Cool Critters
Fun and Games
Know Alaska
Alaska Quick Facts
Alaska Geography
Alaska History
Bering's Odyssey
Early Explorers
Gold Rushes
Lands
Nell Scott
Oil
Prehistoric
Seward's Folly
Sourdough Climb
Statehood
World War II
Where to Learn More
Get Active
Love the Arts
We're Cooking
Lit Kids
Native Cultures



LitSite.org Litsite.org/ About

Home  >  Know Alaska  >  Alaska History
Highlights from Alaska's History

 You could say Alaska's history is just one big adventure after another. Our history is dotted with ideas and projects as big as the state itself.

From the first humans to cross the Bering Land Bridge to those who came after, all had a daring, can-do spirit. From explorers to gold miners to teachers to farmers, each was eager to go where no one had gone before. These fearless folks shaped Alaska and you can still see their impact today.

As you look over this timeline, you can click on a number of items to learn more about these key events and the people behind them.

Prehistoric Alaska
2 billion years ago until humans arrived, Alaska formed, was warm, then cooled.
Tineline
11,000 to 6,000 years ago
Humans inhabit southeastern, Aleutians, Interior, and northwestern Arctic Alaska.
6,000 years ago
Most recent migration from Siberia across the land bridge. Earliest migration believed to have taken place 20,000 or more years ago.
5,000 to 3,000 years ago
Humans inhabit the Bering Sea Coast.
1725
Vitus Bering sent by Peter the Great to explore the North Pacific.
Timeline
1741
Vitus Bering and Alexei Chirikov, in separate ships, see Alaska. Georg Steller, the naturalist on board with Bering, goes ashore on Kayak Island, the first European known to have set foot on Alaska soil.
1743
Russians begin hunting of sea otter, continuing until the species is almost killed off completely.
1772
A permanent Russian settlement is established at Unalaska.
1774-94
Explorations of Alaska waters by Juan Perez, James Cook, and George Vancouver.
Timeline
1784
Russians build their first settlement on Kodiak Island at Three Saint's Bay.
1794
George Vancouver sights Mount McKinley, the first record of its existence.

