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Alaska History Timeline
Important Dates, Events, and Milestones in Alaska
Offers a chronological timeline of important dates, events, and milestones in Alaska history
Alaska's modern history is very short; it was not discovered by the developed world until halfway through the 18th century. However, the indigenous peoples of Alaska have been here for quite some time
The history of Alaska dates back to the Upper Paleolithic period (around 14,000 BC), when Siberian groups crossed the Bering land bridge into what is now western Alaska. At the time of European contact by the Russian explorers, the area was populated by Alaska Native groups. The name “Alaska” derives from the Aleut word Alaxsxaq (also spelled Alyeska), meaning “mainland” (literally, “the object toward which the action of the sea is directed”)
16th Century Alaska History Timeline
1578 - Cossack Chieftain Yermak Timofief was on an expedition in central Russia when he heard word of rich sable and valuable furs in the east. The journeys across the steppes marked the beginning of Russia's conquest eastward.
17th Century Alaska History Timeline
1639 - Cossack horsemen came over the eastern mountain range in Siberia, and continued to the shore of the Okhotsk Sea. Once there, they built the first Russian Village, facing east, across the Pacific.
18th Century Alaska History Timeline
1711 - Russian traders learn of a "Great Land" to the east.
1725 - Peter the Great of Russia commissioned a Danish sea captain, Vitus Bering, to explore the Northwest coast of Alaska. This feat is credited with the "official" discovery by Russia and the first reliable information on the land. Bering established Russia's claim to Northwestern North America.
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; the Europeans had found Alaska.
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, Dixon Sound.
1776 - Captain James Cook expedition to search for Northwest Passage.
1778 - While searching for the elusive Northwest Passage, British Explorer Captain James Cook explored the waterway that downtown Anchorage now borders, Cook Inlet.
1725 - Cook reaches King Island, Norton Sound, Unalaska.
1784 - Grigorii Shelikov establishes first white 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 - 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; trade charter grants exclusive trading rights to the Russian American Company.
19th Century Alaska History Timeline
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 furs to be sent directly to China.
1821 - No foreigners allowed in Russian-American waters, except at regular ports of call.
1824 - Russians begin exploration of mainland that leads to discovery of Nushagak, Kuskokwim, Yukon, and Koyokuk Rivers.
1834 - Father Veniaminov moves to Sitka; consecrated Bishop Innokenty in 1840.
1835 - Russian mission is established near Knik, across the inlet from present-day Anchorage.
1840 - Russian Orthodox Diocese formed; Bishop Innokenty Veniaminov given permission to use Native languages in the liturgy.
1841 - Edward de Stoeckl assigned to the secretariat of the Russian legation in the US
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 US from St. Petersburg with authority to negotiate the sale of Alaska. Alaska became a state in 1959.
1861 - Gold discovered on Stikine River near Telegraph Creek.
1865 - Western Union Telegraph Company prepares to put telegraph line across Alaska and Siberia.
Purchase from Russia
1867 - Financial struggles force Russia to sell Russian-America to the United States. Negotiated by US Secretary of State William Seward, the treaty buys what is now Alaska for $7.2 million, or about 2 cents an acre. Alaska's value was not appreciated by the American masses at the time, calling it "Seward's folly." ; 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, US Army.
1869 - The Sitka Times, first newspaper in Alaska, 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 - US troops withdrawn from Alaska.
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 is the most prominent mine in Alaska: Treadwell Mine.
1884 - Congress passes Organic Act. $15,000 appropriated to educate Indian children.
1885 - Dr. C. H. Townsend suggest introduction of reindeer into Alaska. Sheldon Jackson appointed General Agent for Education in Alaska.
1887 - Father William Duncan and Tsimshian followers found 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.
1892 Afognak Reserve established, beginning the Alaskan Forest Service System.
1894 - Gold discovery 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.
1899 - Local government organized in Nome.
20th Century Alaska History Timeline
1904 - Last great Tlingit potlatch held in Sitka. Submarine cables laid from Seattle to Sitka, and from Sitka to Valdez, linking Alaska to "outside".
