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On October 18, 1867, the U.S. formally takes possession of Alaska after purchasing the territory from Russia for $7.2 million, or less than two cents an acre. The Alaska purchase comprised 586,412 square miles, about twice the size of Texas, and was championed by William Henry Seward, the enthusiastically expansionist secretary of state under President Andrew Johnson.
Russia wanted to sell its Alaska territory, which was remote, sparsely populated and difficult to defend, to the U.S. rather than risk losing it in battle with a rival such as Great Britain. Negotiations between Seward (1801-1872) and the Russian minister to the U.S., Eduard de Stoeckl, began in March 1867. However, the American public believed the land to be barren and worthless and dubbed the purchase “Seward’s Folly” and “Andrew Johnson’s Polar Bear Garden,” among other derogatory names. Some animosity toward the project may have been a byproduct of President Johnson’s own unpopularity. As the 17th U.S. president, Johnson battled with Radical Republicans in Congress over Reconstruction policies following the Civil War. He was impeached in 1868 and later acquitted by a single vote. Nevertheless, Congress eventually ratified the Alaska deal.
READ MORE: Why the Purchase of Alaska Was Far From “Folly”
Public opinion of the purchase turned more favorable when gold was discovered in a tributary of Alaska’s Klondike River in 1896, sparking a gold rush. Alaska became the 49th state on January 3, 1959, and is now recognized for its vast natural resources. Today, 25 percent of America’s oil and over 50 percent of its seafood come from Alaska. It is also the largest state in area, about one-fifth the size of the lower 48 states combined, though it remains sparsely populated. The name Alaska is derived from the Aleut word alyeska, which means “great land.” Alaska has two official state holidays to commemorate its origins: Seward’s Day, observed the last Monday in March, celebrates the March 30, 1867, signing of the land treaty between the U.S. and Russia, and Alaska Day, observed every October 18, marks the anniversary of the formal land transfer.
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Alaska Purchase, (1867), acquisition by the United States from Russia of 586,412 square miles (1,518,800 square km) of land at the northwestern tip of the North American continent, comprising the current U.S. state of Alaska.
Russia had offered to sell its North American territory to the United States on several occasions, but the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861 led to the postponement of discussions. In December 1866, a year after the war’s conclusion, Baron Eduard de Stoeckl, Russian minister to the United States, was instructed by Emperor Alexander II to open negotiations for its sale. The cost and logistical difficulties of supplying the territory had made it an economic liability to the Russians, who were additionally struggling with debt accrued during the disastrous Crimean War (1853–56). Though Russian interactions with the native Aleut people had been largely peaceful, the Tlingit tribes were more restive, leading to sporadic episodes of violence and the interruption of provisions. Political forces in Russia increasingly looked instead toward Asian expansion and—in light of the American philosophy of Manifest Destiny and increased competition from the British Hudson’s Bay Company, which leased a southern portion of the territory—viewed the eventual control of the territory by the United States as inevitable and perhaps beneficial.
Stoeckl approached William Henry Seward, secretary of state under Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson, through an intermediary, journalist and politician Thurlow Weed. (Seward, an advocate of U.S. expansionism, had long desired Alaska.) The two statesmen began private discussions on March 11, 1867 Stoeckl remained coy about the sale until Seward expressed interest. On March 29, 1867, Stoeckl and Seward completed the draft of a treaty ceding Russian North America to the United States, and the treaty was signed early the following day. The price—$7.2 million—amounted to about two cents per acre.
Some newspapers—particularly Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune—savaged the decision, variously deeming the new territory “Seward’s Icebox,” “Seward’s Folly,” and “Walrussia.” However, most Americans were ambivalent some supported the decision as a step toward the annexation of Canada. The treaty was submitted to the Senate for consent on March 30, 1867. Early opponent Sen. Charles Sumner—swayed in part by information about the territory’s abundant natural resources, gathered during Smithsonian Institution-sponsored expeditions in 1859 and 1865—spoke in its favour for more than three hours. It was passed on April 9. The United States officially took possession on October 18 in a flag-changing ceremony at Sitka. However, there was resistance to payment among members of the House, who were disinclined to support President Johnson, with whom they were unhappy over his dismissal of the Senate-appointed secretary of war (in defiance of the Tenure of Office Act). The House entered articles of impeachment in February 1868, but the attempt to oust him was unsuccessful. The necessary appropriations were ultimately passed on July 14, 1868. Extensive propaganda campaigns and judicious use of bribes by Stoeckl secured the required votes in each house of Congress.
Alaska remained under U.S. Army control until June 1877, after which it was governed briefly by the Treasury Department and then by various military authorities. Most Russians who had occupied the territory were not permanent residents and had returned to Russia following the sale. Those who remained were given the option of applying for U.S. citizenship within three years, but most eventually left. A civil government was installed in May 1884 after the territory became a district. Alaska was accepted into the union as the 49th state on January 3, 1959.
The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica This article was most recently revised and updated by Jeff Wallenfeldt, Manager, Geography and History.
This Day In History: U.S. Formally Takes Possession Of Alaska from Russia
This day in history, October 18, 1967, the U.S. formally takes possession of Alaska from Russia after purchasing it from Russia for $7.2 million, which is equivalent to less than 2 cents an acre.
The purchase was championed by William Henry Steward, the Secretary of State under President Johnson.
The Alaska territory was being overrun by American settlers and with fear that the territory might be lost in battle with a rival, Russia elected to sell it. Negotiations between Seward and the Russian minister to the U.S., Eduard de Stoeckl, began in March, 1867.
Many people thought the purchase was a bad idea thinking that it was just a barren wasteland. It was called “Seward’s Folly” and “Andrew Johnson’s Polar Bear Garden”.
Congress eventually ratified the Alaska deal and many people came to change their opinion on Alaska after gold was found in a tributary of Alaska’s Klondike River in 1896, resulting in a gold rush to the land.
On January 3, 1959, Alaska would become the 49th state for the United States of America.
U.S. takes possession of Alaska on Oct. 18, 1867
On this day in 1867, the United States took possession of Alaska from Russia after purchasing the territory for $7.2 million, or less than two cents an acre. The acquisition comprised 586,412 square miles, an area about twice the size of Texas.
