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Moments in Alaska's History
Bits and Pieces

For more on Alaska's history, try the state guide page.


[ 1500's ] [ 1600's ] [ 1700's ] [ 1800's ] [ 1900's ]

Early Prehistory of Alaska

1500's Top


1578 Cossack Cheiftain Yermak Timofief was on an expedition in central Russia when he got word of rich sable and other valuable furs to the east. The journeys across the stepps marked the beginning of Russia's conquest eastward.


1600's Top


1639 Cossack horsemen journied over the last eastern mountain range in Siberia, and continued on to the shore of the Okhotsk Sea. Once there, they constructed the first Russian Village, facing east, across the Pacific.


1700's Top


1711 Russian traders learn of a "Great Land" to the east.

1725 Peter the Great of Russia commissioned a Danish sea captain, Vitus Bering, to explore the Northwest coast of Alaska. This feat is credited with the "official" discovery by Russia and the first reliable information on the land. Bering established Russia's claim to Northwestern North America.

1728 Vitus Bering sails through the Bering Strait.

1733 Bering makes a second expedition through Bering Strait.

June 4, 1741 Bering and Chirikof Expeditions; The St. Peter and St. Paul are launched at Okhotsk.

July 18, 1741 Bering sights land and on July 20 anchors in a bay between two capes which he calls "St. Ellis" and "St. Hermogenes" (Southeast Alaska).

1743 Russians began hunting Sea Otter and nearly killed off the species.

1774 Juan Perez ordered by Spain to explore west coast; discovers Prince of Wales Island.

1776 Captain James Cook begins an expedition to search for Northwest Passage.

1784 The first Russian settlement was built on Kodiak Island.

1794 The Phoenix, is completed, it was the first ship built in Alaska.

1795 The first Russian Orthodox Church is established in Kodiak.

1799 Alexander Baranov establishes a Russian post known today as Old Sitka. The Russian American Company was founded.


1800's Top


1802 Indians massacre Russians at Old Sitka; only a few survive.

1804 Tlingit Indians attacked the settlement of Sitka, but are forced to flee after defeating the Russians.<.p>

1805 Tlingit Indians slaughtered all the Russian residents of Yakutat. Yurii Lisianski sails to Canton with the first Russian cargo of furs to be sent directly to China.

1821 Russian-American waters restricted, no foreigners are allowed other than at regular ports of call.

1824 Russians began the exploration of the mainland which lead to the discovery of Nushagak, Kuskokwim, Yukon, and Koyokuk Rivers.

1832 The first gold in Alaska was discovered in the Kuskokwim River Valley.

1833 Fort St. Michael was constructed close to the mouth of the Yukon River.

1836 A castle (Baranof Castle) was built in Sitka, in memory of Alexander Baranof.

1847 Fort Yukon is established.

1851 Natives upset with the way they are treated by the Russians, attacked Fort Nulato up the Yukon River and slaughtered nearly all of the community residents living there.

1853 Oils seeps were discovered at Cook Inlet.

1855 At Port Graham, Alaska's first coal mine is opened.

1857 Coal mining begins at Coal Harbor on the Kenai Peninsula.

1859 Economics of the time and the Crimean war had disastrous effects on Russian domestic affairs which brought about the Russians trying to interest the United States in purchasing Alaska.

1861 Gold was discovered inland of the present city of Wrangell, on Stikine River near Telegraph Creek.

1865 - Western Union Telegraph Company prepares to put a telegraph line across Alaska and Siberia.

March 30, 1867 Treaty of Purchase is signed.

October 18, 1867 Alaska is transferred from Russian America to the U.S. at Sitka.

1868 Alaska's first salmon cannery was built in Klawock, on Prince of Wales Island. The first newspaper office is established, producing the "Sitka Times". The first issue was produced on September 19th.

1878 Sitka becomes home to Alaska's first steam operated sawmill. Also in Sitka, a school is built which later became the Sheldon Jackson Junior College. First canneries in Alaska established at Klawock and Sitka.

August 17, 1880 Gold is discovered by Joe Juneau and Dick Harris at Silver Bowl Basin, the present site of Juneau.

1881 Parris Lode claim staked and by 1885 is the most prominent mine in Alaska: the Treadwell Mine.

1884 The Harrison Act was signed by President Chester Arthur, creating the "District of Alaska". This also provided for a governor and a judge. Congress passes Organic Act. $15,000 funding was approved to educate Indian children.

1885 Dr. C. H. Townsend suggests introduction of reindeer into Alaska. Sheldon Jackson appointed General Agent for Education in Alaska.

1887 Father William Duncan was granted permission by the United States to move his group of Tsimpshean Indians from Canadian territory to Alaska. They constructed the village of Metlakatla on Annette Island in Southeast Alaska.

