2013 Student Research Conference:
26th Annual Student Research Conference

Sewards Folly: The Motivations Behind the Purchase of Alaska
Thomas M. Sandbrink
Dr. Thomas Zoumaras, Faculty Mentor

In 1867, Secretary of State, William Seward, and Russian Minister, Eduoard de Stoeckl, signed a treaty in which Russia ceded Alaska to the United States. However a number of Americans were skeptical because the prevailing view determined that the region was a frozen wasteland, leading to monikers such as Sewards Folly still taught in many classrooms. Why, then, did the United States and Russia consummate this seemingly unlikely treaty? During the 1850s, Russia lost the Crimean War and the Russian American Company became unprofitable so, desperate for revenue, the government resolved to sell. Seward responded positively because Alaska fit his designs for controlling the Pacific trade: American steamships needed coaling stations and naval protection en route to Asia which the Aleutian Islands could provide. Once the treaty was signed, the House of Representatives needed further convincing in the form of reports detailing Alaskan resources and bribes before appropriating requisite funds.

Keywords: William Seward, Eduoard de Stoeckl, Alaska Treaty , Nathaniel Banks, Pacific Trade, Bribery of Congressmen


Presentation Type: Oral Paper

Session: 205-2
Location: VH 1232
Time: 9:45

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