Check for the Purchase of Alaska (1868)

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Citation: Cancelled check in the amount of $7.2 million, for the purchase of Alaska, issued August 1, 1868; Records of the Accounting Officers of the Department of the Treasury; Record Group 217; National Archives. The Russian exchange copy of the Treaty of Cession, March 30, 1867, General Records of the United States Government; Record Group 11; National Archives.
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With this check, the United States purchased Alaska from Russia for $7.2 million.

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In 1866 the Russian government offered to sell the territory of Alaska to the United States. Secretary of State William H. Seward, enthusiastic about the prospects of American Expansion, negotiated the deal for the Americans. Edouard de Stoeckl, Russian minister to the United States, negotiated for the Russians. On March 30, 1867, the two parties agreed that the United States would pay Russia $7.2 million for the territory of Alaska.

For less that 2 cents an acre, the United States acquired nearly 600,000 square miles. Opponents of the Alaska Purchase persisted in calling it “Seward’s Folly” or “Seward’s Icebox” until 1896, when the great Klondike Gold Strike convinced even the harshest critics that Alaska was a valuable addition to American territory.

The check for $7.2 million was made payable to the Russian Minister to the United States Edouard de Stoeckl, who negotiated the deal for the Russians. Also shown here is the Treaty of Cession, signed by Tzar Alexander II, which formally concluded the agreement for the purchase of Alaska from Russia.

(Information excerpted from Stacey Bredhoff, American Originals [Seattle: The University of Washington Press, 2001], p. 58.)

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