.

When the American Civil War ended, Russia and the United States resumed the negotiations concerning Alaska. In 1867, Russian diplomat Eduard de Stoekl entered into negotiations with U.S. Secretary of State William H. Seward. With the consent of President Andrew Jonson, who was busy with the Reconstruction of the South, Seward worked out the main provisions of the future treaty during his second meeting with de Stoekl, which took place on March 18, 1867.

On March 30, 1867, Seward (on behalf of President Johnson) and de Stoekl (on behalf of Tsar Alexander II) signed the Alaska Purchase treaty in Washington. The purchase price was set at $7.2 million ($109 million in 2018). The treaty was ratified in May, and the official ceremony was held in Sitka in October.

Seward’s Day in Alaska was established to commemorate the signing of the Alaska Purchase treaty. Instead of March 30 (the treaty signing anniversary) it is celebrated on the last Monday of the month. Since it is a legal holiday, many Alaskans get a day off work or school on the occasion. Celebratory events are held in cities and towns across the state.

Seward’s Day shouldn’t be confused with Alaska Day, which commemorates the anniversary of the formal transfer of Alaska from Russia to the United States.

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