At 4 in the morning on March 30, 1867, Secretary of State William Seward signed a treaty buying Russian America—that is, Alaska—for the cost of two cents per acre, a total of $7.2 million in gold bricks. After weeks of talks, a Russian diplomat had called at his house at 10 p.m. to say that Russia would sell the next day. “Let us make the treaty tonight,” he replied. The deal was almost universally hailed as a step toward increasing trade routes in Asia and full American possession of the Pacific Coast. Only years later did it come to be known as “Seward’s Folly,” a vast and worthless snowscape…..

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