Alaska History Timeline
| 1700 | 1800 | 1850 | 1900 | 1950 |
A very long page.
1741 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 day.
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 into submission.
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 during summer.
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).
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1853 Oil seeps in Cook Inlet discovered by employees of Russian-America Company.
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 stamp mills.
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 children.
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 to appear.
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 begins.
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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 Pacific.
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 and Juneau.
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 Legislature.
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 public school.
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 Legislature.
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, Alaska.
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 Mt. Edgecumbe.
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.
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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, Anchorage.
1955-1956 Constitutional convention held at the University of Alaska.
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 revenues.
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 Rampart Dam.
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 destroyed.
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 totals 295,000.
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 in Valdez.
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 States.
1991 January 1 - 8 billionth barrel of oil arrives in Valdez. Permanent Fund Dividends are paid to all Alaska residents for the 10th consecutive year.
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.