Vitus Bering, a Dane working for the Russians, and Alexei Chirikov discovered the Alaskan mainland and the Aleutian Islands in 1741. The tremendous land mass of Alaska—equal to one-fifth of the continental U.S.—was unexplored in 1867 when Secretary of State William Seward arranged for its purchase from the Russians for $7,200,000. The transfer of the territory took place on Oct. 18, 1867. Despite a price of about two cents an acre, the purchase was widely ridiculed as “Seward's Folly.”
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 km²). If you superimposed a map of Alaska on the Lower 48 states, Alaska would stretch from Minnesota to Texas, and from Georgia to California.
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.
Denali National Park and Mendenhall Glacier in North Tongass National Forest are of interest, as is the large totem pole collection at Sitka National Historical Park. The Katmai National Park includes the “Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes,” an area of active volcanoes.