Alaska was admitted to the United States as the 49th state in 1959. As of 2000, its population was 627,000. The name "Alaska" is possibly derived from the Aleut for "great country." It is bordered by the Yukon Territory and British Columbia.
Alaska was probably first settled by people who crossed the Bering Land Bridge. Russions were the first Europeans to reach Alaska. Vitus Bering sailed east and saw Mt. St. Elias. The Russian-American Company hunted otters for their fur.
In 1867, U.S. Secretary of State William Seward prodded the United States Senate into approving the purchase of Alaska from Russia for $7,200,000. Alaska became known as "Seward's Folly" or "Seward's Icebox". The last Monday of March is celebrated by Alaskans as Seward's Day.