It was championed by William Henry Seward (1801-1872), secretary of state under President Andrew Johnson.
The Russians wanted to sell the remote, sparsely populated territory to the Americans rather than risk losing it in a possible future war to the British. Negotiations between Seward and Baron Eduard de Stoeckl, the Russian minister to the United States, were concluded on March 30.
The deal was branded as “Seward’s Folly” and “Andrew Johnson’s Polar Bear Garden.” Despite Johnson’s unpopularity, Congress nevertheless ratified the purchase.
Johnson sent Army Gen. Jefferson C. Davis with 500 men to maintain peace and order, expecting Congress to soon establish the civil organization for the territory. Although the lawmakers made Alaska a customs district, they took no other steps to create a civilian infrastructure.
Tense relations between the sparse settlers and natives prompted naval forces to be called on to maintain order. The Navy governed Alaska from 1879 to 1884, a time when most of its inhabitants lived in the coastal southeastern “panhandle” of the state.
Passage of the First Organic Act in 1884 made Alaska a civil and judicial district and provided the territory with judges, clerks and marshals. The legal code of the state of Oregon was adopted as a template. Overall, 13 officials became responsible for a population of 32,000 people, of whom only 430 were settlers.
Alaskans commemorate their U.S. origins with Seward’s Day, observed the last Monday in March, and Alaska Day, observed each year on this day, marking the anniversary of the land transfer. Alaska became the 49th state on Jan. 3, 1959.
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18 October, 1867: The U.S. formally takes possession of Alaska after purchasing the territory from Russia for $7.2 million, or less than two cents an acre. The Alaska purchase comprised 586,412 square miles, about twice the size of Texas, and was championed by William Henry Seward, the enthusiastically expansionist secretary of state under President Andrew Johnson.
Russia wanted to sell its Alaska territory, which was remote, sparsely populated and difficult to defend, to the U.S. rather than risk losing it in battle with a rival such as Great Britain. Negotiations between Seward (1801-1872) and the Russian minister to the U.S., Eduard de Stoeckl, began in March 1867. However, the American public believed the land to be barren and worthless and dubbed the purchase "Seward's
Folly" and "Andrew Johnson's Polar Bear Garden," among other derogatory names. Some animosity toward the project may have been a byproduct of President Johnson's own unpopularity. As the 17th U.S. president, Johnson battled with Radical Republicans in Congress over Reconstruction policies following the Civil War. He was impeached in 1868 and later acquitted by a single vote. Nevertheless, Congress eventually ratified the Alaska deal.
Public opinion of the purchase turned more favorable when gold was discovered in a tributary of Alaska's Klondike River in 1896, sparking a gold rush. Alaska became the 49th state on January 3, 1959, and is now recognized for its vast natural resources. Today, 25 percent of America's oil and over 50 percent of its seafood come from Alaska. It is also the largest state in area, about one-fifth the size of the lower 48 states combined, though it remains sparsely populated.
Paleolithic families moved into northwestern North America before 10,000 BC across the Bering land bridge in Alaska (see Settlement of the Americas). Alaska became populated by the Inuit and a variety of Native American groups. Today, early Alaskans are divided into several main groups: the Southeastern Coastal Indians (the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian), the Athabascans, the Aleut, and the two groups of Eskimos, the Inupiat and the Yup'ik. 
The coastal migrants from Asia were probably the first wave of humans to cross the Bering land bridge in western Alaska, and many of them initially settled in the interior of what is now Canada. The Tlingit were the most numerous of this group, claiming most of the coastal Panhandle by the time of European contact and are the northernmost of the group of advanced cultures of the Pacific Northwest Coast renowned for its complex art and political systems and the ceremonial and legal system known as the potlatch. The southern portion of Prince of Wales Island was settled by the Haidas fleeing persecution by other Haidas from the Queen Charlotte Islands (which are now named Haida Gwaii and part of British Columbia). The Aleuts settled the islands of the Aleutian chain approximately 10,000 years ago.
Cultural and subsistence practices varied widely among native groups, who were spread across vast geographical distances.
Early Russian settlement Edit
Russian expeditions of exploration reached Alaska by the early 18th century, and colonial traders (especially fur-traders) followed. On some islands and parts of the Alaskan peninsula, groups of Russian traders proved capable of relatively peaceful coexistence with the local inhabitants. Other groups could not manage the tensions and perpetrated exactions. Hostages were taken, individuals were enslaved, families were split up, and other individuals were forced to leave their villages and settle elsewhere. In addition, during the first two generations of Russian contact, eighty percent of the Aleut population died of Old World diseases, against which they had no immunity. 
In 1784 Grigory Ivanovich Shelikhov arrived in Three Saints Bay on Kodiak Island, operating the fur-trading Shelikhov-Golikov Company.  Shelikhov and his men killed hundreds of indigenous Koniag, then founded the first permanent Russian settlement in Alaska - on the island's Three Saints Bay. By 1788 Shelikhov and others had established a number of Russian settlements over a large region, including the mainland areas around Cook Inlet.
The Russians had gained control of the habitats of the most valuable sea-otters, the Kurilian-Kamchatkan and Aleutian sea-otters. Their fur was thicker, glossier, and blacker than that of sea-otters on the Pacific Northwest coast and in California. The Russians, therefore, advanced southwards along the Pacific coast only after the superior varieties of sea-otters had become depleted, around 1788. The Russian entry to the Northwest Coast was slow, however, due to a shortage of ships and sailors. Russians reached Yakutat Bay in 1794 and built the settlement of Slavorossiya there in 1795. James Shields, a British employee of the Golikov-Shelikhov Company, reconnoitred the coast as far as the Queen Charlotte Islands. In 1795 Alexander Baranov, hired in 1790 to manage Shelikhov's fur enterprise, sailed into Sitka Sound and claimed it for Russia. Hunting-parties arrived in the following years, and by 1800 three-quarters of Russian America's sea-otter skins were coming from the Sitka Sound area. In July 1799 Baranov returned [ citation needed ] on the brig Oryol and established the settlement of Arkhangelsk. Destroyed by Tlingits in 1802 but rebuilt nearby in 1804, it became Novo-Arkhangelsk (Russian: Новоархангельск , lit. 'New Archangel'). It soon become the primary settlement and colonial capital of Russian America. (After the United States purchased Alaska in 1867, Novoarkhangelsk was renamed [ by whom? ] Sitka and became the first capital of Alaska Territory.  )
Missionary activity Edit
Russian fur-traders informally introduced the Russian Orthodox church (with its rituals and sacred texts translated into Aleut at a very early stage) in the 1740s–1780s. During his settlement of Three Saints Bay in 1784, Shelikov introduced the first resident missionaries and clergymen. This missionary activity would continue into the 19th century, ultimately becoming the most visible trace [ citation needed ] of the Russian colonial period in present-day Alaska.
