Alaska History Timeline
| 1700 | 1800
| 1850 | 1900
| 1950 |
A very long page.
July 15 Aleksei Chirikov with Vitus Bering Expedition
sights land - the Great Land is discovered. Chirikov, in command of
the ship the St. Paul, sighted what is believed to be Prince of Wales
Island of the Alexander Archipelago. Bering's ship, the St. Peter, had
sailed a more northerly direction and came upon Kayak Island the next
1774 to 1791 Charles III of Spain fears Russian expansion; sends
expeditions north along northwest coast of North America. Spain leaves
few traces except place names such as Malaspina Glacier and Valdez.
1776 Captain James Cook of England searches for Northwest Passage.
His maps of northern North America prove that America and Asia are separate
land masses and remain the standard for over a century.
1784 First permanent Russian settlement is established at Three
Saints Bay on Kodiak Island in and attempt to stave off British inroads.
Grigory Ivanovich Shelikov brings his wife Natalya to Kodiak: first
European woman in Russian America. Shelikov, a Siberian fur merchant,
established the first permanent Russian settlement on Kodiak Island
as a means of restricting the British fur trade. He wanted to establish
a monopoly of the fur trade in Alaska, but the Empress Catherine would
not allow it. Shelikov did, however, force the Natives on the island
1789 First American expedition sets out for northwestern North
American to compete with British and Russians for fur trade.
1794 Aleksandr Andreyevich Baranov builds first ocean-going vessel
in northwestern America on the Kenai Peninsula at Voskressenski.
1799 First Russian trading charter grants Russian-American Company
sole trading rights in America for 20 years. Aleksandr Andreyevich Baranov
establishes Russian post known today as Old Sitka. Violating order against
doing business with foreigners Baranov made friends with James Shields,
an English naval officer experienced in ship building. Baranov engaged
Shields to construct a vessel. When it was finished the ship was christened
the Phoenix. It was used in American waters and made two voyages to
Siberia. Its chief value was symbolic, a demonstration of what the colony
on Kodiak could accomplish.
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1802 After the attack on Old Sitka, Baranov was forced to pay
10,000 rubles ransom for surviving settlers.1804 Baranov returned to
Sitka with a large contingent of Russians and Aleuts, and the Russian
warship Neva. The ship destroyed the Native village and its occupants.
Baranov immediately began to build the settlement of New Archangel,
now known as Sitka.
1805 First cargo of Russian furs from Russian America is delivered
to Canton, China by Yuri Lisiansky. 1812 Napoleon invades Russia, increasing
isolation of Russia from its distant colonies.
1815 Otto von Kotzebue, an Estonian German, sets out on Russian
round-the-world expedition; visits St. Lawrence Island and Unalaska
1821 Russian Trading Charter is renewed extending Russian jurisdiction
to 51st parallel. During this period, the Hudson's Bay Company, chartered
by the British, was trying to gain a foothold in the Alaska fur trade.
The British made a deal with the Russians to lease the mainland south
of Cape Spencer for 10 years at an annual payment of 2,000 land otter
skins. The British were a presence in Alaska for the next 30 years.
1823 December 2 President James Monroe, seeking to exclude European
intervention in the New World, issues the Monroe Doctrine.
1824 Russia and USA sign a treaty accepting 54 degrees, 4 minutes
as southern boundary of Russian America. 1848 Cathedral of St. Michael
is dedicated in New Archangel (Sitka).
Back to the top.
1853 Oil seeps in Cook Inlet discovered by employees of Russian-America
1857 Coal mining begins at Coal Harbor on Kenai Peninsula to
supply steamers. The Russian-American Company was suffering from financial
difficulties and the Tzar wanted to revoke the charter. The company
had been beaten by the Hudson's Bay Company in the fur trade. The British
company had better and cheaper items to trade with the Natives for furs.
The Company tried new business ventures. It opened a coal mine at Port
Graham. By 1857 the mine produced enough coal to support the colony.
Surplus coal was taken to San Francisco but it was sold at a loss. The
company quit the venture. It also failed at whaling because it could
not compete with the more efficient Americans. The ice trade prospered,
but it was not enough to justify the company's existence. The company's
long tenure in the Americas soon came to an end.
1861 Gold is discovered at Telegraph Creek at the Stikine River.
1867 March 30 - Secretary of State William H. Seward negotiates purchase
of Russian America: 375 million acres for $7.2 million - less than 2
cents per acre. Many called this "Seward's Folly" because little was
known about Alaska, other than its cold climate. Fur seal population,
stabilized under Russian rule, declines rapidly. Major General Jefferson
C. Davis, U.S. Army, assumes command of the Department of Alaska. A
decade of military rule begins.
