Thanks to this Tweet from the Library of Congress I was reminded that today in 1867 was the day that the United States purchased Alaska from Russia. At the time it was referred to as Seward’s Folly. The discovery of gold thirty years later changed that perception.
The Library of Congress offers a free lesson plan that asks high school students to evaluate primary sources from the American and Russian perspectives in 1867. The lesson plan includes links to suggested primary sources. Students who need some guidance evaluating the primary sources included in the lesson plan will be aided by the LOC’s Primary Source Analysis template. After they evaluate the primary sources, students have to use evidence to make an argument for or against the purchase.
Applications for Education
To extend the lesson plan offered by the Library of Congress, ask your students to evaluate whether or not a transaction like Seward’s Folly would be possible today.
Image credit: Alaska via Canadian Pacific. Taku Glacier. Boston Public Library,