Spanish claims Edit
Spanish claims to the Alaska region dated to the papal bull of 1493, but never involved colonization, forts, or settlements. Instead, Madrid sent out various naval expeditions to explore the area and to claim it for Spain. In 1775 Bruno de Hezeta led an expedition the Sonora, under Bodega y Quadra, ultimately reached latitude 58° north, entered Sitka Sound and formally claimed the region for Spain. The 1779 expedition of Ignacio de Arteaga and Bodega y Quadra reached Port Etches on Hinchinbrook Island, and entered Prince William Sound. They reached a latitude of 61° north, the most northern point attained by Spain.
The Nootka Crisis of 1789 almost led to a war between Britain and Spain: Britain rejected Spanish claims to lands in British Columbia and Spain seized some British ships. The crisis was resolved in Madrid by the Nootka Conventions of 1790-1794, which provided that traders of both Britain and Spain could operate on the northwest coast, that the captured British ships would be returned and an indemnity paid. This marked a victory for Britain, and Spain effectively withdrew from the North Pacific.  It transferred its claims in the region to the United States in the Adams-Onís Treaty of 1819. Today, Spain's Alaskan legacy endures as little more than a few place names, among these the Malaspina Glacier and the towns of Valdez and Cordova.
Britain's presence Edit
British settlements at the time in Alaska consisted of a few scattered trading outposts, with most settlers arriving by sea. Captain James Cook, midway through his third and final voyage of exploration in 1778, sailed along the west coast of North America aboard HMS Resolution, from then-Spanish California all the way to the Bering Strait. During the trip he discovered what became known as Cook Inlet (named in honor of Cook in 1794 by George Vancouver, who had served under his command) in Alaskan waters. The Bering Strait proved to be impassable, although the Resolution and its companion ship HMS Discovery made several attempts to sail through it. The British ships left the straits to return to Hawaii in 1779.
Cook's expedition spurred the British to increase their sailings along the northwest coast (the north-eastern coast of the Pacific), following in the wake of the Spanish. Alaska-based posts owned by the Hudson's Bay Company operated at Fort Yukon, on the Yukon River, Fort Durham (a.k.a. Fort Taku) at the mouth of the Taku River, and Fort Stikine, near the mouth of the Stikine River (associated with Wrangell throughout the early-19th century).
Later Russian settlement and the Russian-American Company (1799–1867) Edit
In 1799, Shelikhov's son-in-law, Nikolay Petrovich Rezanov, acquired a monopoly on the American fur trade from Czar Paul I and formed the Russian-American Company. As part of the deal, the Tsar expected the company to establish new settlements in Alaska and carry out an expanded colonization program.
By 1804, Alexander Baranov, now manager of the Russian–American Company, had consolidated the company's hold on the American fur trade following his victory over the local Tlingit clan at the Battle of Sitka. Despite these efforts the Russians never fully colonized Alaska. The Russian monopoly on trade was also being weakened by the Hudson's Bay Company, which set up a post on the southern edge of Russian America in 1833.
In 1818 management of the Russian-American Company was turned over to the Imperial Russian Navy and the Ukase of 1821 banned foreigners from participating in the Alaskan economy. It soon entered into the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1825 which allowed British merchants to trade in Alaska. The Convention also settled most of the border between Alaska and British North America.
The Russo-American Treaty of 1824, which banned American merchants above 54° 40' north latitude, was widely ignored and the Russians' hold on Alaska weakened further.
At the height of Russian America, the Russian population reached 700.
Although the mid–19th century were not a good time for Russians in Alaska, conditions improved for the coastal Alaska Natives who had survived contact. The Tlingits were never conquered and continued to wage war on the Russians into the 1850s. The Aleuts, though faced with a decreasing population in the 1840s, ultimately rebounded.
Alaska purchase Edit
Financial difficulties in Russia, the low profits of trade with Alaskan settlement, and the important desire to keep Alaska out of British hands all contributed to Russia's willingness to sell its possessions in North America. At the instigation of U.S. Secretary of State William Seward, the United States Senate approved the purchase of Alaska from Russia for US$7.2 million on August 1, 1867 (equivalent to approximately $133M in 2020). This purchase was popularly known in the U.S. as "Seward's Folly", "Seward's Icebox," or "Andrew Johnson's Polar Bear Garden", and was unpopular among some people at the time. Later discovery of gold and oil would show it to be a worthwhile one. Scholars debate whether the purchase of Alaska was a financially profitable for the federal Treasury itself, apart from its benefits to Alaskans and to businesses, and to national defense.  [ better source needed ]
The Department of Alaska (1867–1884) Edit
The United States flag was raised on October 18, 1867, now called Alaska Day, and the region changed from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar. Therefore, for residents, Friday, October 6, 1867 was followed by Friday, October 18, 1867—two Fridays in a row because of the 12 day shift in the calendar minus one day for the date-line shift. 
During the Department era, from 1867 to 1884, Alaska was variously under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Army (until 1877), the United States Department of the Treasury from 1877 to 1879, and the U.S. Navy from 1879 to 1884. Civil administration of Alaska began in 1877 under the United States Treasury Department. A Collector of Customs was appointed by the President of the United States. The Collector was the highest-ranking official of the United States government in Alaska and de facto Governor. Henry C. DeAhna, a former Union Army Officer and Mottrom D. Ball, a former Confederate Army officer, were the first individuals to serve as Collector of Customs.
When Alaska was first purchased, most of its land remained unexplored. In 1865, Western Union laid a telegraph line across Alaska to the Bering Strait where it would connect, under water, with an Asian line. It also conducted the first scientific studies of the region and produced the first map of the entire Yukon River. The Alaska Commercial Company and the military also contributed to the growing exploration of Alaska in the last decades of the 19th century, building trading posts along the Interior's many rivers.
