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Alaska State Flag
Alaska State Flag
Alaska State Seal
Alaska State Seal
Alaska Location
Alaska Location


On 3 January 1959, Alaska was admitted to the United States as the 49th state. The population of the state is 626,932, as of 2000. The name "Alaska" is most likely derived from the Aleut word for "great country" or "mainland." The natives called it "Alyeska", meaning "the great land".

State nicknames "The Last Frontier" or "The Land of the Midnight Sun"
State motto "North To The Future"
Capital Juneau
Largest City Anchorage
Governor (2004) Frank Murkowski
- Total
- Land
- Water
- % water
Ranked 1st
1,717,854 kmē
1,481,347 kmē
236,507 kmē
- Total (2000)
- Density
Ranked 48th
Admittance into Union
- Order
- Date

January 3, 1959
Time zone Alaska: UTC-9/-8
Aleutian: UTC-10/-9
All but the Aleutian Islands west of 169° 22' 30" West is in Alaska time zone
54°40'N to 71°50'N
130°W to 173°E
- Highest
- Mean
- Lowest
1,300 km
2380 km

6,194 m
3,060 m
0 m
FIPS Code 02
ISO 3166-2 US-AK
The Last Frontier
State Bird Willow Ptarmigan
State Land Mammal Moose
State Marine Mammal Bowhead Whale
State Fish King Salmon
State Insect Skimmer Dragonfly
State Capital Juneau
State Flower Forget-me-not (Myosotis alpestris)
State Song "Alaska's Flag"
State Tree Sitka Spruce
State Fossil Wooly Mammoth
State Gem Jade
State Sport Dog Mushing


Alaska was probably first settled by peoples who came there across the Bering Land Bridge, including Inuit and a variety of Native American groups. Most if not all of the pre-Columbian population of the Americas took this route, but continued further south and east.

The first written accounts indicate that the first Europeans to reach Alaska came from Russia. Vitus Bering sailed east and saw Mt. St. Elias. The Russian-American Company hunted otters for their fur. The colony was never very profitable, because of the costs of transportation.

At the instigation of U.S. Secretary of State William Seward, the United States Senate approved the purchase of Alaska from Russia for $7,200,000 on 9 April 1867, and the United States flag was raised on 18 October of that same year (now called Alaska Day). The purchase was not popular in the continental United States, where Alaska became known as "Seward's Folly" or "Seward's Icebox". Alaska celebrates the purchase each year on the last Monday of March, calling it Seward's Day.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Alaska Statehood Act into United States law on 7 July 1958 which paved the way for Alaska's admission into the Union.

In 1976, the people of Alaska amended the state's constitution, establishing the Alaska Permanent Fund. The fund invests a portion of the state's mineral revenue, including revenue from the Trans-Alaskan Pipeline System, to benefit all generations of Alaskans. As of June 2003, the fund's value was over $24 billion.

Over the years various vessels have been named the USS Alaska, in honor of the state.

Law and Government

As of 2004, the capital of Alaska is Juneau and the current governor of Alaska is Frank H. Murkowski (Republican). Alaska's two U.S. senators are Lisa Murkowski (Republican) and Ted Stevens (Republican). Alaska's Representative is Donald E. Young (Republican).


Alaska is the only state that is both in North America and not part of the 48 contiguous states. Alaska is the largest state in the United States in terms of land area, 570,374 square miles (1,477,261 kmē). If you superimposed Alaska on the Lower 48, Alaska would stretch from Minnesota to Texas, and from Georgia to California.

One scheme for describing the state's geography is by labeling the regions:

  • Southcentral Alaska is the southern coastal region with towns, cities, and petroleum industrial plants;
  • the Alaska Panhandle, also known as Southeast Alaska, is home to towns, tidewater glaciers and extensive forests;
  • the Alaska Interior has big rivers, such as the Yukon River and the Kuskokwim River, as well as Arctic tundra lands and shorelines;
  • and the Alaskan Bush is the remote, uncrowded part of the state.

