A Chronological History of Alaska

Prehistoric Alaska

Human beings have inhabited South East, the Aleutians, the Interior and the northwest Arctic for 11,000 or more years.

16th century

1579 Sir Francis Drake's Secret Voyage to Northwest America brought him to Alaska's southeast (Chatham Strait, south of Juneau, between Baranof Island and Kulu Island).

18th century
1725 Peter the Great sends Vitus Bering to explore the North Pacific.
1728 Vitus Bering sails through the Bering Strait.
1733 Bering's second expedition, with George Wilhelm Steller aboard, the first naturalist to visit Alaska.
1741 Alexei Chirikof, with Bering expedition, sights land on July 15.
1742 First scientific report on the North Pacific fur seal.
1743 Concentrated hunting of sea otter by Russia begins.
1774 Juan Perez ordered by Spain to explore west coast; discovers Prince of Wales Island and Dixon Sound.
1776 Captain James Cookhouse expedition searches for the Northwest Passage.
1725 Cook reaches King Island, Norton Sound, Unalaska.
1784 Grigorii Shelikov (Schelichow) establishes the first non-Native settlement at Three Saints Bay, Kodiak.
1786 Gerassin Pribilof discovers the rookeries on the islands now know as the Pribilofs.
1791 George Vancouver leaves England to explore the coast; Alejandro Malaspina explores the northwest coast for Spain.
1792 Catherine II grants a monopoly of furs in Alaska to Grigorii Shelikov.
1794 First handful of Russian Orthodox monks arrive, but stay only a short time.
Baranov builds first vessel in northwestern America at Voskres-senski on Kenai.
1795 The first Russian Orthodox Church established in Kodiak.
1799 Alexander Baranov establishes Russian post known today as Old Sitka;
Exclusive trading rights granted to the Russian American Company.

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19th Century
1802 Russian fort at Old Sitka destroyed by Tlingits.
1804 Russians return to Sitka and attack Kiksadi fort on Indian River. Russians lose the battle but Natives are forced to flee. Baranov re-establishes trading post.
1805 Yurii Lisianski sails to Canton with the first Russian cargo of Alaskan furs to be sent directly to China.
1815 - 1818 The Romanzov Expedition under Captain Otto von Kotzebue led to naming of Escholtz Bay, Chamisso Island and Wildlife Refuge, the city of Kotzebue, and to many botanical discoveries on land and in Alaskan waters.
1821 No foreigners allowed in Russian-American waters, except at regular ports of call.
1824 Father Ivan Veniaminov arrives in Alaska with his family. Russians begin exploration of mainland that led to the discovery of the Nushagak, Kuskokwim, Yukon, and Koyokuk Rivers.
1834 Father Veniaminov moves to Sitka von Unalaska, consecrated Bishop Innokenty in 1840.
1840 Russian Orthodox Diocese formed; Bishop Innokenty Veniaminov given permission to use Native languages in Orthodox liturgy.
1841 Edward de Stoeckl assigned to the secretariat of the Russian legation in the U.S.
1847 Fort Yukon established.
1848 Cathedral of St. Michael dedicated at New Archangel (Sitka).
1853 Russian explorer-trappers find oil seeps in Cook Inlet.
1857 Coal mining begins at Coal Harbor on the Kenai Peninsula.
1859 De Stoeckl returns to U.S. from St. Petersburg with authority to negotiate the sale of Alaska.
1861 Gold discovered on Stikine River near Telegraph Creek.
1865 Western Union Telegraph Company prepares to put a telegraph line across Alaska and Siberia.

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Alaska is purchased from Russia
1867 U.S. purchases Alaska from Russia; Pribilof Islands placed under jurisdiction of Secretary of Treasury. Fur seal population, stabilized under Russian rule, declines rapidly.
1868 Alaska designated as the "Department of Alaska" under Brevet Major General Jeff C. Davis, U.S. Army.
1869 The Sitka Times, Alaskans first newspaper is published.
1872 Gold discovered near Sitka and in British Columbia.
1874 George Halt said to be the first white man to cross the Chilkoot Pass in search for gold.
1876 Gold discovered south of Juneau at Windham Bay.
1877 U.S. troops withdrawn from Alaska.
1878 School opens at Sitka; it becomes Sheldon Jackson Junior College. First canneries in Alaska established at Klawock and Sitka.
1880 Richard Harris and Joseph Juneau, with the aid of local clan leader Kowee, discover gold on Gastineau; Juneau is founded.
1881 Parris Lode claim staked and by 1885 Treadwell Mine is the most prominent mine in Alaska.
1882 First commercial herring fishing begins at Killisnoo; first two central Alaska salmon canneries built. U.S. Navy bombs, then burns the Tlingit village of Angoon.
1885 Dr. C. H. Townsend suggest introduction of reindeer into Alaska. Dr. Sheldon Jackson appointed General Agent for Education in Alaska.
1887 Father William Duncan and Tsimshian followers establish Metlakatla on Annette Island.
1890 Large corporate salmon canneries begin to appear.
1890 Dr. Sheldon Jackson explores Arctic Coast; brings reindeer husbandry into Alaska.
1891 First oil claims staked in Cook Inlet area.
The Rush for Gold Begins
1894 Gold discovered on Mastadon Creek; founding of Circle City.
1896 Dawson City founded at mouth of Klondike River; gold discovered on Bonanza Creek.
1897 - 1900 Klondike gold rush.
1897 First shipment of fresh halibut sent south from Juneau.
1898 Skagway is largest city in Alaska; work starts on White Pass and Yukon Railroad;
Congress appropriates money for telegraph from Seattle to Sitka; Nome gold rush begins.
1899 Local government organized in Nome.

