Alaska (U.S. state)

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This article is about Alaska (U.S. state). For other uses of the term Alaska, please see Alaska (disambiguation).

Alaska is the most northerly state in the United States of America, becoming part of the U.S. in 1959 (along with Hawaii in the same year).

It is also the largest in land area (586,412 square miles),[1] though one of the smallest in population (pop. 731,449).[2] Alaska has the Arctic Ocean to the north, the Pacific to the west and south, and it borders the Canadian provinces of Yukon Territory and British Columbia to the east. Thus, Alaska is noncontiguous with the mainland U.S. In other words, it is physically separated from the other states. The only other noncontiguous state is Hawaii (U.S. state). Alaskans refer to the contiguous 48 states as "the lower 48."

The name “Alaska” is usually said to be taken from "Alyeska,"[3] meaning "the great land" in the language of the Aleut Indians. Juneau is the capital of Alaska, although the name of Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city, is probably better known. Alaska’s nickname is "The Last Frontier" and the state motto is "North to the Future".

Even more than in the western United States, something of a frontier mentality lives on in Alaska. Particularly outside of the largest municipalities, Anchorage (pop. 278,700) and Fairbanks (pop. 86,754), [4] it is difficult to forget that one is surrounded by wilderness. Alaska is unusually young (median age 33.4--only Texas and Utah are younger).[5] It is also unusually male, with 107 men for every 100 women, and by far the most male of the states.[6]

Sarah Palin was governor of Alaska when she was Senator John McCain's running mate in the failed Republican bid for the presidency in 2008.

Facts and figures

Government website
Capital Juneau
Largest city Anchorage (pop. 278,700) [7]
Admission to Union January 3, 1959 (49th)
Governor Sean Parnell (R)
Lt. Governor Mead Treadwell (R)
U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R) and Mark Begich (D)

History of Alaska

In 1867, Secretary of State William H. Seward brokered a deal to buy Alaska from Russia. It was a controversial purchase that took months to be approved by the U.S. Congress. Critics called the $7.2 million price—about two cents per acre—a waste of government funds, and referred to the new territory as "Seward's Folly" or "Seward's Icebox."

Alaska's Aleutian Islands, specifically Kiska Island is the only US land that was occupied by a foreign entity since the War of 1812. Kiska had one of the bloodiest battles in the Pacific Ocean during WWII and if you travel to Kiska today you can still see a shelled coast line with rusted anti aircraft artillery on the hillside pointed skyward.

Alaska became the forty-ninth state of the United States of America on January 3, 1959.

Climate of Alaska

Because Alaska is so large, its climate is diverse, ranging from oceanic (very wet with less temperature difference between the seasons that other areas) to arctic (extremely cold, with summer daytime temperatures at or just above freezing). As a result of the inhospitable climate and terrain of much of the state, Alaska has relatively little agriculture, although in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, just north of Anchorage, the short but intense growing season produces vegetables of enormous sizes.

Education in Alaska

The state supports a system of three universities; University of Alaska Fairbanks, University of Alaska Anchorage and University of Alaska Southeast in Juneau.

See also

U.S. States and Territories


  1. The Alaska Almanac, 26th ed., Alaska Northwest Books, 2002. ISBN 0882405667.
  2. U.S. Census Bureau, 2012 Population Estimates.
  3. Also spelled alakshak: "Alaska," Concise Dictionary of World Place-Names. Ed. John Everett-Heath. Oxford University Press, 2005. Oxford Reference Online. Or alaxsxaq, according to J. Ellis Ransom, American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 42, No. 3, Part 1 (Jul. - Sep., 1940), pp. 550-551.
  4. U.S. Census Bureau, 2006 Population Estimates, Alaska -- Borough or Census Area.
  5. U.S. Census Bureau, 2006 Population Estimates,Median Age of the Total Population (geographies ranked by estimate).
  6. U.S. Census Bureau, 2006 Population Estimates, Sex Ratio of the Total Population (geographies ranked by estimate).
  7. U.S. Census Bureau, 2006 Population Estimates, Alaska -- Borough or Census Area.