District of Alaska (1884–1912) Edit
In 1884, the region was organized and the name was changed from the Department of Alaska to the District of Alaska. At the time, legislators in Washington, D.C., were occupied with post-Civil War reconstruction issues, and had little time to devote to Alaska. In 1896, the discovery of gold in Yukon Territory in neighboring Canada, brought many thousands of miners and new settlers to Alaska, and very quickly ended the nation's four year economic depression. Although it was uncertain whether gold would also be found in Alaska, Alaska greatly profited because it was along the easiest transportation route to the Yukon goldfields. Numerous new cities, such as Skagway, Alaska, owe their existence to a gold rush in Canada. Soapy Smith, a crime boss confidence man who operated the largest criminal empire in gold rush era Alaska, was shot down by vigilantes in the famed Shootout on Juneau Wharf. He is known as "Alaska's Outlaw."
In 1899, gold was found in Alaska itself in Nome, and several towns subsequently began to be built, such as Fairbanks and Ruby. In 1902, the Alaska Railroad began to be built, which would connect from Seward to Fairbanks by 1914, though Alaska still does not have a railroad connecting it to the lower 48 states today. Still, an overland route was built, cutting transportation times to the contiguous states by days. The industries of copper mining, fishing, and canning began to become popular in the early 20th century, with 10 canneries in some major towns.
In 1903, a boundary dispute with Canada was finally resolved.
By the turn of the 20th century, commercial fishing was gaining a foothold in the Aleutian Islands. Packing houses salted cod and herring, and salmon canneries were opened. Another commercial occupation, whaling, continued with no regard for over-hunting. They pushed the bowhead whales to the edge of extinction for the oil in their tissue. The Aleuts soon suffered severe problems due to the depletion of fur seals and sea otters which they needed for survival. As well as requiring the flesh for food, they also used the skins to cover their boats, without which they could not hunt. The Americans also expanded into the Interior and Arctic Alaska, exploiting the furbearers, fish, and other game on which Natives depended.
Alaska Territory (1912–1959) Edit
When Congress passed the Second Organic Act in 1912, Alaska was reorganized, and renamed the Territory of Alaska.  By 1916, its population was about 58,000. James Wickersham, a Delegate to Congress, introduced Alaska's first statehood bill, but it failed due to the small population and lack of interest from Alaskans. Even President Warren G. Harding's visit in 1923 could not create widespread interest in statehood. Under the conditions of the Second Organic Act, Alaska had been split into four divisions. The most populous of the divisions, whose capital was Juneau, wondered if it could become a separate state from the other three. Government control was a primary concern, with the territory having 52 federal agencies governing it.
Then, in 1920, the Jones Act required U.S.-flagged vessels to be built in the United States, owned by U.S. citizens, and documented under the laws of the United States. All goods entering or leaving Alaska had to be transported by American carriers and shipped to Seattle prior to further shipment, making Alaska dependent on Washington. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the provision of the Constitution saying one state should not hold sway over another's commerce did not apply because Alaska was only a territory. The prices Seattle shipping businesses charged began to rise to take advantage of the situation. This situation created an atmosphere of enmity among Alaskans who watched the wealth being generated by their labors flowing into the hands of Seattle business holdings.
In July 1923 Warren Harding became the first sitting President to visit Alaska as part of his Pacific Northwest 'Voyage of Understanding." Harding arrived by boat from Seattle and made nine stops in the Territory via train which went from Seward to Fairbanks. On July 15 Harding drove in a golden railroad spike at Nenana. The train car in which he rode now sits in Fairbanks' Pioneer Park. 
The Depression caused prices of fish and copper, which were vital to Alaska's economy at the time, to decline. Wages were dropped and the workforce decreased by more than half. In 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt thought Americans from agricultural areas could be transferred to Alaska's Matanuska-Susitna Valley for a fresh chance at agricultural self-sustainment. Colonists were largely from northern states, such as Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota under the belief that only those who grew up with climates similar to that of Alaska's could handle settler life there. The United Congo Improvement Association asked the president to settle 400 African-American farmers in Alaska, saying that the territory would offer full political rights, but racial prejudice and the belief that only those from northern states would make suitable colonists caused the proposal to fail.
The exploration and settlement of Alaska would not have been possible without the development of the aircraft, which allowed for the influx of settlers into the state's interior, and rapid transportation of people and supplies throughout. However, due to the unfavorable weather conditions of the state, and high ratio of pilots-to-population, over 1700 aircraft wreck sites are scattered throughout its domain. Numerous wrecks also trace their origins to the military build-up of the state during both World War II and the Cold War.
World War II Edit
During World War II, two of the outer Aleutian Islands—Attu and Kiska—were invaded and occupied by Japanese troops. They were the only parts of the continental United States to be invaded and occupied by an enemy nation during the war. Their recovery became a matter of national pride.
On June 3, 1942, the Japanese launched an air attack on Dutch Harbor, a U.S. naval base on Unalaska Island, but were repelled by U.S. forces.  A few days later, the Japanese landed on the islands of Kiska and Attu, where they overwhelmed Attu villagers. The villagers were taken to Japan, where they were interned for the remainder of the war. Aleuts from the Pribilofs and Aleutian villages were evacuated by the United States to Southeast Alaska. Many suffered during their two years internment there, and the federal government, charged with their care, provided inadequate health care, food, and shelter. 
Attu was regained in May 1943 after two weeks of intense fighting and 3,929 American casualties:  549 killed, 1148 injured and 1200 severe cold injuries, 614 to disease and 318 dead of miscellaneous causes,  The U.S. then turned its attention to the other occupied island, Kiska. From June through August, a multitude of bombs were dropped on the tiny island, though the Japanese ultimately escaped via transport ships. After the war, the Native Attuans who had survived their internment were resettled to Atka by the federal government, which considered their home villages too remote to defend.
In 1942, the Alaska–Canada Military Highway was completed, in part to form an overland supply route to the Soviet Union on the other side of the Bering Strait.  Running from Great Falls, Montana, to Fairbanks, the road was the first stable link between Alaska and the rest of America. The construction of military bases, such as the Adak base, contributed to the population growth of some Alaskan cities. Anchorage almost doubled in size, from 4,200 people in 1940 to 8,000 in 1945.