1890 Large corporate salmon canneries begin construction. Dr. Sheldon Jackson explores the Arctic Coast; introduces reindeer husbandry into Alaska..

1891 First oil claims staked in Cook Inlet area.

1892 Afognak Reserve is established, beginning the Alaskan Forest Service System.

1894 Gold is discovered at Cook Inlet. Baranof Castle was destroyed by fire. Gold is discovered on Mastadon Creek; founding of Circle City.

1896 Dawson City founded at mouth of Klondike River; gold is discovered on Bonanza Creek.

July 17, 1897 S/S "Portland" arrives in Seattle carrying $1 million in gold from the Klondike with 68 Klondikers aboard.

1898 The Klondike produced $200,000,000. in gold. Congress passes laws making way for construction of railroads in Alaska.

September 22, 1898 Gold is discovered and tents are pitched at the mouth of Snake River, present site of Nome.

March 3, 1813 First Territorial Legislature assembles in Juneau, with 8 senators, 16 representatives.

1899 Gold is discovered on the Upper Koyukuk River.




1900's Top


1900 Alaska moves the capital to Juneau. The state is divided into three judicial districts, with judges at Sitka, Eagle, and St. Michael. The White Pass is railroad completed.

1902 the Alexander Archipelago Forest Reserve was created which became the Tongass National Forest in 1907. Gold was discovered approximately 12 miles north of present day Fairbanks by Felix Pedro. E.T. Barnette and local miners name their settlement Fairbanks.

1904 The Last great Tlingit potlatch was held in Sitka. Underwater cables were laid from Seattle to Sitka, and from Sitka to Valdez, linking Alaska to the lower 48.

January 27, 1905 Congress established the Alaska Road Commission. The Tanana railroad was built and the telegraph linked Fairbanks and Valdez

1906 Gold was discovered at Cache Creek and Peters Creek. Alaska was authorized to send a voteless delegate to Congress. The Governor's Office was moved from Sitka to Juneau.

1907 Gold discovered at Ruby. The Richardson trail was established. The Tongass National Forest was created by presidential proclamation.

1908 The Cache Creek Mining Company was formed. Ketchikan becomes home for the first cold storage plant.

1909 Gold was discovered at the Iditarod River.

1911 The Copper River Railroad was completed. Sea Otters become a protected species.

August 24, 1912 Alaska gained Territorial status with the United States Congress. Mt. Katmai erupted forming the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes and also spread a light layer of ash across the world. Ruby discovers Placer gold.

1913 The Territorial Legislature holds it's first meeting. Women were granted the right to vote.

1914 Congress approves the construction of the railroad from Seward to Fairbanks and surveying begins. The city of Anchorage is born.

March 30, 1916 Judge James Wickersham, nonvoting delegate to Congress, chooses this anniversary date to introduce first Statehood Bill. Alaskans voted in favor of prohibition by a 2 to 1 margin.

1917 TheTreadwell Mine caves in.

May 3, 1917 University of Alaska is created.

1918 Father William Duncan of Metlakatla died.

1920 Anchorage organizes a city government.

1922 The first government contract for delivering airmail was established. Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines opens. Natives get the right to vote.

July 13, 1923 President Harding drives golden spike to mark the completion of Alaska Railroad.

1924 Tlingit William Paul, Sr. is first Native elected to Alaska Legislature.

1928 Native children win the right to attend public school in court.

1929 The U.S. Navy begins a 5-year survey to map sections of Alaska.

1932 Telephone communications were established in Juneau, Ketchikan, and Nome.

1935 Federal subsidies were provided to farmers from the Midwest and Dust Bowl to settle the Matanuska Valley Colony. Nine hundred Alaska-Juneau Gold Mine workers went on a strike that lasted 40 days and ended in violence.

June, 1935 A Jurisdictional Act allows the Tlingit and Haida Indians to pursue land claims in U.S. Court of Claims

1936 - The Indian Reorganization Act of 1935 was amended to include Alaska. The first woman elected to the Territorial Legislature is Nell Scott from Seldovia.

1940 Pan-American Airlines began regular scheduled flights to Alaska from Seattle. Fort Richardson was established. Construction began at Elmendorf Air Force Base.

1942 The Aleutian Campaign

May 5, 1942 Japanese prepare to invade the Aleutian Islands.

June 3, 1942 Defense of the Aleutians

June 4, 1942 Japanese Navy plane raided Dutch Harbor.

June 6 & 7, 1942 Japanese Navy forces invaded Kiska and Attu Islands.

June 21, 1942 US submarine sunk unloading Japanese transopter on Alutian Is.

August 8, 1942 US warship bombard Kiska.

August 30, 1942 U.S. troops invade Adak Island in the Aleutian Islands.

