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Alaska

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Alaska

In 1741 Vitus Bering mapped the Aleutian Islands and nearby Alaskan coastline. On 22 September 1784, Russia founded its first permanent settlement at Three Saints Bay, Kodiak Island, and first occupied the Alaska panhandle near Sitka in 1799. The Russians used Alaska primarily as a source of sea otters and other furs, which were obtained by subjecting Eskimos and Aleuts to a brutal system of labor exploitation. The Tlingit Indians kept up a fierce resistance against Russian efforts to control them through the 1760s. Wishing to escape the cost of defending the colony from Tlingits and avoid its possible annexation to Canada, the Czar sold Seward's Folly to the US on 18 October 1867 for $7,200,000.
Washington did not appoint a governor until 1884, when Alaska contained about 33,000 natives and 430 whites, and did not make Alaska a territory until 24 August 1912. Commercial fishing and canning then became the biggest industry. After 1896, the main route for 50,000 miners who went to Canada's Klondike gold rush was via Alaska, where more gold was found at Nome in 1899 and Fairbanks in 1902. In 1900 Alaska had 63,592 inhabitants (approx. 48 percent white, 46 percent Indian, 5 percent Chinese), of whom 76 percent were rural and 20 percent were foreign-born; it ranked 49th in population, 51st in farm goods and 48th in manufactures. Few of the miners remained permanently, but development expanded by military facilities at Dutch Harbor, which were threatened in World War II by the Aleutian Islands campaign. The Alaskan highway, first land route to the territory, opened in 1942. The expansion of defense installations led the white population to double in both the 1940s and 1950s.
It became the 49th state on 3 January 1959, when it had 43,000 natives and 150,400 non-natives. In January 1968, the largest US oil field was discovered on the North Slope near Prudhoe Bay and began flowing in 1977 via the Alaska pipeline. Alaska ranked as the 49th state in 1990 with 550,043 residents (74 percent white, 15 percent Indian, 4 percent black, 3 percent Hispanic, 3 percent Asian), of whom 41 percent were urban and 4.5 percent were foreign-born. Manufacturing and mining employed 16 percent of workers.