United States, formerly known as “Russian America” ; occupying the region of the extreme northwestern portion of North America; lying north of the parallel of lat. 50° 40″ N., and west of the meridian of long. 140° W.: also including many islands lying off the coast: area, as far as determined in 1900, 531,000 square miles; population, according to revised census report of 1890, 32,052; estimated population in 1899, about 40,000: seat of administration, Sitka. The Russians acquired possession of this Territory by right of discovery by Vitus Bering, in 1741. He discovered the crowning peak of the Alaska mountains, Mount St. Elias, on July 18. That mountain rises to a height of  18,024 feet above the sea. Other notable altitudes, as ascertained by the United States Meteorological Survey and announced in 1900, are: Blackburn Mountain, 12,500 feet; Black Mountain, 12,500 feet; Cook Mountain, 13,750 feet; Crillon Mountain, 15,900 feet; Drum Mountain, 13,300 feet; Fairweather Mountain, 15,292 feet; Hayes Mountain, 14,500 feet; Iliamna Peak, 12,066 feet; Kimball Mountain, 10,000 feet; Laperouse Mountain, 10,730 feet; Lituya Mountain, 11,852 feet; Mount McKinley, 20,464 feet; Sanford Mountain, 14,000 feet; Seattle Mountain, 10,000 feet; Tillman Mountain, 13,300 feet; Vancouver Mountain, 15,666 feet; and Wrangel Mountain, 17,500 feet. The entire coast-line measures over 4.000 miles, taking into account the smaller indentations. The climate in some parts is most agreeable. In the interior are numerous lakes. Its valleys are fertile; its streams abound with fish and its forests with game; and its islands have afforded the most extensive and richest fur-seal fishing in the world. Sitka, or New Archangel, the capital of Alaska, is the oldest settlement. It was founded by Russian fur-traders in the nineteenth century. The country was a sort of independent province, under the rule of the Russian-American Fur Company, to whom it was granted by the Emperor Paul in 1799. It was invested with the exclusive right of hunting and fishing in the American waters of the Czar. The charter of the company expired in 1867, when the government declined to renew it. In 1865-67 the country was explored by a scientific corps sent out by the United States to select a route for the Russo-American telegraph line — a project which was abandoned in consequence of the successful laying of the Atlantic cable. Early in 1867 negotiations were begun for the purchase of the Territory by the United States, and a treaty to that effect was ratified by the United States Senate May 20 the same year. The price paid was $7.200,000. In October Gen. Lovell H. Rousseau. a commissioner for the purpose, formally took possession of the region. The Territory remained under military government till 1884, when a district government was established and a land office opened. This form of administration proved adequate till the remarkable discoveries of gold in the neighborhood of the Klondike and Yukon rivers, in 1897, attracted thousands of miners to those regions, and soon made necessary larger means of communication. A number of bills were introduced into Congress for the purpose of providing the Territory with the form of government prescribed for the other Territories: but up to the time of writing the only movements in this direction were the extension of a number of laws of Oregon to the Territory. a gradual increase in the number of executive officers; and the creation by the President, in 1900, of a new military department comprising the entire Territory. While it was long believed that the Territory posesesed vast riches in minerals, the chief industries were those connected with sealing and salmon-fisheries till about 1895. In that year the United States government organized the first expedition to make a thorough investigation of the mineral properties. The geological survey has since been continued with most fruitful results, and early in 1900 the Director of the Survey completed plans for thorough surveys and explorations by both geological and topographical experts, especially to supplement the important work of his bureau in 1898, and to acquire a fuller knowledge of the remarkable Cape Nome district and its extension in the Seward Peninsula. This work was expected to occupy several years. As a result of explorations prior to 1900, mining operations on a large scale were undertaken, first in the neighborhood of the boundary-line between the United States and the British possessions, and then, as other fields were disclosed. along the coast section and on some of the nearby islands. During the season of 1899 the last-mentioned region gave indications of outrivalling the famous Klondike and Yukon fields. The rush of miners to the interior fields, and the indiscriminate staking of claims, soon led to a conflict between the American and Canadian miners concerning the boundary-line. Both parties claimed territorial rights to the richest fields then known, and to avoid a state of anarchy that seemed imminent, the United States and the Canadian authorities undertook. first, a separate, and then a joint, survey of the region in dispute.  Each party naturally claimed more territory than the other was willing to concede, and, as a result, the delimitation of the boundary was made one of the subjects for determination by the Anglo-American commission (q. v.) appointed in 1898 for the purpose of negotiating a plan for the settlement of all matters in controversy between the United States and Canada. The commission, after several sessions in Canada and the United States, failed to reach an agreement on the matters submitted to it, and in 1899 a modus vivendi was signed by the representatives of both governments. This agreement fixed the boundary provisionally, and went into operation on Oct. 20. Under the agreement no part of its territory was surrendered by the United States, and none of the rights of either government were prejudiced by it.
Modus vivendi of 1899.The following is the text of the agreement:
Alaska in transition.After the United States obtained possession of the Territory the sealing industry was for several years prosecuted with a vigor that led to such a decrease in the number of seals that the government was obliged to enact stringent laws for the conservation of the seals, in order to check the indiscriminate slaughter and prevent the total destruction of the industry. These laws, however, have been constantly violated, with the result that the fur-seal has been nearly exterminated in these waters. Some compensation for this loss has been found in a remarkable increase in the supply of food fishes. Large as was the knowledge of Alaska and its manifold interests and resources that had been acquired up to 1900, much of its vast expanse remained practically an unknown region, depending upon the government surveys then in progress and  the resistless pushing forward of gold-hunters for the disclosure of new wonders and material attractions. The entire region on both sides of the boundary-line was in a transition state, and both the United States and the Canadian governments, aided by commercial and religious organizations. were pushing forward, as rapidly as the face of the country would permit, the advantages of civilization hitherto unknown in that bleak region. Early in 1898 an aerial railway was constructed over the Chilkoot Pass to Lake Linderman, a unique enterprise that shortened the time between tidewater and the headwaters of the Yukon River from a month to a day, and removed the perils and hardships of former travels. At the end of that year the first section of the first railroad built in Alaska was completed. This was the White Pass and Yukon Railroad, projected to extend from Skagway to Fort Selkirk. The section ended at Summit, the highest point of the divide, and work was then in progress on the Canadian section of the line. At the same time the Canadian government had selected five routes for railways in the Yukon region, which it was thought might be provided with sea-coast outlets in the territory of the United States. In 1900 the all-water route to the Klondike was 2.705 miles from Seattle to St. Michael, and 1.313 miles up the Yukon to Dawson, the voyage taking about seven weeks. The most feasible land route started from the head of Lynn Canal. The Dyea, or Chilkoot Pass, route leads 527 miles northwest to Dawson. The Skagway, or White Pass. route is somewhat longer and more difficult than the Chilkoot. The Dalton route, which crosses the Chilkoot Pass, joins the others at Fort Selkirk. Up to that year the Chilkoot route had been the most popular one, but it was then believed that the Teslin route would prove the most advantageous in the future.
|Gen. Lovell H. Rousseau
|John H. Kinkead
|Alfred P. Swineford
|Lyman E. Knapp
|John G. Brady