October 29, 1942 Alaska Highway is open for traffic

November 20, 1942 Alaska Highway was opened for military traffic.

January, 1943 US convoy of 70 ships moved to Alutian theater.

January 12, 1943 Army forces occupy Amchitka, Aleutian Islands.

January 30, 1943 Naval Station, Akutan Harbor, Fox Island, Alaska, is established.

February 18, 1943 Two cruisers and four destroyers bombard Japanese installations at Holtz Bay, and Chichagof Harbor, Attu, Aleutian Islands.

February 24, 1943 Naval Air Facility, Amchitka, Alaska, is established.

March 1, 1943 Naval Auxiliary Air Facility, Annette Island, Alaska, is established.

March 26, 1943 Battle of the Komandorski Islands

March 27, 1943 Japanese convoy to reinforce Alutian encoutered with the enemy fleet and turned back.

April 26, 1943 Task group of 3 cruiser and 6 destroyers bombards Japanese installations at Attu, Aleutian Islands.

May 10, 1943 U.S. troops invade Attu in the Aleutian Islands.

May 15, 1943 Naval Air Station, Adak, Aleutian Islands, is established.

May 31, 1943 Japanese end their occupation of the Aleutian Islands as the U.S. completes the capture of Attu.

June 8, 1943 Naval Air Facility, Attu, Aleutian Islands, is established.

June 29, 1943 Naval Auxiliary Air Facility, Shemya, Alaska, is established.

July 14, 1943 Destroyers bombard Kiska, Aleutian Islands. Naval Operating Base, Adak, Aleutian Islands, is established.

July 22, 1943 Naval task force consisting of 2 battleships, 5 cruisers, and 9 destroyers bombard Kiska area, Aleutian Islands.

July 28, 1943 Japanese evacuate Kiska undetected by Allies.

August 1, 1943 Army aircraft initiate daily bombings of Kiska, Aleutian Islands.

August 2, 1943 Naval task groups consisting of 2 battleships, 5 cruisers, and 9 destroyers bombard Kiska, Aleutian Islands. Kiska is bombarded 10 times between this date and 15 August.

August 15, 1943 Naval task force under Commander North Pacific Force lands United States Army and Canadian troops at Kiska, Aleutian Islands. Kiska is found to have been evacuated by the Japanese.

August 22, 1943 Allied forces declare Kiska is deserted by Japanese forces.

December 21, 1943 Naval aircraft from Attu, Aleutian Islands, bomb Paramushiro- Shimushu area, Kurile Islands.

1944 Oil and Gas Exploration begins. The Alaska-Juneau Gold Mine shuts down.

1946 - A boarding school for Native high school students opened at Mt. Edgecombe.

1947 The first Alaska Native land claims suit, filed by Tlingit and Haida people, introduced in U.S. Court of Claims. The Alaska Command established.

1948 Alaskans voted to abolish fish traps.

1949 the Alaska Statehood Committee launched a campaign for Alaska Statehood.

1953 The first televised broadcast from Alaska is made from Anchorage. The pulp mill opened in Ketchikan, it was the largest of it's kind in Alaska at this time.

1955 Alaskans elected it's first delegates to constitutional convention.

1956 The Alaska Constitution is adopted and two senators and one representative are sent to Washington under the Tennessee Plan.

July 7, 1958 Alaska Statehood Act was signed by President Eisenhower.

1959 U.S. Court of Claims issues judgement favoring Tlingit and Haida claims to Southeast Alaska lands. The pulp mill opened in Sitka.

January 3, 1959 Alaska becomes 49th state in the Union. The 49 Star Flag.

March 27, 1964 Good Friday earthquake in which 131 people lose their lives.

July, 1968 Oil and Gas are discovered on North Slope.

1969 North Slope Oil lease sale earns $900 million. First live satellite television broadcast in Alaska.

December 18, 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (43 USC 1601-1624) -- Public Law 92-203, approved.

1972 Alaska Constitution was amended to prohibit sexual discrimination

November 16, 1973 Final approval for pipeline. Construction begins.

June 20, 1977 Pipeline is completed.

August 1, 1977 First Shipment of oil leaves Valdez.

December 1, 1978 Seventeen new national monuments comprising 56 million acres are officially created.

December 2, 1980 Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act signed designating 102.8 million acres in National Park, National Wildlife Refuge, National Forest, National Wild and Scenic Rivers, and National Wilderness Preservation Systems.

1982 The first Permanent Fund dividends were distributed.

1985 - The State of Alaska bought the Alaska Railroad from the federal government

March 24, 1989 The Exxon Valdez spilled more than 11 million gallons of crude oil. This was the worst spill in U.S. history.

1992 marked the 50th anniversary of the Alaska Highway.




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