Alaska, with its numerous islands, has nearly 34,000 miles (54,700 km) of tidal shoreline. The island chain extending west from the southern tip of Alaska is called the Aleutian Islands. Many active volcanoes are found in the Aleutians. For example, Unimak Island is home to Mt. Shishaldin, a moderately active volcano that rises to 9,980 ft (3,042 m) above sea level. The chain of volcanoes extends to Mount Spurr, west of Anchorage on the mainland.

Much of Alaska is managed by the federal government as national forests, national parks, and national wildlife refuges. There are places in Alaska that are general public lands (BLM land) but they are arguably more spectacular than many national parks in the Lower 48. Many of Alaska's state parks would be national parks if they were in other states.

Much of Alaska is managed by corporations called ANCSA corporations, of which there are thirteen regional ones and dozens of local ones.

Boroughs and census areas

Alaska has no counties in the sense used in the rest of the country; however, the state is divided into 27 census areas and boroughs.

The difference between boroughs and census areas is that boroughs have an organized area-wide government, while census areas are artificial divisions defined by the United States Census Bureau.


The state's 1999 total gross state product was $26 billion, placing it 46th in the nation. Its per-capita Income for 2000 was $30,064, 15th in the nation. Alaska's main agriculture output is seafood, although nursery stock, dairy products, vegetables, and livestock are produced and used internally. Manufacturing is limited, with most foodstuffs and general goods imported from elsewhere. Employment is primarily in government and industries such as natural resource extraction, shipping, and transportation. There is also a small but growing service and tourism sector. Its industrial outputs are crude petroleum, natural gas, coal, gold, precious metals, zinc and other mining, seafood processing, timber and wood products.

Alaska has various transportation options. Some of Alaska is connected by roads (and sometimes a tunnel) to the highways of Canada and of the rest of the United States. These places are "on the road system". Along the Pacific Ocean, many places have freight and passenger service from ocean-going ships. Most places have air service, ranging from jets on tarmac to floatplanes on lakes.

Notable Alaskans

The National Statuary Hall of the United States of America is part of the Capitol in Washington DC. Each state has selected one or two distinguished citizens and provided statues.

Alaska's are of its first two senators:

  • E.L. "Bob" Bartlett (1904–1968) was the territorial delegate to the US Congress from 1944 to 1958, and was elected as the first senior US senator in 1958 and re-elected in 1964. There are streets, buildings, and even the first state ferry, named for him.
  • Ernest Gruening (1886–1974) was appointed Governor of the Territory of Alaska in 1939, and served in that position for fourteen years. He was elected to the United States Senate in 1958 and re-elected in 1962.

The first woman elected to statewide office was Fran Ulmer, elected as Lieutenant Governor in 1994.

Fictional Character

The Star Trek Next Generation character, William Riker was born in Valdez, Alaska.

Singer / Poet

Jewel Kilcher was raised in Homer, Alaska.

Novels about Alaska

The T. Coraghessan Boyle novel Drop City (2003, ISBN 0670031720) tells the story of a group of Hippies who relocate to Alaska.

Marcia Simpson (d. 2003) has written three books which describe what it's like to live in a small coastal community in Alaska: Rogue's Yarn (2003, ISBN 0425191982), Crow in Stolen Colors (2000, ISBN 1890208361) and Sound Tracks (2001, ISBN 1890208728).

James Michener wrote Alaska.

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer is the true story of Christopher McCandless, a college graduate and top student, who donated his entire $24,000 savings account to charity and moved into the Alaskan wilderness. 1997, ISBN 0385486804

Important cities and towns

Alaska's most populous city is Anchorage, home of 260,284 people, 225,744 of whom live in the urbanized area. It ranks a distant third in the List of U.S. cities by area. Sitka ranks as the America's largest city by area, followed closely by Juneau. Jacksonville, Florida is the largest city by area in the other 49 states and the fourth largest in the entire country.

Towns > 100,000 population
Towns 100,000-10,000 population
Towns < 10,000 population

Colleges and Universities

University of Alaska System   Alaska Bible College
  • University of Alaska Anchorage
  • University of Alaska Fairbanks
  • University of Alaska Southeast
  Alaska Pacific University
  Charter College
  Sheldon Jackson College

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