Department of Alaska
The Department of Alaska was the designation for the government of Alaska from its purchase by the United States of America in 1867 until its organization as the District of Alaska
District of Alaska
The District of Alaska was the governmental designation for Alaska from May 17, 1884 to August 24, 1912, when it became Alaska Territory. Previously it had been known as the Department of Alaska. At the time, legislators in Washington, D.C., were occupied with post-Civil War reconstruction issues,...

 in 1884. During the department era, Alaska was variously under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Army (until 1877), the United States Department of the Treasury
United States Department of the Treasury
The Department of the Treasury is an executive department and the treasury of the United States federal government. It was established by an Act of Congress in 1789 to manage government revenue...

 (from 1877 until 1879) and the U.S. Navy (from 1879 until 1884). The area later became the District of Alaska
District of Alaska
The District of Alaska was the governmental designation for Alaska from May 17, 1884 to August 24, 1912, when it became Alaska Territory. Previously it had been known as the Department of Alaska. At the time, legislators in Washington, D.C., were occupied with post-Civil War reconstruction issues,...

, then the Alaska Territory
Alaska Territory
The Territory of Alaska was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from August 24, 1912, until January 3, 1959, when it was admitted to the Union as the State of Alaska...

, then the State of Alaska
Alaska is the largest state in the United States by area. It is situated in the northwest extremity of the North American continent, with Canada to the east, the Arctic Ocean to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the west and south, with Russia further west across the Bering Strait...


At the instigation of U.S. Secretary of State
United States Secretary of State
The United States Secretary of State is the head of the United States Department of State, concerned with foreign affairs. The Secretary is a member of the Cabinet and the highest-ranking cabinet secretary both in line of succession and order of precedence...

 William Seward
William H. Seward
William Henry Seward, Sr. was the 12th Governor of New York, United States Senator and the United States Secretary of State under Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson...

, the United States Senate
United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

 approved the purchase of Alaska
Alaska purchase
The Alaska Purchase was the acquisition of the Alaska territory by the United States from Russia in 1867 by a treaty ratified by the Senate. The purchase, made at the initiative of United States Secretary of State William H. Seward, gained of new United States territory...

 from Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 for $7,200,000 on 9 April 1867, and the United States flag was raised on 18 October of that same year (now called Alaska Day
Alaska Day
Alaska Day is a legal holiday in the U.S. state of Alaska, observed on October 18. It is the anniversary of the formal transfer of the Territory of Alaska from Russia to the United States which took place at a flag-raising ceremony at Fort Sitka on Friday October 18, 1867 Alaska Day is a legal...

). Coincident with the ownership change, the de facto International Date Line was moved westward, and Alaska changed from the Julian calendar
Julian calendar
The Julian calendar began in 45 BC as a reform of the Roman calendar by Julius Caesar. It was chosen after consultation with the astronomer Sosigenes of Alexandria and was probably designed to approximate the tropical year .The Julian calendar has a regular year of 365 days divided into 12 months...

 to the Gregorian calendar
Gregorian calendar
The Gregorian calendar, also known as the Western calendar, or Christian calendar, is the internationally accepted civil calendar. It was introduced by Pope Gregory XIII, after whom the calendar was named, by a decree signed on 24 February 1582, a papal bull known by its opening words Inter...

. Therefore, for residents, Friday, October 6, 1867 was followed by Friday, October 18, 1867; two Fridays in a row because of the date line shift.

On the morning of October 18, 1867, arrived at Sitka
Sitka City and Borough, Alaska
The City and Borough of Sitka, originally called New Archangel under Russian Rule, is a unified city-borough located on Baranof Island and the southern half of Chichagof Island in the Alexander Archipelago of the Pacific Ocean , in the U.S...

 with Russian Commissioner Captain Alexis Pestchouroff and American Commissioner General Lovell H. Rousseau on board. That afternoon, 250 American soldiers, 80 Russian soldiers, Russian-American Company Chief Manager Prince Maksutov
Dmitri Petrovich Maksutov
Prince Dmitry Petrovich Maksutov was an Imperial Russian Navy rear-admiral who was the last Governor of Russian America . He has streets dedicated to his memory in Sitka and Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky....

 and his wife, and a group of locals assembled at the flagstaff in front of the governor's residence (on what has come to be known as "Baranof (Baronov) Castle Hill
Castle Hill (Sitka, Alaska)
Castle Hill or Noow Tlein, in Sitka, Alaska, is a National Historic Landmark and the historical site of Tlingit and Russian forts.Castle Hill is the area of land understood by the Tlingit people to be ceded to the Russian government following the battle of 1804...

" to witness the flag of Russia
Flag of Russia
The flag of Russia is a tricolour flag of three equal horizontal fields, white on the top, blue in the middle and red on the bottom. The flag was first used as an ensign for Russian merchant and war ships and only became official in 1896...

 being lowered and the U.S. flag
Flag of the United States
The national flag of the United States of America consists of thirteen equal horizontal stripes of red alternating with white, with a blue rectangle in the canton bearing fifty small, white, five-pointed stars arranged in nine offset horizontal rows of six stars alternating with rows...

 being raised in its place.