1868 First Alaska newspaper, "The Sitka Times," is published
by Thomas Murphy. 1877 US troops withdraw from Alaska. 1878 First Alaska
fish cannery opens in Klawock.
1880 Joe Juneau and Richard Harris discover gold on Gastineau
Channel. Juneau is founded. In 1880, George Pilz, a German-born mining
school graduate living in Sitka, grubstaked his employee Joe Juneau
and another man, Richard Harris. The two men went prospecting in the
vicinity of Gastineau Channel. Harris and Juneau named the creek where
they found placer gold, Gold Creek, and they named Silver Bow Basin
at the head of the creek. A mining district was established and called
Harrisburg, and soon a town first named Harrisburg, then Rockwell, and
finally Juneau began to flourish at a shallow bay called Miners Cove.
1881 Parris Lode claim staked near Juneau and by 1885 is Alaska's
most famous mine -- the Treadwell. In 1881 John Treadwell, a promoter,
obtained a claim from a prospector known as French Pete for a sum ranging
from $5 to $400, depending upon one's source of information. The claim
was located on Douglas Island. A Geologist had said the site contained
only low-grade ore. It was worthless to French Pete, who did not possess
the capital to develop it. Treadwell recognized its potential and developed
a very profitable enterprise. The year-round employment at the mine
gave the town an economic base. Eventually, four mines were opened --
the Treadwell, the 700, the Mexican, and the Ready Bullion -- and five
1882 First Alaska salmon canneries are built in central Alaska.
First commercial herring fishing begins at Killisnoo.
1884 Steamers begin bringing first tourists to Alaska. Congress
passes First Organic Act; $15,000 appropriated to educate Alaska Native
1887 Congress creates the Indian Reservation of Metlakatla on
Annette Island. Around 1887, Reverend William Duncan brought 1,000 Tsimshian
followers from Metlakatla in British Columbia to Annette Island. On
land obtained through a congressional grant he built a new Metlakatla,
designed to make the Natives self-sufficient. They were taught trades
such as carpentry, seamanship, and boat-building, built their own sawmills
and a cannery, and engaged in other enterprises.
1890 First oil claims are staked in Cook Inlet. Sheldon Jackson
introduces reindeer into Alaska. Large corporate salmon canneries begin
1893 Gold is discovered on Birch Creek; Circle City is founded.
1896 Klondike Gold Rush begins. 1898 April 23 - Libby Partners make
first major gold strike on Melsing and Ophir Creeks; Nome Gold Rush
Back to the top.
1900 First exploratory well is drilled in Cook Inlet. 20,000
gold miners on Nome beach. Capital moves from Sitka to Juneau. White
Pass and Yukon Railroad is completed.
1902 First oil production in Alaska. Felix Pedro discovers gold
near Fairbanks. President Theodore Roosevelt establishes the Tongass
National Forest. Pedro and merchant Barnette played leading role in
the establishment of Fairbanks. Barnette, who had been a trader for
several years in Circle, came down the Tanana River in 1901. He anchored
the ship that his chartered ship on the Chena River, a tributary of
the Tanana, in August of 1901. Persuaded by Pedro of the area's potential,
he established his store there. A town grew up and named for the vice
president of the United States at that time, Charles Fairbanks.
1903 Alaska-Canada border is settled.
1904 Washington Alaska Military Cable and Telegraph System (WAMCATS)
begins to lay submarine cable between Seattle, Sitka, and Valdez linking
Alaska to "Outside."
1905 First message is telegraphed from Fairbanks to Valdez. 1906
Native Allotment Act passes; first opportunity for Natives to obtain
land under restricted title.
1911 Morgan-Guggenheim Corporation builds railroad to serve Kennicott
Copper Mine. July 7th - US, Canada, Russia, Great Britain, Japan sign
an agreement in Washington D.C. to preserve the fur seal in the North
1912 The Alaska Native Brotherhood is founded in Sitka. Mt. Katmai
explodes massively, forming Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. If the same
eruption occurred on Manhattan Island, the sounds of the explosions
would be plainly audible in Chicago. The fumes would sweep over all
states east of the Rocky Mountains. In Denver they would tarnish exposed
brass, and even linen hung out on the line would be so eaten by the
sulfuric acid content that it would fall to pieces.
1913 First Alaska Territorial Legislature Convenes; first law
passed grants women voting rights. 1914 Surveying begins for Alaska
Railroad; Anchorage starts as construction camp on Ship Creek.
1915 Alaska Native Sisterhood holds first convention in Sitka.
1916 Delegate James Wickersham introduces first Alaska statehood bill
in Congress. Congress creates the National Park Service through passage
on an Organic Act. 1917 Pribilof fur seal exports exceed $274,000. Total
Alaska fur exports: $1,338,599. Treadwell Mine caves in at Douglas.