By the turn of the 20th century, a movement pushing for Alaska statehood began, but in the contiguous 48 states, legislators were worried that Alaska's population was too sparse, distant, and isolated, and its economy was too unstable for it to be a worthwhile addition to the United States.  World War II and the Japanese invasion highlighted Alaska's strategic importance, and the issue of statehood was taken more seriously, but it was the discovery of oil at Swanson River on the Kenai Peninsula that dispelled the image of Alaska as a weak, dependent region. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Alaska Statehood Act into United States law on July 4, 1958,  which paved the way for Alaska's admission into the Union on January 3, 1959. Juneau, the territorial capital, continued as state capital, and William A. Egan was sworn in as the first governor.
Alaska does not have counties, unlike every other American state except Louisiana. (Louisiana has parishes). Instead, it is divided into 16 boroughs and one "unorganized borough" made up of all land not within any borough. Boroughs have organized area-wide governments, but within the unorganized borough, where there is no such government, services are provided by the state. The unorganized borough is divided into artificially-created census areas by the United States Census Bureau for statistical purposes only. [ neutrality is disputed]
Pioneering conditions in Alaska awoke ingenuity leading to invention of the Alaskan sawmill, an attachment to a chainsaw letting it be used to cut a felled tree into neat parallel-sided planks or boards.
1964 earthquake Edit
On March 27, 1964 the Good Friday earthquake struck South-central Alaska, churning the earth for four minutes with a magnitude of 9.2. The earthquake was one of the most powerful ever recorded and killed 139 people.  Most of them were drowned by the tsunamis that tore apart the towns of Valdez and Chenega. Throughout the Prince William Sound region, towns and ports were destroyed and land was uplifted or shoved downward. The uplift destroyed salmon streams, as the fish could no longer jump the various newly created barriers to reach their spawning grounds. Ports at Valdez and Cordova were beyond repair, and the fires destroyed what the mudslides had not. At Valdez, an Alaska Steamship Company ship was lifted by a huge wave over the docks and out to sea, but most hands survived. At Turnagain Arm, off Cook Inlet, the incoming water destroyed trees and caused cabins to sink into the mud. On Kodiak, a tsunami wiped out the villages of Afognak, Old Harbor, and Kaguyak and damaged other communities, while Seward lost its harbor. Despite the extent of the catastrophe, Alaskans rebuilt many of the communities.
North to the Future Edit
"North to the Future" is the official state motto of Alaska, adopted in 1967 for the centennial of the Alaska Purchase. As one of the events leading up to the celebration, the Alaska Centennial Commission sponsored a contest in 1963 to come up with a centennial motto and emblem that would express the unique character of the State of Alaska. They offered a $300.00 (which is about $2000 in 2010 dollars  ) prize to the winning entry. 761 entries were received by the Commission. In December 1963, the commission announced that they had selected Juneau journalist Richard Peter's suggestion. He stated that the motto ". is a reminder that beyond the horizon of urban clutter there is a Great Land beneath our flag that can provide a new tomorrow for this century's 'huddled masses yearning to be free'." The motto represents a visionary optimism for a state filled with promise promoting the State of Alaska by advising that the future lies with the next-to-the-last United States star located to the north of the Lower 48.
1968 – present: oil and land politics Edit
Oil discovery, the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA), and the Trans-Alaska Pipeline Edit
The 1968 discovery of oil on the North Slope's Prudhoe Bay—which would turn out to have the most recoverable oil of any field in the United States—would change Alaska's political landscape for decades.
This discovery catapulted the issue of Native land ownership into the headlines.  In the mid-1960s, Alaska Natives from many tribal groups had united in an effort to gain title to lands wrested from them by Europeans, but the government had responded slowly before the Prudhoe Bay discovery. The government finally took action when permitting for a pipeline crossing the state, necessary to get Alaskan oil to market, was stalled pending the settlement of Native land claims.
In 1971, with major petroleum dollars on the line, the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act was signed into law by Richard Nixon. Under the Act, Natives relinquished aboriginal claims to their lands in exchange for access to 44 million acres (180,000 km²) of land and payment of $963 million.  The settlement was divided among regional, urban, and village corporations, which managed their funds with varying degrees of success.
Though a pipeline from the North Slope to the nearest ice-free port, almost 800 miles (1,300 km) to the south, was the only way to get Alaska's oil to market, significant engineering challenges lay ahead. Between the North Slope and Valdez, there were active fault lines, three mountain ranges, miles of unstable, boggy ground underlain with frost, and migration paths of caribou and moose. The Trans-Alaska Pipeline was ultimately completed in 1977 at a total cost of $8 billion.
The pipeline allowed an oil bonanza to take shape. Per capita incomes rose throughout the state, with virtually every community benefiting. State leaders were determined that this boom would not end like the fur and gold booms, in an economic bust as soon as the resource had disappeared. In 1976, the state's constitution was amended to establish the Alaska Permanent Fund, in which a quarter of all mineral lease proceeds is invested. Income from the fund is used to pay annual dividends to all residents who qualify, to increase the fund's principal as a hedge against inflation, and to provide funds for the state legislature. [ citation needed ] Since 1993, the fund has produced more money than the Prudhoe Bay oil fields, whose production is diminishing. In March 2005 [update] , the fund's value was over $30 billion.
Environmentalism, the Exxon Valdez, and ANWR Edit
Oil production was not the only economic value of Alaska's land, however. In the second half of the 20th century, Alaska discovered tourism as an important source of revenue. Tourism became popular after World War II, when military personnel stationed in the region returned home praising its natural splendor. The Alcan Highway, built during the war, and the Alaska Marine Highway System, completed in 1963, made the state more accessible than before. Tourism became increasingly important in Alaska, and today over 1.4 million people visit the state each year.
With tourism more vital to the economy, environmentalism also rose in importance. The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) of 1980 added 53.7 million acres (217,000 km²) to the National Wildlife Refuge system, parts of 25 rivers to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers system, 3.3 million acres (13,000 km²) to National Forest lands, and 43.6 million acres (176,000 km²) to National Park land. Because of the Act, Alaska now contains two-thirds of all American national parklands. Today, more than half of Alaskan land is owned by the Federal Government.
