On today’s date in 1867, the U.S. government purchased Alaska from Russia for $7.2 million in what became known as the Alaska Purchase.
That day, U.S. Secretary of State William Seward and Russian minister Eduard de Stoeckl agreed to the deal, with the former government paying roughly two cents for each acre of land ($4.74 for each square kilometre). The amount totals more than $132 million in today’s money. The decade-long negotiations – beginning about five years before the American Civil War – concluded after an all-night session with the signing of the treaty at 4 a.m. on March 30, 1867, according to the U.S. Library of Congress.
Critics attacked Seward for the secrecy surrounding the deal, which came to be known as “Seward’s folly.” The press mocked his willingness to spend so much on “Seward’s icebox” and Andrew Johnson’s “polar bear garden.”
After the United States bought Alaska from Russia in the Alaska Purchase, the borders around the Alaska Panhandle and British Columbia remained ambiguous. In 1871, British Columbia united with the new Canadian Confederation, and the Government of Canada requested a survey of the boundary. It was refused by the U.S., which claimed the survey to be too costly as the border area was remote, sparsely settled and without economic interest at the time.
In 1903, the problem was referred to an international tribunal consisting of the U.S. and Britain (Canada was a British Dominion at the time and its affairs were controlled from England). After a long dispute, British officials favoured the U.S. position, and violent anti-British sentiment erupted across Canada.
Former Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier claimed Canada’s lack of treaty-making power proved difficult in maintaining its rights internationally. However, anger surrounding the dispute gradually subsided, and eventually, the Alaska settlement promoted better understanding between the U.S. and Britain, which worked in Canada’s favour during the First World War.
Alaskans approved statehood in 1946 and adopted a state constitution in 1955. On Jan. 3, 1959, President Dwight Eisenhower announced Alaska’s entrance into the Union as the 49th state.
In July 2003, Canada Post issued 50,000 sheets (Scott #1991De) for use by passengers of a Canada-Alaska cruise line.
In Canada Post’s Details magazine, readers were told the Canada-Alaska stamp sheets were created because of the past success of the Picture Postage program.
“Of the 50,000 Canada-Alaska Cruise Picture Postage sheets available, only 10,000 will be sold through our National Philatelic centre, with the remaining quantity being offered to cruise guests whose pictures will be printed directly on the stamps,” explained the magazine. “The stamps are available blank and in sheet format and can be used as postage from Canada to anywhere in the world.”
Each pane consists of 10 stamps – two vertical se-tenant strips of five – without denomination; however, the face value of the sheet is $1.25. The stamps could be used aboard ships in Canadian ports of call or on personal mail after the passengers arrived home. A separate portion of the sheet, on the left side with three images, contains three stylized images for aesthetics only.