1918 Alaska salmon pack exceeds six million cases, valued at
over $51 million. 1920 Anchorage city government is organized. The Alaska
Air Expedition from New York to Nome is successful. The Alaska Air Expedition
was sponsored by the US Army. The "Black Wolf" squadron of wheeled biplanes
landed at Wrangell, Fairbanks, Ruby, and finally at Nome's Fort Davis.
For Alaska, the flight was significant because it demonstrated that
airplanes capable of carrying heavy loads could fly to and across Alaska.
1922 Alaska Agricultural College & School of Mines, later the
University of Alaska, opens at College near Fairbanks. When it opened
in 1922, the Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines had six
students, one building, and an annual budget of $30,000. It became the
University of Alaska in 1935 and has since added campuses at Anchorage
1923 President Warren G. Harding drives golden spike near Nenana
completing the Alaska Railroad. Naval Petroleum Reserve No. 4 is created.
1924 Congress extends citizenship to all American Indians. William
L. Paul, a Tlingit, is the first Alaska Native elected to Territorial
1926 Alaska Native Townsite Act allows Natives to obtain restricted
deeds to village lots. The design for the Alaska flag was selected in
a contest for Alaska students in grades seven through 12 in 1926. The
winning design, submitted by 13-year-old Benny Benson, consisted of
eight gold stars on a field of blue, representing the Big Dipper and
the North Star.
1927 The Alaska Legislature adopted Benny Benson's design as
the official flag for the Territory of Alaska on May 2, 1927. It later
became the official flag of the State of Alaska.
1928 Court case resolves the right of Native children to attend
1935 202 farmers colonize Matanuska Valley. Salmon pack peaks
at 8,437,603 cases.
1936 Congress extends the Indian Reorganization Act to Alaska.
Nell Scott of Seldovia becomes the first woman elected to the Territorial
1938 Kennicott Mine closes at McCarthy.
1940 Military comes to Alaska. Fort Richardson is established
and work begins on Elmendorf Air Force Base.
1942 Japan bombs Dutch Harbor; invades Aleutians. Pioneer Service
Road (Alaska-Canada Military Highway) is built between February 14th
and September 24th from Dawson Creek, British Columbia to Delta Junction,
1943 Upgrading and bridge building continues on the Alaska Highway
providing first start for some of today's largest construction contractors.
American forces retake the Aleutian Islands, Attu and Kiska, from the
Japanese. Secretary of the Interior creates the Venetie Reservation.
1944 Alaska-Juneau Gold Mine shuts down.
1946 Boarding school for Native high school students opens at
1947 The Alaska Command is established; first unified command
of the US Army, Air Force, and Navy. First Alaska Native land claims
suit, filed by Tlingit and Haida people, introduced in US Court of Claims.
1948 Alaska Highway opens to civilian traffic. Alaskans vote
to abolish fish traps by a 10 to 1 margin.
Back to the top.
1953 The first plywood operations begin at Juneau and the first
large pulp mill opens at Ketchikan. DEW-Line construction begins in
the Arctic at Barter Island. First Alaska television broadcast by KENI,
1955-1956 Constitutional convention held at the University of
1957 Atlantic Richfield discovers oil at Swanson River on the
Kenai Peninsula, beginning Alaska's modern oil era. The Swanson River
field on the Kenai Peninsula was the first commercial production site
for oil and gas in Alaska's modern oil era. During the next ten years,
additional oil fields are discovered offshore in nearby Cook Inlet and
production platforms are installed to bring production on-line for the
Middle Ground shoal field, the Granite Point field, the MacArthur River
field and the Trading Bay field. By 1968, the Cook Inlet is producing
nearly 200,000 barrels per day, and the income generated by oil production
in Alaska is contributing more than 20% of the state government's total
1958 Congress passes Alaska Statehood Act conveying ownership
of 104 million acres.
1959 Alaska is admitted to the Union as the 49th state, and William
A. Egan becomes Alaska's first governor. Sitka pulp mill opens. State
revenues: $25.4 million. British Petroleum begins to explore for oil
on Alaska's North Slope.
1960 Amoco finds offshore oil in Cook Inlet.
1963 Stevens Village and other Yukon villages protest the proposed
1964 Good Friday earthquake at 5:36 pm; Richter Scale measures
8.6. Alaska's population reaches 250,000. Fortunately, the loss of life
caused by the earthquake was relatively low; but property damage was
estimated at almost $500 million. The earthquake was more than 10 million
times the force of an atomic bomb. The town of Valdez was completely
1965 State revenues total $82,964,000.
1966 Secretary of the Interior, Stewart L. Udall, imposes a land
freeze until Native land claims can be settled. Alaska Federation of
Natives is organized.
