Russia was more than willing to sell off its Alaska territory to the United States because it was nervous of losing it in war, particularly to Great Britain. The state was difficult to defend and very sparsely populated. So, when Secretary of State William H. Seward began negotiating with the Russian minister to the United States, Eduard de Stoeckl, in March 1867, it’s no surprise that Americans thought negatively of his actions. They began calling Alaska “Seward’s folly,” “Andrew Johnson’s polar bear garden,” and “Seward’s icebox,” but Seward and Stoeckl still decided to sign the Alaska Purchase Treaty. Russia officially agreed to give Alaska to the United States on October 18, 1867.

Today, Alaska celebrates the signing of the land treaty on the last Monday in March (appropriately named Seward’s Day) and the anniversary of the formal transfer to the United States on October 18.

Here are some other fun facts about Alaska:

  • Alaska is the only state to have coastlines on three different seas: the Arctic Ocean, Pacific Ocean, and Bering Sea.
  • It’s about twice the size of Texas—and one-fifth the size of the lower 48 states combined!
  • There are more than 3 million lakes in Alaska, one of which is roughly the size of Connecticut.
  • Over half of the world’s glaciers can be found in Alaska.