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20th century
1900 Civil Code for Alaska divides state into three judicial districts, with judges in Sitka, Eagle, and St. Michael; capital moved to Juneau. White Pass railroad completed. U.S. Congress passes act to establish Washington-Cable (WAMCATS) that later becomes the Alaska Communications System (ACS).
1901 E.T. Barnette's ship, the Lavelle Young, is grounded on a bank of the Chena River.
1902 Felix Pedro (Felice Pedroni) discovers gold in Alaskans interior on July 22.
1903 E.T. Barnette and local miners name their settlement Fairbanks and the city is incorporated on November President Theodore Roosevelt establishes Tongass National Forest.
1904 Last great Tlingit potlatch held in Sitka. Submarine cables laid from Seattle to Sitka, and from Sitka to Valdez, linking Alaska to the "outside".
1905 Tanana railroad built; telegraph links Fairbanks and Valdez; Alaska Road Commission established under Army jurisdiction.
1906 Alaska authorized to send voteless delegate to Congress. Governor's Office moved from Sitka to Juneau.
1907 Gold discovered at Ruby; Richardson trail established; Fire devastates Fairbanks
1911 International agreement between U.S., Great Britain, Canada, Russia, and Japan controls fur seal fisheries; sea otters placed under complete protection; Copper River and Northwestern Railroad begins service to Kennecott Copper Mine.
1912 Territorial status for Alaska provides for a Legislature; Alaska Native Brotherhood organizes in Southeast; Mount Katmai explodes, forming Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes.
1913 First Alaska Territorial Legislature convenes. First law passed grants women voting rights.
1914 Surveying begins for Alaska Railroad; City of Anchorage born as construction campsite.
1915 Alaska Native Sisterhood holds first convention in Sitka.
1916 First bill for Alaska statehood introduced in Congress.
1918 Congress creates Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines as a land grant college. (Now University of Alaska Fairbanks)
1920 Anchorage organizes city government.
1922 Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines opens.
1923 President Warren G. Harding comes to Alaska to drive the last spike in Alaska Railroad.
1924 Congress extends citizenship to all Natives in the United States; Tlingit William Paul, Sr. is first Native elected to Alaska Legislature. Start of airmail delivery to Alaska.
1928 Court case resolves right of Native children to attend public school.
1929 U.S. Navy begins 5-year survey to map parts of Alaska. Alaska Native Brotherhood Convention at Haines resolves to pursue land claims settlement in Southeast Alaska.
1932 Radio telephone communications established in Juneau, Ketchikan, and Nome.
1935 Matanuska Valley Project established.
1936 The Indian Reorganization Act of 1935 amended to include Alaska.
1940 Fort Richardson established; construction begins on Elmendorf Air Force Base.
1942 Japan bombs Dutch Harbor; invades Aleutians.

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Alaska-Canada Highway Built
1945 Governor Gruening signs the Anti-Discrimination Act, the first such legislation passed in the United States and its possessions since post-Civil War.
1946 Boarding school for Native high school students opens at Mt. Edgecombe.
1947 The Alaska Command established; first unified command of the U.S. staffed by Army, Air Force, and Navy officers. First Alaska Native land claims suit, filed by Tlingit and Haida people, introduced in U.S. Court of Claims.
1953 Oil well drilled near Eureka on Glenn Highway marks the beginning of Alaska's modern oil history; First Alaskan television broadcast by KENI, Anchorage.
1955 Alaska's Flag adopted as the official song of the Territory; Constitutional Convention opens at University of Alaska Fairbanks.
1956 Territorial voters adopt the Alaska Constitution; send two senators and one representative to Washington under the Tennessee Plan.
1958 U.S. Congress votes to on July 7 to admit Alaska into the Union.
ALASKA elected two Senators and a Representative to Congress in 1956 in an effort to obtain statehood. The legislators went to Congress when it convened on January 1957, to carry on the campaign there for Alaskan statehood. The voters elected former Governor Ernest Gruening and William Egan, former Speaker of the Alaska House, as Senators, and Ralph J. Rivers as Representative in the historic October 9 election. George H. Lehleitner, a New Orleans businessman, suggested the unusual election action. He pointed out that Tennessee elected two Senators in 1796 after Congress failed to approve statehood. When the new Senators reached Washington, Congress permitted them to take their seats, and made Tennessee a state. Michigan, California, Oregon, Iowa, Minnesota, and Kansas used the same plan to achieve statehood. The Alaska Constitutional Convention completed its work at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks in February, and the voters approved the constitution on April 24.
(World Book Encyclopedia, 1957 Annual Supplement, 18.)

