History of The 49th State
fight for Alaska statehood began in the early 20th century,
after gold rushes in the North brought national attention to
Alaska. Since the Alaska purchase in 1867, Alaska had been
under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Army (1867 - 1877), the
U.S. Treasury Department (1877 - 1879) and the U.S. Navy
(1879 - 1884), before becoming the District of Alaska in
1884 with a territorial governor appointed by the president
of the United States.
In 1906, Alaska was given a non-voting delegate in
Washington. In 1912, Congress passed a bill written by Judge
James Wickersham, making Alaska a territory. Although many
Alaskans insisted they deserved to be a full-fledged state,
it wasn't until the 1940's that the U.S. government began to
seriously consider its statehood.
During World War II, the Defense Department constructed
military bases and the Alaska Highway. When the Japanese
bombed Dutch Harbor and occupied Attu and Kiska islands in
1942, the strategic military people remained in the
territory, but adversaries of statehood argued that its
population was still too sparse and its location too distant
for it to be a state.
Another argument against statehood was Alaska's lack of a
sound economic base. The discovery of oil in 1957 helped the
territory leap the final hurdle toward becoming a state. As
Alaska's immense wealth of resources was realized, Congress
was quickly convinced to disregard past arguments against
statehood. On January 3, 1959, President Dwight D.
Eisenhower signed into law the 49th state of the union.
Courtesy of: Alaska Tourism Marketing Council.