President Eisenhower signs the Alaska Proclamation admitting Alaska as the 49th state. Front L-R: Vice President Richard Nixon; President Eisenhower; House Speaker Sam Rayburn, January 3, 1959
President Eisenhower signs the Alaska Proclamation admitting Alaska as the 49th state. Front L-R: Vice President Richard Nixon; President Eisenhower; House Speaker Sam Rayburn, January 3, 1959
US Archives - Source
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Alaska is the 49th State Admitted to the Union

President Eisenhower stated his support for the idea of statehood for Alaska early in his administration but also expressed concerns that needed to be overcome before that could occur. The greatest concern was the issue of national security; this was during the height of the Cold War and Alaska was on the border of the Soviet Union. Another concern was the amount of public land in the territory; 99% of the area was owned by the Federal government and a suitable compromise had to be arranged to transfer unreserved lands to the new state government.

After the annual introduction of various statehood bills H.R. 7999 passed in the House on May 28, 1958, passed in the Senate on June 30, 1958 and was signed into law by the President on July 7, 1958. On January 3, 1959 he signed the official proclamation admitting Alaska as the 49th state.

The U.S. Senate approved the purchase of Alaska from the Russian Empire on March 30, 1867, for $7.2 million at about 2 cents per acre ($4.74/km2). The land went through several administrative changes before becoming an organized territory on May 11, 1912 and the 49th state of the U.S. on January 3, 1959. The name "Alaska" (Аляска) was already introduced in the Russian colonial time, when it was used only for the peninsula and is derived from the Aleut alaxsxaq, meaning "the mainland" or more literally, "the object towards which the action of the sea is directed". It is also known as Alyeska, the "great land", an Aleut word derived from the same root.