1905 - Tanana railroad built; telegraph links Fairbanks and Valdez; Alaska Road Commission established under Army jurisdiction.
1906 - Alaska authorized to send vote less delegate to Congress. Governor's Office moved from Sitka to Juneau.
1908 - First cold storage plant built at Ketchikan.
1914 - Congress authorizes the construction of the Alaska Railroad, clearing the way for the only railroad in history which would be owned and operated by the US government. Surveying begins for Alaska Railroad; City of Anchorage born as construction campsite.
1916 - First bill for Alaska statehood introduced in Congress. Alaskans vote in favor of prohibition by a 2 to 1 margin.
1917 - Treadwell Mine complex caves in.
1918 - The first train from Seward steams into Anchorage, marking the completion of the southern half of the railroad line.
1920 - After lengthy negotiations, Anchorage citizens vote to incorporate. Six days later, Leopold David is elected first mayor of the city.
1923 - President Warren G. Harding drives in the golden spike at Nenana, signaling the completion of the Alaska Railroad.
1928 - Court case resolves right of Native children to attend public school.
1929 - US 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. Nine hundred Alaska-Juneau Gold Mine workers go on a strike that lasts 40 days and ends in violence. - The Jurisdictional Act of June, 1935 allows the Tlingit and Haida Indians to pursue land claims in US Court of Claims.
1940 - Anchorage is still a small, sleepy town but its strategic position attracts military interest. The first soldiers arrive to build an army base and air field, which become Fort Richardson and Elmendorf Air Force Base, bringing rapid growth to Anchorage.
1942 - Japanese invade Alaska's Aleutian Islands. As part of the defense of the West Coast, the Alaska Highway is built in the amazingly short time of eight months and 12 days, linking Anchorage with the rest of the nation. Anchorage enters the war years with a population of 7,724 and emerges with 43,314 residents.
1944 - Alaska-Juneau Gold Mine shuts down. Oil and Gas Exploration begins.
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.
1948 - Alaskans vote to abolish fish traps by a 10 to 1 margin.
1953 - Oil well drilled near Eureka on Glenn Highway marks the beginning of Alaska's modern oil history; first plywood operations begin at Juneau; first big Alaskan pulp mill opens at Ketchikan. First Alaskan television broadcast by KENI, Anchorage.
1955 - Alaskans elect delegates to constitutional convention.
1955 - Constitutional Convention opens at University of Alaska.
1956 - Territorial voters adopt the Alaska Constitution; send two senators and one representative to Washington under the Tennessee Plan.
1958 - Statehood measure passes; President Eisenhower signs statehood bill.
1964 - Good Friday earthquake.
1966 - Alaska Federation of Natives organized. Interior Secretary Udall imposes a "land freeze" to protect Native use and occupancy of Alaska lands.
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.
1972 - Alaska Constitution amended to prohibit sexual discrimination.
1974 - Alaska voters approve capital move initiative.
1975 - Alaska Legislature appropriates funds to initiate purchase and installation of 100 satellite earth stations for establishment of statewide satellite communications network.
1992 - Final repercussions of Alaska's recession are felt as oil industry retrenches with major job losses; the Anchorage Times, once Alaska's largest newspaper folds; reapportionment challenges delay primaries by two weeks; Spurr Volcano erupts three times, one blast dumping ash on Anchorage; Juneau's Hillary Lindh wins Olympic Silver Medal in downhill skiing.
1993 - Alaska Legislature passes largest capital works appropriation in ten years; a court-mandated new reapportionment scheme re-draws boundaries of some election districts; Greens Creek Mine near Juneau closes due to low silver, zinc, and lead prices; Sitka Pulp Mill announces indefinites suspension of mill operations, affecting 400 workers; Alaskan Independence Party Chairman Joe Vogler mysteriously disappears.
21st Century Alaska History Timeline
2001 - Doug Swingley of Lincoln, MT wins the Iditarod
2003 - Robert Sorlie of Hurdal, Norway wins the Iditarod.
2005 - Robert Sorlie of Hurdal, Norway wins the Iditarod.
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.
Source: FAQALASKA Project, Fairbanks North Star Borough Public Library for the Alaska State Library.