A day recognized in Alaska as a holiday, the last Monday of March is Seward’s Day. It is named after William H. Seward, the secretary of State in 1867 which was when, on this date, the Alaska Purchase Treaty was signed. This was the purchase of Alaska from Russia. It is considered a public holiday, meaning the schools and businesses are closed.
What Is Seward’s Day?
In 1867, The United States of America purchased Alaska for $7.2 million, the treaty was signed on 30th March and the namesake who signed it, William H. Seward was believed to be signing a deal that was incredibly overpriced at the time. That’s right, it might not seem like a lot now, but just over $7 million back then was a huge amount of money. This was especially the opinion of many Americans who believed the large area did not seem to be of much use to them.
For such a vast outpost, the cost of maintaining it was high for the Russians and didn’t seem a sensible purchase to Americans who knew they would need to take over the maintenance. Still, many opinions swiftly changed as soon as Gold was found in the Klondike River where many would find their fortunes. Eventually, the land more than paid for itself with the discovery of natural resources. Now that there was natural gas and oil as well as other industries that were discovered, it became a shrewd purchase.
As for William H. Seward, he died in 1872 and never lived to witness a holiday day named after him. Seward had been Abraham Lincoln’s secretary of state and it was his job to oversee international affars, all during the civil war. In The Anchorage Museum, the original check and signed treaty are all on display.
How To Observe Seward’s Day
Although it is a big ask for most people, visiting one of the monuments dedicated to Seward would be a good place to start. There is actually a Seward’s park in Seattle and a city called Seward named after the man. We’ve mentioned the signed treaty in Alaska and there are often celebrations planned in places such as Anchorage and Sikita, and of course, in the city of Seward.
Many people read books about Alaska and its history, whilst others encourage children to learn more through storytelling events. In Alaska, it is common for classes to choose activities related to Seward and the history of what occurred when the treaty was signed.
A good way of observing this day is to research more about the man himself, but also seek documentaries and articles about the treaty itself. There would have been a fair amount of contention about the passing of territory, especially between the United States of America and Russia. It is not to be confused with Alaska Day which was declared a national holiday in 1917. That marks the date of the formal transfer, another important date in the history of Alaska.