A dual cannon salute was fired for each flag, and each Commissioner gave a short speech. Perhaps misunderstanding the directions, the Russian soldier bringing his country's flag down tore it loose, then dropped it. The banner drifted down and was caught on a portion of the upraised bayonets of the Russian garrison
Garrison is the collective term for a body of troops stationed in a particular location, originally to guard it, but now often simply using it as a home base....

. Princess Maksutova is said to have fainted at the sight.

Legend has it that the first American administrator of Alaska was Polish
thumb|right|180px|The state flag of [[Poland]] as used by Polish government and diplomatic authoritiesThe Polish people, or Poles , are a nation indigenous to Poland. They are united by the Polish language, which belongs to the historical Lechitic subgroup of West Slavic languages of Central Europe...

 immigrant Włodzimierz Krzyżanowski. However, the Anchorage Daily News
Anchorage Daily News
The Anchorage Daily News is a daily newspaper based in Anchorage, Alaska, in the United States. It is often referred to colloquially as either "the Daily News" or "the ADN"...

was unable to find any conclusive information to support or disprove this claim. Public opinion in the United States was generally positive, though some criticized the purchase as "Seward's Folly" or "Seward's Icebox". However, the resources of Alaska would soon show that this was a wise buy. Alaska celebrates the purchase each year on the last Monday of March, which is known as Seward's Day
Seward's Day
Seward's Day is a legal holiday in the U.S. state of Alaska. It falls on the last Monday in March and commemorates the signing of the Alaska Purchase treaty on March 30, 1867. It is named for then-Secretary of State William H...


When the United States had first bought Alaska, vast regions of the area still remained unexplored. In 1865, Western Union
Western Union
The Western Union Company is a financial services and communications company based in the United States. Its North American headquarters is in Englewood, Colorado. Up until 2006, Western Union was the best-known U.S...

 decided to lay a telegraph line across Alaska to Bering Strait where it would connect with an Asian line. Robert Kennicott
Robert Kennicott
Robert Kennicott was an American naturalist.-Biography:Kennicott was born in New Orleans and grew up in "West Northfield" , Illinois, a town in the prairie north of the then nascent city of Chicago....

, part of a Western Union surveying effort, had led his crew to Nulato on the banks of the Yukon. He died the following year and William H. Dall took charge of scientific affairs. The Western Union expedition conducted the first scientific studies of the region and produced the first map of the entire Yukon River
Yukon River
The Yukon River is a major watercourse of northwestern North America. The source of the river is located in British Columbia, Canada. The next portion lies in, and gives its name to Yukon Territory. The lower half of the river lies in the U.S. state of Alaska. The river is long and empties into...

. That same year, 1866, workers finally succeeded in laying an Atlantic undersea telegraph cable, and the Alaskan overland project was abandoned. Dall returned to Alaska many times, recording and naming geological features.

The Alaska Commercial Company
Alaska Commercial Company
The Alaska Commercial Company is a company that operated retail stores in Alaska during the early period of Alaska's ownership by the United States. From 1901 to 1992, it was known as the Northern Commercial Company . In 1992, it resumed business as the Alaska Commercial Company under the...

 also contributed to the growing exploration of Alaska in the last decades of the 1800s, building trading posts along the interior's many rivers. Small parties of trappers and traders entered the interior, and, though the federal government provided little money to the region, army officers would occasionally explore on their own. In a four-month journey, Lt. Frederick Schwatka
Frederick Schwatka
Frederick Gustavus Schwatka was a United States Army lieutenant with degrees in medicine and law and a noted explorer of northern Canada and Alaska.-Early life and career:...

 and his party rafted the Yukon from Lake Lindeman in Canada to Saint Michael near the river's mouth on the Bering Sea
Bering Sea
The Bering Sea is a marginal sea of the Pacific Ocean. It comprises a deep water basin, which then rises through a narrow slope into the shallower water above the continental shelves....

. In 1885, Lt. Henry T. Allen
Henry Tureman Allen
Henry Tureman Allen was a United States Army officer known for exploring the Copper River in Alaska in 1885 along with the Tanana and Koyukuk rivers by transversing 1,500 miles of wilderness. His trek was been compared by General Nelson A. Miles to that of Lewis and Clark.Henry was born in...

 and four others left the Gulf of Alaska
Gulf of Alaska
The Gulf of Alaska is an arm of the Pacific Ocean defined by the curve of the southern coast of Alaska, stretching from the Alaska Peninsula and Kodiak Island in the west to the Alexander Archipelago in the east, where Glacier Bay and the Inside Passage are found.The entire shoreline of the Gulf is...

, followed the Copper River
Copper River (Alaska)
The Copper River or Ahtna River is a 300-mile river in south-central Alaska in the United States. It drains a large region of the Wrangell Mountains and Chugach Mountains into the Gulf of Alaska...

, crossed a mountain range, and traveled down the Tanana River
Tanana River
The Tanana River is a tributary of the Yukon River in the U.S. state of Alaska. According to linguist and anthropologist William Bright, the name is from the Koyukon tene no, tenene, literally "trail river"....

to the Yukon, and portaged to the Kanuti and Koyukuk rivers. Allen went up the Koyukuk, then back down the Yukon, crossed over to Unalakeet on the coast, and then made his way to Saint Michael, exploring about 1,500 miles (2400 km) of Interior Alaska.
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