1799
Alexander Baranov establishes the Russian post known today as Old Sitka. A trade charter is granted to the Russian-American Company.
1804
Russians drive out the last Tlingit warriors in a fierce battle to gain control over the area and establish a permanent Russian settlement at Sitka. The battlefield and Tlingit stronghold are now honored by the Sitka National Historical Park. http://www.alaskool.org/projects/history/Hope/1804March_2.htm
Timeline
1824-42
Russian exploration of the mainland leads to the discovery of the Kuskokwim, Nushagak, Yukon, and Koyukuk Rivers.
1837
Father Herman, last survivor of the original Russian missionaries to Alaska, dies on Spruce Island near Kodiak.
1845
The Missionary School at Sitka opens, offering the study of Aleut, Tlingit and Eskimo languages, medicine and Latin.
1847
Fort Yukon is established by the Hudson’s Bay Company.
1848
American whalers first enter the Arctic Ocean through Bering Strait.
1853
Russian explorer-trappers find the first oil seeps in Cook Inlet.
1855
The U.S. Navy explores the North Pacific around the Aleutian Islands and the Bering Sea.
1859
Baron Edouard de Stoeckl, minister and chargé d′affaires of the Russian delegation to the United States, is given authority to negotiate the sale of Alaska.
Timeline
1860
Russians estimate Native Alaskan Christians at 12,000, with 35 chapels, 9 churches, 17 schools, and 3 orphanages in 43 communities.
1867
United States under President Andrew Johnson buys Alaska from Russia for $7.2 million. The treaty is signed on March 30 and the formal transfer takes place October 18 at Sitka. The U.S. Army is given control of the Department of Alaska.
1869-70
The Alaska Times, the first newspaper to be printed in Alaska, is published in Sitka.
1872
Gold is discovered near Sitka.
Timeline
1878
First salmon canneries established at Klawock and Old Sitka.
1882
U.S. Navy destroys the Tlingit village of Angoon.
1883
Lt. Frederick Schwatka conducts a military survey of the Yukon River from source to mouth.
1884
An Organic Act gives Alaska its first civil government.
1885
Lt. Henry Allen explores the Copper River.
1891
First oil claims staked in the Cook Inlet area.
Timeline
1897-1900
Klondike gold rush in Yukon Territory produces heavy traffic through Alaska on the way to the gold fields.
1898
Gold is discovered on Nome beaches and the U.S. Geological Survey begins mapping Alaska.
1899
The Harriman Expedition, organized and financed by railroad tycoon Edward H. Harriman, sails from Seattle on May 30 to Alaska. The two month-expedition travels 9,000 miles through the Inside Passage, over to Cook Inlet and then southwest to Kodiak and Unalaska then north to St. Lawrence Island.
1902
First oil production at Katalla; Telegraph line from Eagle to Valdez is completed.
1906
  • Gold reaches peak production.
  • Alaska gets a nonvoting delegate in Congress.
  • Governor’s office moves from Sitka to Juneau.
Timeline
1907
President Theodore Roosevelt establishes both the Tongass and Chugach National Forests.
Timeline
1910
Sourdough Expedition reaches summit of the North Peak of Mount McKinley.
Timeline
1911
Copper production begins at Kennicott.
1912
Timeline
1913
This is a big year:
  • First territorial Legislature is convened.
  • First law passed gives women the right to vote.
  • First airplane flight in Alaska at Fairbanks.
  • First automobile trip from Fairbanks to Valdez.
  • First man to stand atop the true summit of Mount McKinley on June 7 is Walter Harper, an Athabascan Indian. Others with him: Harry Karstens, Robert Tatum, and expedition leader Hudson Stuck.
Timeline
1914
President Woodrow Wilson authorizes construction of the Alaska Railroad.
1915
Construction begins in Anchorage of the Alaska Railroad.
1916
First bill proposing Alaska statehood is introduced in Congress.
1917
Mount McKinley National Park created.
1918
1922
First pulp mill starts production at Speel River near Juneau.
1923
President Warren Harding drives the final spike to complete the Alaska Railroad.
1927
Thirteen year-old Benny Benson’s design for the new Alaska Flag is adopted by the Alaska Territorial Legislature as the official flag.
Timeline
1935
  • Matanuska Valley Project begins as farm families move to Alaska during the Great Depression.
  • First Juneau-to-Fairbanks airplane flight.
1937
Nell Scott is the first woman appointed to the Alaska Legislature.
1940
  • Military buildup in Alaska. Fort Richardson, Elmendorf Air Force Base are established.
  • Alaska’s population includes about 32,000 Alaska Natives and 40,000 non-Natives.
  • Pan American Airways starts twice-weekly service between Seattle, Ketchikan, and Juneau using Sikorsky flying boats.
1942
  • Dutch Harbor is bombed and Attu and Kiska Islands are occupied by Japanese forces.
  • Alaska Highway is built providing the first overland connection to the rest of the United States.
Timeline
1943
Japanese forces are driven from Alaska.
1953
Oil well is drilled near Eureka, on the Glenn Highway, marking the start of modern oil history.
1957
Oil discovered at Kenai.
1958
Congress passes Alaska statehood measure.
1959
President Dwight Eisenhower signs statehood measure on January 3, making Alaska the 49th state. Alaska’s first general election is held.
1963
State ferry service to Southeast Alaska begins.
1964
Good Friday earthquake of March 27 causes heavy damage in the Gulf Coast region and kills 131 people.
Timeline
1967
  • Fairbanks flooded.
  • First winter ascent of Mount McKinley.
1968
Oil and gas discoveries at Prudhoe Bay on the North Slope.
1970
Federal government sets aside 500,000 acres for Chugach State Park.
1971
Congress approves Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, granting title to 40 million acres of land and providing $962.5 million in payments to Alaska Natives.
1973
The first Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race begins on March 3.
1974
Trans-Alaska pipeline receives final approval; construction buildup begins.
Timeline
1975
Population and labor force soar with the construction of the pipeline.
1976
Voters select Willow area for a new capital site.
1977
The 800-mile trans-Alaska oil pipeline from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez is completed and the first tanker of oil from Valdez is delivered to Puget Sound.
Timeline
1978
Congress designates the Iditarod trail as a National Historic Trail.
1980
Another Milestone Year:
Timeline
1982
  • Voters refuse to authorize spending money to move the capital to Willow, leaving the capital in Juneau.
  • First Permanent Fund Dividend checks of $1,000 each are mailed to every 6-month resident of Alaska.
1983
All of Alaska except westernmost Aleutian Islands move to Alaska Time, one hour ahead of Pacific Time, reducing the time zones in the state from 3 to 2.
1984
State of Alaska celebrates its 25th birthday.
1985
  • Libby Riddles becomes the first woman to win the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
  • State purchases the Alaska Railroad.
1986
Timeline
1987
Oil prices remain low and the state’s economy continues to suffer. Banks close. Housing prices plummet.
1988
  • For the first time in years, more people leave the state than arrive.
  • Whales stranded in the ice near Barrow gain international attention with a valiant rescue effort.
  • Soviets allow Alaskans a one-day visit to Providenya.
1989
Worst oil spill in U.S. history occurs on March 29 when the Exxon Valdez runs aground spilling 11 million gallons of oil into Prince William Sound.
Timeline
1990
  • Federal authorities take over management of subsistence use on federal land.
  • Walter Hickel elected governor on the Independence ticket.
1991
8 millionth barrel of oil flows through the Trans-Alaska Pipeline.
1992 Timeline
1993
Sitka Pulp Mill and Greens Creek Mine in Juneau both close.
1994
Tony Knowles elected ninth governor of Alaska and Fran Ulmer served as the first female Lieutenant Governor in Alaska history.
Timeline
1996
Wildfires destroy $8.8 million in homes and other buildings in Southcentral Alaska.
1998
  • Voters pass initiative making English the official language of the state.
  • Bill passes legislature requiring all high school students to pass an exit exam to earn a diploma.
2001
Delegates from 62 Alaska tribes sign an agreement formalizing tribal relations with the state.
2002
U.S. Congress defeats an amendment to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil development.
Timeline
2004
Wildfires burned 6.7 million acres, setting a new record.
2006
Voters elect the state’s first female governor, Sarah Palin.
2007
Lance Mackey becomes the first musher to win both the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race and the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in the same year.
2008
  • Oil prices hit a record $147.27 per barrel price in July.
  • John McCain picks Sarah Palin as his running mate in the presidential election.
Timeline
2009
Sarah Palin resigns as governor with nearly 2 years left in her term.
2010
Alaska loses two leaders who shaped the state over the last 40 years. Former Governor Wally Hickel passes away at age 90 on May 7, 2010. Ted Stevens, who served as Alaska's U.S. Senator from 1968 until 2008, is killed in a plane crash with four others near Dillingham on August 9.
Timeline

Excerpted in part from The Alaska Almanac, 32nd edition, ©Alaska Northwest Books®. Used with permission. http://www.e-referencedesk.com/resources/state-history-timeline/alaska.html

LitSite AlaskaKids is a program of LitSite Alaska
CONTACT     Read our privacy policy   
Copyright © 2000 - 2017. All rights reserved. University of Alaska Anchorage.
University of Alaska Anchorage