Statehood and a disclaimer
Eventually, however, the situation improved markedly for Natives.
Alaska finally became a state in 1959, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Alaska Statehood Act, allotting it 104 million acres of the territory. And in an unprecedented nod to the rights of Alaska’s indigenous populations, the act contained a clause emphasizing that citizens of the new state were declining any right to land subject to Native title – which by itself was a very thorny topic because they claimed the entire territory.
A result of this clause was that in 1971 President Richard Nixon ceded㺬 million acres of federal land, along with $1 billion, to Alaska’s native populations, which numbered around 75,000 at the time. That came after a Land Claims Task Force that I chaired gave the state ideas about how to resolve the issue.
Today Alaska has a population of 740,000, of which 120,000 are Natives.
As the United States celebrates the signing of the Treaty of Cession, we all – Alaskans, Natives and Americans of the lower 48 – should salute Secretary of State William H. Seward, the man who eventually brought democracy and the rule of law to Alaska.
This article was originally published on The Conversation.
William L. Iggiagruk Hensley is a Visiting Distinguished Professor at the University of Alaska Anchorage
Gun laws in Alaska
The U.S. state of Alaska has very permissive gun laws, and very few regulations regarding the sale, possession, and use of firearms and ammunition compared to those in most of the contiguous United States. Alaska was the first state to adopt carry laws modeled after those of Vermont, where no license is required to carry a handgun either openly or concealed. However, permits are still issued to residents, allowing reciprocity with other states  and exemption from the Federal Gun Free School Zone Act.  The legal stipulation that gun permits are issued but not required is referred to by gun rights advocates as an "Alaska carry," as opposed to a "Vermont carry" (or "Constitutional carry"), where gun licenses are neither issued nor required. Some city ordinances do not permit concealed carry without a license, but these have been invalidated by the recent [ when? ] state preemption statute. 
Alaska prohibits any type of carry in schools, domestic violence shelters, courts, and correctional institutions. Carrying is also prohibited in any place where alcohol is served for on-site consumption, with an exception for restaurants that serve alcohol, as long as one is not consuming alcohol while carrying. When encountering a police officer, a person carrying a concealed weapon is required by law to inform the officer they are carrying, and to cooperate if the officer chooses to temporarily seize the gun for the length of the encounter. The possession of any firearm while intoxicated is illegal. 
On July 9, 2010, Governor Sean Parnell signed the Alaska Firearms Freedom Act (HB 186), declaring that certain firearms and accessories are exempt from federal regulation and made it unlawful for any state assets to go toward the enforcement of federal gun laws, an act of de facto nullification.  The text can be read here.  On September 10, 2013, Governor Parnell signed HB 69, which amended and expanded HB 186.   The text can be read here. 
William H. Seward was a driving force behind the purchase of Alaska from the Russians. Image credit: Everett Collection/Shutterstock
After the Crimean War (1853-1856), the Russian Empire under Emperor Alexander II realized they could not defend Alaska from being conquered in the future by their main rival, the British. Russia did not wish to have the British as their next-door neighbors just across the Bering Sea. Therefore, the Russian government decided to sell Alaska to the US as a means of keeping away the British. Although the sale was discussed in 1857-1858, no deal was reached as the US considered the Civil War a priority at the time.
In the following years, America entered into serious discussions with Russia over the sale of Alaska. The initial negotiations involved, among others, the Russian diplomat Eduard de Stoeckl and John Appleton, then assistant Secretary of State. Following the US victory in the Civil War, Russia and the US re-entered into fresh negotiations. This time, William H. Seward led the negotiations, which began in March 1867. The negotiations were concluded by the signing of a treaty in the early morning of March 30, 1867. The purchase price was set at two cents per acre or $7.2 million. On October 18, 1867, Alaska was officially transferred, with the lowering of the Russian flag and the raising of the American flag.
Last shot: Alaska’s odd role at the end of the Civil War
Americans are being carpet-bombed by stories about Juneteenth, celebrating the day that 155 years ago the final fighters of the Civil War got the memo that the slaves were emancipated. We’ll leave that to the other pundits to discuss, because we’ve got our own Civil War history in Alaska to review.
While Texas was just getting word of the end of the war on this day in 1865, a Confederate war ship was still prosecuting a sponsored piracy campaign and taking down the commerce of the Union whaling industry.
Few in America have heard of Alaska’s unique role in the end of the Civil War.
In June of 1865, the Confederate raiding ship CSS Shenandoah was underway toward St. Lawrence Island, in the Western Bering Sea, where Yankee whaling ships were working.
The war ship was burning and sinking the U.S. whaling fleet in its path after the captain of the Shenandoah had gotten rough coordinates for where the Yankee whalers were working. He took them from a whaling ship in the North Pacific.
By this time in 1865, the Shenandoah had destroyed a number of these American whaling ships — as many as 20.
On June 22, 1865 the Shenandoah fired what is said in some accounts to be “the last shot” of the Civil War, aiming upon Yankee whalers, some 74 days after General Robert E. Lee had surrendered his Confederate forces at the Appomattox courthouse, and nearly two months after Confederate Army had actually ended the war on land.
There are lots of credible sources that say the event occurred on June 28, 1865, and that whaling ships were still being burned and sunk right and left on June 22, but most historians agree on one thing: This was a well-executed mission and it decimated the whaling fleet.
When Commanding Officer Lt. James Iredell Waddell of the Shenandoah learned of the South’s surrender, he made his way south. Some accounts say he didn’t believe the war was over and was heading to the young state of California to shell San Francisco, another commercial center. California had supplied thousands of soldiers for the Union war effort, and troops from California had pushed the Confederate Army out of Arizona and New Mexico in 1862.
On the way south, his ship encountered a British ship that confirmed the war had ended and that if he showed back up in the United States he would be tried and hanged.
By this time, Waddell had a bounty on his head and he decided to sail his teak-hulled war ship on to Liverpool, England, where he surrendered on Nov. 6, 1865.
Waddell’s was the last surrender of the Civil War, and he presided over the lowering of the Confederate flag on his ship while at anchor on the River Mersey.
The ship itself was put in the custody of the British government via a letter that Captain Waddell penned himself and walked up the steps to the Liverpool Town Hall, presenting it to the Mayor of Liverpool.
