Alaska Flag on Our Flagpole

Alaska – The Last Frontier

Alaska was loosely governed by the military initially, and was administered as a district starting in 1884, with a governor appointed by the President of the United States.  A federal district court was headquartered in Sitka.

For most of Alaska’s first decade under the United States flag, Sitka was the only community inhabited by American settlers.  They organized a “provisional city government”, which was Alaska’s first municipal government, but not in a legal sense.  Legislation allowing Alaskan communities to legally incorporate as cities did not come about until 1900, and home rule for cities was extremely limited or unavailable until statehood took effect in 1959.


Starting in the 1890s and stretching in some places to the early 1910s, gold rushes in Alaska and the nearby Yukon Territory brought thousands of miners and settlers to Alaska.

Chilkoot Trail 1898 Klondike Gold Rush
Chilkoot Trail 1898 Klondike Gold Rush

Alaska was officially incorporated as an organized territory in 1912.  Alaska’s capital, which had been in Sitka until 1906, was moved north to Juneau.  Construction of the Alaska Governor’s Mansion began that same year.  European immigrants from Norway and Sweden also settled in southeast Alaska, where they entered the fishing and logging industries.

During World War II, the Aleutian Islands Campaign focused on the three outer Aleutian Islands – Attu, Agattu and Kiska – that were invaded by Japanese troops and occupied between June 1942 and August 1943.  During the occupation, one Aleut civilian was killed by Japanese troops and nearly fifty were interned in Japan, where about half of them died.  Unalaska/Dutch Harbor became a significant base for the United States Army Air Forces and Navy submariners.

Battle of Attu 1943
Battle of Attu 1943

The United States Lend-Lease program involved the flying of American warplanes through Canada to Fairbanks and then Nome; Soviet pilots took possession of these aircraft, ferrying them to fight the German invasion of the Soviet Union.  The construction of military bases contributed to the population growth of some Alaskan cities.


Statehood for Alaska was an important cause of James Wickersham early in his tenure as a congressional delegate.  Decades later, the statehood movement gained its first real momentum following a territorial referendum in 1946.  The Alaska Statehood Committee and Alaska’s Constitutional Convention would soon follow.  Statehood supporters also found themselves fighting major battles against political foes, mostly in the U.S. Congress but also within Alaska.  Statehood was approved by Congress on July 7, 1958.  Alaska was officially proclaimed a state on January 3, 1959.

Good Friday Earthquake:

On March 27, 1964, the massive Good Friday earthquake killed 133 people and destroyed several villages and portions of large coastal communities, mainly by the resultant tsunamis and landslides.  It was the second-most-powerful earthquake in the recorded history of the world, with a moment magnitude of 9.2.

Kodiak Before and After Earthquake
Kodiak Before and After Earthquake

It was over one thousand times more powerful than the 1989 San Francisco earthquake.  The time of day (5:36 pm), time of year and location of the epicenter were all cited as factors in potentially sparing thousands of lives, particularly in Anchorage.

Discovery of Oil:

The 1968 discovery of oil at Prudhoe Bay and the 1977 completion of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System led to an oil boom.

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