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1959 President Eisenhower signs statehood bill on January 3.
1964 Good Friday earthquake.
1967 Fairbanks flood.
1968 Oil pumped from a well at Prudhoe Bay on North Slope.
Governor Hickel establishes Alaska Lands Claims Task Force that recommends a 40 million acre land settlement for Alaska Natives.
1969 North Slope Oil lease sale brings $900 million. First live satellite telecast in Alaska.
1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act signed into law.
1973 Congress passes the Trans-Alaska Pipeline Authorization Act; salmon fisheries limited entry program becomes law.
1975 Alaska Legislature appropriates funds to initiate purchase and installation of 100 satellite earth stations for establishment of statewide satellite communications network.
1976 Natural gas pipeline proposals filed. Alaska voters pick Willow as new capital site; voters approve constitutional amendment establishing Alaska Permanent Fund to receive "at least 25 percent" of all state oil revenues and related income.
1977 Trans-Alaska Pipeline completed from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez.
Congress passes Alaska National Interests Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA).
1985 State purchases Alaska Railroad from the federal government.
1988 International efforts to rescue two whales caught by ice off Barrow captures world-wide attention; a one-day visit of a group of Alaskans to the Siberian port city of Provideniya;
1989 The Exxon Valdez, an oil tanker carrying 53 million gallons of North Slope crude grounds on Bligh Reef spilling 11 million gallons into Prince William Sound
1991 The State of Alaska, the U.S. Justice Department and Exxon reach a $1 billion settlement resulting from the Exxon Valdez oil spill which is rejected by the U.S. District Court. An amended settlement earmarking more money for restoration work in Prince William Sound wins judicial approval. Congress effectively closes the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil development.
1994 Federal trial results in $5 billion dollar verdict in the Exxon Valdez case. Voters defeat the latest proposal to move the Alaska capital away from Juneau.
1995 Canadian fisherman attack an Alaska ferry with paint and ball bearings projected from slingshots in frustration over inconclusive U.S.-Canada Pacific Salmon Treaty talks, which hinder Southeast Alaska's troll king salmon fishery. The $267 million dollar Healy Clean Coal Project is launched with a substantial backing by the U.S. Department of Energy.
1996 A federal judge rules against the State of Alaska in a case brought by Governor Hickel and continued by Governor Knowles over the state's interpretation of how the Alaska Statehood Act affects the federal government's management of federal lands in the state. U.S. Congress lifts the ban on exportation of Alaska crude oil.
1997 Canadian fishermen in Prince Rupert blockaded an Alaskan ferry for three days in protest of Alaskan salmon-fishing practices; ferry service to Prince Rupert was disrupted for 19 weeks.
1998 The moose was adopted as Alaska's official state land mammal.

The new Seward SeaLife Center is the western hemisphere's first cold water marine research facility.
1999 Two legendary dog mushers died - Joe Redington, Sr., founder of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race and Edgar Nollner, Sr., the last surviving musher of the 1925 diphtheria serum run to Nome.

The Alaska Native Heritage Center opened in Anchorage
2000 Along with the rest of the world, Alaskans welcomed the year 2000 with fanfare and firecrackers.
2005 50th Anniversary of Alaska's Constitutional Convention.
2006 Sarah Palin becomes Alaska's first woman Governor.
2007 Lance Mackey becomes the first musher to win both the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race and the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in the same year.
2008 Lance Mackey won both the Yukon Quest and the Iditarod sled dog races for the second year in a row.
2011 John Baker, the first Alaska Native musher to win the Iditarod race since 1976, sets the Iditarod record of 8 days, 18 hours, 46 minutes and 39 seconds.

As of 2009 Alaska's population had grown to 698,473.

Sources: Alaska Almanac, 24th ed., 2000; Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, 12/30/00, p. C1;

Census figure from State of Alaska website

FAQALASKA Project, Fairbanks North Star Borough Public Library for the Alaska State Library.

Alaska State Library: e-mail - asl@eed.state.ak.us

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