The largest state in the U.S. A wide open frontier of dense lowland forests, midrange frozen tundra, and the towering peaks and glaciers of its many mountain ranges. Elements which combine to make it one of America's harshest and most foreboding states. Territory which prevented all but the hardiest pioneers from venturing inside its borders. A rich and rugged land filled with oil, gold, and vast wilderness areas where the largest big game animals can still roam free.
The early history of Alaska as a US possession begins with its purchase from Russia in 1867. A purchase negotiated by Secretary of State William H. Seward during President Andrew Johnson's administration. A purchase that was widely ridiculed and called "Seward's Folly". Considered a waste of $7.2 million of taxpayer money for a rock of ice and snow. Today we recognize the vision of Seward and thank him for helping to give America one of its most treasured resources.
After Alaska's purchase it took 20 years before people began settling here. Prompted by what drove people to California in 1849, and Colorado in 1859, the discovery of gold at the convergence of the Yukon and Klondike Rivers. A discovery which soon brought thousands of people to the state in 1897. Hoping to stake out their claim to what by today's standards was well over a billion dollars in gold at this river junction. Steamships were swamped with requests. Outfitters could not keep enough supplies. The Klondike Gold Rush of 1897 was underway. A steady influx which amounted to 60,000 people descended on Alaska.
Not unlike previous gold rushes many of those who were traveling to the Yukon were ill equipped to withstand Alaska's harsh climate or trained to find its gold. As the death toll of prospectors rose, crime and lawlessness of these desperate dreamers was rampant. Prompting the government to require "standard equipment" be purchased before embarking to the Yukon Territory. Followed by the mobilization of the Northwest Mounties who were called in to help bring order.
Standard equipment was enough supplies to last one year in the wilderness. Giving those new to the tundra a fighting chance at success. Items included in this list were food consisting of 100 lb sacks of flour, beans, rice, bacon, sugar, coffee, evaporated potatoes, onions, and dried beef. Clothing consisting of wool socks, shirts, underwear, rubber boots, and heavy overcoats. Along with such equipment as gold pans, knives, rifles, axes, rope and shovels.
The march of these newcomers continued with these guidelines in place and the remote wilderness and barren landscape of Alaska was transformed almost overnight. The prospectors traveled throughout the state building roads, establishing towns, raising families. Today the prospecting that began with gold has expanded to include oil and gas which is one of Alaska's richest resources. Alaska is the largest producer of oil in the U.S.