The Shenandoah is the only Confederate ship to circumnavigate the globe. Her flag is now in the possession of the American Civil War Museum, which brings it out only occasionally, due to its size.
The Shenandoah’s flag is rarely displayed due to its size (roughly 7 feet x 12 feet).
The Shenandoah, which was commissioned to destroy the commerce of the North, had spent nearly a year at sea and had captured 38 ships — two thirds of them after the Confederacy had surrendered. Waddell had reportedly taken more than 1,000 Union prisoners.
The history of how the news reached Captain Waddell is conflicted. The Civil War Museum says that raids continued in Alaska, which was in Russian ownership at the time, until August.
After the Civil War ended, the whaling business fell on hard times, as it was no longer essential to the war effort, and with so many of the Union whaling vessels destroyed, America lost footing in the world as a leader in shipping.
And now, 155 years later, Democrats are destroying the monuments to their Confederate war heroes, and, ironically, they are still trying to destroy United States commerce. Also somewhat ironically, Republicans are still trying to respect the confederacy and its history, because it is the history of the nation.
Alaska had a unique role back in the 1860s. It was not American territory, but it soon became part of the United States under the advocacy of abolitionist William Seward, secretary of State for President Abraham Lincoln. Democrats in Alaska are now trying to remove the statue of Seward from in front of the Capitol.
A nation should be able to talk about its Civil War without getting into another one. The important lesson is that we learn from history, so that we don’t repeat it.
Suzanne Downing is editor and publisher of Must Read Alaska and writes a Must Read America column for NewsMax.
Timeline: Notable moments in 40 years of Alaska's history with marijuana
When men and women took their clipboards, pens and paper to the streets in 2013 to begin collecting signatures for yet another Alaska voter initiative to legalize marijuana in the Last Frontier, some were left scratching their heads. How legal is marijuana in Alaska already? they wondered. Well, it's complicated. Over time, a great deal of gray area has developed when it comes to the enforcement of Alaska laws against the green.
The uncertainty has even predated Alaska's statehood. Even the man mostly responsible for the nation's first laws against marijuana was uncertain about where Alaska's laws stood.
During testimony before members of Congress in 1937 on behalf of prohibiting marijuana, a substance "about as harmless as a rattlesnake," Commissioner of Narcotics Henry Anslinger was asked if any of the territories had laws against its use.
"Hawaii has a law. I cannot tell you about Alaska. Puerto Rico does have a law. The only place I am not sure about is Alaska," he said. By the 1960s the nation was deep into drug culture the youth used it as a symbol of social rebellion, and in the midst of a morally diverse war, a sign of protest. Though Alaska was new to the nation, it was no exception to the phenomenon.
By 1970, the administration of President Richard Nixon began fighting back and Congress passed the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act. In June of the following year, Nixon declared the war on drugs, saying it was "public enemy No. 1 in the United States." It wouldn't take long for Alaska to start fighting back, with one man leading on the front lines. His case would turn into the biggest marijuana and personal privacy case Alaska had ever seen, setting precedent for decades to come.
Since Colorado and Washington have made headlines recently by legalizing recreational cannabis sales, marijuana has become a hot topic in 2014. But the drug's use and place in society has been hotly debated in courts and among lawmakers for decades, leaving citizens as spectators watching an everlasting ping-pong match.
Regardless of Alaska's history with marijuana, and regardless of what happens in the August election, pot remains illegal under federal law, listed among Schedule I drugs, a group of controlled substances defined as the most dangerous, without any accepted medical utility and with high potential for abuse.
1972 - The fall of 1972 was the start of a long fight for and against marijuana legalization in Alaska thanks to one man, who could be called the grandfather of the Alaska marijuana legalization movement. Irwin Ravin was pulled over for a broken tail light in Anchorage, and was discovered to be in possession of marijuana. A local police officer wrote him a ticket, but Ravin refused to sign it and held the contraband in his hand until he was arrested. Ravin v. State would end up setting legal precedence for decades to come.
1975 - The Alaska Legislature voted for the decriminalization of the long-debated drug. If a person was in possession of one ounce or less in public, or in possession of any amount in the privacy of one's own home, he or she could not be fined more than $100.
1975 - Just over a week after lawmakers decriminalized the personal use of marijuana, the state of Alaska reached a decision in Ravin's case, setting a precedent that would complicate laws against marijuana from then on. The Alaska Supreme Court deemed possession of pot in the privacy of one's home constitutionally protected, despite the fact that Ravin was actually found in possession in his car, not his home.
1982 - The Alaska Legislature decided to let users keep a little more cash in their pockets, and got rid of the $100 fine.
1989 - A campaign to fight the use of marijuana began by circling a statewide petition.
1989 - Alaska State Troopers made a sizeable marijuana bust in Wasilla in December, where Thomas Wyatt, then 45, was found growing 2,006 plants in a residence troopers said was apparently constructed for the purposes of growing cannabis. The month before, troopers had seized 3,000 plants in four different growing operations in the Matanuska Valley.
1990 - In November of 1990 the voter initiative passed, making it illegal to even have or smoke pot in one's own home. If caught with less than eight ounces, a person could spend 90 days in a jail cell and get slapped with $1,000 fine.
1995 - Three Point MacKenzie men were arrested and charged with poaching up to a dozen moose over the course of six months. One of the men was also charged with setting up illegal bear-baiting stations in the woods across the Knik Arm from Anchorage. Troopers said they believed the men intended to trade the bear parts to an undercover investigator in exchange for marijuana.
1996 - Troopers seized 1,465 plants, worth more than $700,000, in a shed next to couple Doug and Heather Gregg's home. Trooper Al Storey said the bust was the largest in recent history.
1998 - The use of marijuana for medical purposes became legal, with 69 percent of voters signing off on a citizens' initiative. Those smoking for their own health and registered in a state database could possess an ounce or up to six plants, of which only three can be budding. Critics say a problem has been that there is no legal way for Alaskans with legal permission to obtain the drug.
1998 - In October, Anchorage police confiscated 1,097 plants during a bust on Birchwood Loop Road, the largest pot bust in Anchorage at that time.