1967 August 15: Chena River floods Fairbanks. First bill introduced
in Congress to settle Alaska Native land claims.
1968 Atlantic Richfield pumps oil from exploratory well at Prudhoe
Bay; recoverable reserves of oil estimated at 9.6 billion barrels. State
budget exceeds $100 million for the first time.
1969 September 10: Prudhoe Bay Lease Sale provides $900 million
in lease bonuses to state treasury. In this year, Alaska's population
1970 State revenues: $1,067,264,000 First bill introduced in
the legislature to establish a Permanent Fund. In this year, Alaska's
population totals 295,000. Environmental studies measuring the impact
of pipeline construction on Alaska wildlife begin.
1971 Congress passes Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act; transfers
ownership of 44 million acres of land to newly established Native corporations.
1973 Congress passes legislation allowing construction to begin
on the trans-Alaska pipeline. War in the Middle East in October causes
oil prices to rise from $3 to $16 per barrel.
1974 Construction begins on the pipeline; thousands of workers
flock to Alaska in search of jobs. Construction lasts 39 months, costs
$8 billion, including the Marine Terminal in Valdez.
1975 First Permanent Fund bill passes the legislature; Governor
Hammond vetoes it and urges establishment of the Permanent Fund by amendment
to the State Constitution.
1976 In November's General Election, Alaska's voters, by a vote
of 75,588 to 38,518, approve constitutional amendment establishing the
Permanent Fund. Article IX, Section 15 - At least 25 percent of all
mineral lease rentals, royalties, royalty sale proceeds, federal mineral
revenue sharing payments and bonuses received by the State shall be
placed in a permanent fund, the principal of which shall be used only
for those income-producing investments specifically designated as eligible
for permanent fund investments. All income from the permanent fund shall
be deposited in the general fund unless otherwise provided by law. Alaska's
population passes 400,000.
1977 February 28 - The Permanent Fund receives its first deposit
of dedicated oil revenues: $734,000 Construction on the pipeline is
completed, and the first oil arrives through the pipeline in Valdez.
The Trans-Alaska Pipeline - A barrel of crude oil takes 5.04 days to
flow from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez through the trans-Alaska pipeline at
6.62 mph. If the pipeline were full, it would hold 9 million barrels.
One barrel equals 42 gallons.
1980 Alaska Legislature creates the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation,
makes a special appropriation to the Fund of $900 million, and approves
the first Permanent Fund Dividend program (which is later ruled unconstitutional
by the US Supreme Court). Congress passes and President Jimmy Carter
signs the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA).
Legislature repeals Alaska income tax.
1981 Alaska Legislature approves second special appropriation
to the Permanent Fund, this time for $1.8 billion.
1982 State revenues peak at $4,108,400,000 after OPEC fixes oil
price at $34/barrel. Alaska Legislature enacts inflation-proofing to
protect purchasing power of Permanent Fund principal. First Permanent
Fund Dividend check is distributed:$1,000.
1983 Crab stocks so low that most commercial seasons are canceled
1985 January 5 - Federal government transfers ownership of the Alaska
Railroad, complete with 470 miles of mainline track, to State of Alaska;
the purchase price was $22.3 million. Oil prices drop. During the 1985-87
recession, nearly 1 in 10 jobs disappear from the Alaska economy.
1986 Price of oil drops below $10 per barrel, causing Alaska
oil revenues to plummet. Alaska Legislature approves third special appropriation
to Fund principal: $1.26 billion.
1987 Congress passes amendments to the Alaska Native Land Claims
Settlement Act, which protect lands and stocks. Trans-Alaska Pipeline
celebrates its 10th anniversary.
1988 International efforts to rescue three whales caught by ice
off Barrow captures world-wide attention. The Soviets allow a one-day
visit of a group of Alaskans to the Siberian port city of Providenya.
Total annual throughput of oil in the trans-Alaska pipeline peaks at
744 million barrels (2 million barrels per day).
1989 On March 24, the Exxon Valdez spills 11 million gallons
of oil into Prince William Sound. On May 27, the 9,000th tanker loads
1990 Alaska population reaches 550,000 according to the US Census
Bureau. Over 800,000 visitors come to Alaska, some for business, most
for pleasure. Mining ranks as Alaska's fastest growing industry. Permanent
Fund makes its first investments in stocks and bonds outside the United
1991 January 1 - 8 billionth barrel of oil arrives in Valdez.
Permanent Fund Dividends are paid to all Alaska residents for the 10th
1992 Alaska Highway celebrates its 50th anniversary. Denali National
Park is 50 years old. Anchorage is now the largest city in Alaska with
more than 250,000 residents.
1996 Permanent Fund celebrates its 20th anniversary.
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