1998 - Also that month, troopers found what they said was the most impressive growing and packaging operation they had ever seen hidden in four secret rooms beneath the garage of an Anchorage Hillside home. Troopers seized 181 plants and indicted seven people.
2000 - Weed was once again on the mind of Alaska residents. An initiative sought to return the laws to pre-1990 status. Measure 5 would have regulated the drug like alcohol, allowed residents over 18 to farm and possess their own supply, and would have granted amnesty to those serving time for marijuana offenses, and purged the criminal records for many others, and would have created an advisory group to study possible restitution. It failed to gain enough support, losing 59.1 percent to 40.9 percent.
2002 - At the Olympic Torch Relay in Juneau, a senior at Juneau-Douglas High School held a sign that said "Bong Hits 4 Jesus." Joseph Frederick's obvious disobedience became the focus of a national debate over the First Amendment.
2004 - Marijuana legalization failed once again in 2004. The campaign pushing Ballot Measure 2 spent more than $850,000 in polling, canvassing, staffing, mailers and print and broadcast advertisements before it failed. A study commissioned by the Alaskans for Rights & Revenues, the group backing the initiative, found that marijuana prohibition costs ranged from $25 million to $30 million annually.
2005 - The killing of Thomas Cody was found to be a drug slaying connected to a multi-million dollar marijuana smuggling operation of "B.C. Bud" from Canada. Nopenone Dennis Shine plead guilty in 2007 to the shooting of Cody, in what was a hostile takeover of the operation. The group was smuggling 900 pounds of product into the state every six weeks, U.S. Attorney Frank Russo said. The bust dismantled one of the largest marijuana smuggling operations in state history.
2006 - Former Alaska Governor Frank Murkowski went head-to-head against the Ravin decision. Murkowski made the possession of one to four ounces of pot a misdemeanor and punishable by up to one year in jail. He argued that the marijuana available by the mid-2000's was much stronger than what Ravin was smoking in the 1970s. The American Civil Liberties Union challenged the new law.
2006 - One of the largest drug busts in Western Alaska occurred when troopers seized 42 pounds of marijuana in Bethel. Francis Cryan, then 57, was found to have marijuana hidden in his checked luggage, as well as in a locked gun safe he had shipped to himself through a cargo carrier. Troopers estimated that the street value in Bethel, nearly four times the price in Anchorage at $1,400 an ounce, was worth around $940,000.
2007 - The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Fairbanks man John Collette, whose marijuana grow operation was disbanded in the early 1990s, did not get proper notice for the goods seized in the bust, including two airplanes, snowmachines and more than $40,000 from bank accounts. Collette's operation was seized in 1993 when authorities raided the home. He fled the country but later returned and pleaded guilty to multiple marijuana manufacturing and distributing charges, serving eight years of an 11-year sentence. After that, he said he spent much of his time working on lawsuits against the government.
2008 - Alaska's Supreme Court began hearing testimony for the State v. ACLU, but -- plot twist -- no decision was made. Privacy rights were to be reexamined when a defendant would actually be prosecuted for a marijuana offense.
2010 - The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race began testing competing mushers for drug use. Mushers are tested for a variety of different drugs, marijuana among them. The drug tests occur at White Mountain, the second-to-last checkpoint during the 1,000 mile long race.
2010 - Then-three-time race winner Lance Mackey said in 2010 that he believed the Iditarod decision was aimed at him. Mackey, a throat cancer survivor, had been open about using medical marijuana on the trail. Officials said the idea had been discussed over the years, but executive director of the Iditarod Trail Committee Stan Hooley told the Anchorage Daily News that it would be difficult to deny the allegations and that other mushers had complained about it. "The reality of it is he's won the race three times and people would like to figure out a way to beat him," Hooley said.
2010 - On April 11, Ravin died at age 70 from complications caused by a massive heart attack.
2010 - The ACLU estimates that in 2010 Alaska spent more than $11 million enforcing marijuana laws, and that every 4.32 hours someone in Alaska is arrested for having marijuana. The study used data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Uniform Crime Reporting Program and the U.S. Census to document arrest rates, as well as the Bureau of Justice Statistics' Criminal Justice Expenditure and Employment Extracts data from fiscal year 2009. Also included in the analysis were federal and state-level estimates for government expenditures and employment for law enforcement, the courts and department of corrections.
2010 - In July, Alaska State Trooper Kyle S. Young busted a married couple for growing after attesting that he could smell marijuana from the road, hundreds of yards away. Young claimed that he smelled marijuana while off duty and driving in the Meadow Lakes area of Southcentral Alaska. He followed his nose to the house of Trace and Jennifer Thoms and concluded that there were no other nearby structures that could have been the source of the odor. Young later executed a search warrant to search the house's specific address and immediate vicinity, and during that time searched two buildings that were more than a football field's distance from the house, where 400 marijuana plants were seized. Three years later, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals would throw out the case, saying that the grow operation discovered during the search lay outside of the scope of the officer's search warrant.
2012 - A pungent smell and claims that Kenny Champ of Houston, Alaska, was illegally dumping raw sewage into a creek near Bench Lake led Alaska State Troopers to investigate Champ's home. When they arrived, the 49-year-old Champ greeted troopers with a sawed-off shotgun and threats that he'd shoot if they didn't leave his property. Next, troopers discovered 1,700 marijuana plants on the property. They also discovered that he had, indeed, been polluting the stream. Champ plead guilty to growing more than 1,000 plants.
2012 - Juneau musher Matt Giblin was sanctioned under the Iditarod's drug testing program and was stripped of his 38th-place finish after testing positive for THC, an active compound in cannabis.
2013 - Petitioners were once again looking for signatures to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana. The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana turned in more than 45,000 signatures in support of the ballot measure in January 2014.
2013 - 20-year-old Nathaniel Harshman was sentenced in January 2013 to five years in federal prison for working on his father Floyd Harshman's marijuana farm -- a 477-plant grow off the Elliott Highway in Interior Alaska -- as a teenager in 2011.
2014 - Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell approved the voter initiative to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana, to appear on the Aug. 19 ballot.
2014 - In mid-March, the legalization campaign, now dubbed the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, received a cash infusion of more than $200,000 dollars to be used for an "aggressive campaign" to build voter outreach, including print, television and radio ads. In the meantime, opposition to the measure has been relatively subdued thus far.