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Facts - Alaska Information

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Yellow StarBecame an organized territory: 1912
Yellow StarBecame the 49th United State: January 3, 1959
Yellow StarCapital: Juneau
Yellow StarGovernor: Frank Murkowski
Yellow StarLand Area: 586,412 square miles, largest state and one-fifth
the size of the lower 48 states
Yellow StarMajor Industries: Oil, Fisheries, Lumber
Yellow StarMotto: "North to the Future"
Yellow StarNicknames: The Last Frontier, The Land of the Midnight Sun
Yellow StarPopulation: 606,000+ people

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State Symbols

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Alaska state flag Pic

Yellow StarFlag:
Alaska's state flag was designed in 1926 by 13-year-old Benny Benson, a seventh grade Aleut student from Chignik, Alaska. He was an orphan, attending the Jesse Lee Mission Home in Seward, Alaska. He entered the design in a territorial flag contest conducted in the public schools by the American Legion, Department of Alaska. His entry was selected from a field of 142 entries and the design was officially adopted by the state legislature of the Territory of Alaska on May 2, 1927. The flag consists of a field of deep blue, with eight gold stars - seven in the shape of the Big Dipper constellation on the left and a single gold star representing the North Star in the upper right hand corner. Benny described his design this way:

"The blue is for the Alaska sky and the forget-me-not, an Alaskan flower. The North Star is for the future State of Alaska, the most northerly of the union. The Dipper is for the Great Bear - symbolizing strength."

Alaska state seal Pic

Yellow StarSeal:
In 1867, Russia sold Alaska to the United States, and for nearly fifty years the region was known as the District of Alaska. While Alaska was still a district, the first governor designated a seal of the district. This seal featured icebergs, northern lights, igloos and an eskimo ice fishing. In 1910, this seal was replaced with a design more representative of the state's industrial and natural wealth. Today, this seal, created by an "unnamed draftsman," is the state seal of Alaska. The rays above the mountains represent the famous Alaskan northern lights. The smelter symbolizes mining, the train stands for Alaska's railroads, and ships denote transportation by sea. The trees pictured in the seal symbolize Alaska's wealth of timber, and the farmer, his horse, and the three shocks of wheat stand for Alaskan agriculture. The fish and the seals signify the importance of fishing and seal rookeries to Alaska's economy. The state seal of Alaska is a fine representation of the vast wealth of the forty-ninth state.


SONG: The Alaska Flag Song

Yellow StarSong:
The words are from a poem written by Marie Drake and later set to music by Elinor Dusenbury. See another page with the Sheet Music here. In 1955, The Alaska Territorial Legislature designated the words and music as the official Alaska song. "The Alaska Flag Song" words and music are Copyright © 1985 The University of Alaska Foundation.

The Alaska Flag Song

Eight stars of gold on a field of blue,
Alaska's flag, May it mean to you;
The blue of the sea, the evening sky,
The mountain lakes and the flow'rs nearby;

The gold of the early sourdough's dreams,
The precious gold of the hills and streams;
The brilliant stars in the northern sky,
The "Bear," the "Dipper," and, shining high,

The great North star with its steady light,
O'er land and sea a beacon bright.
Alaska's Flag to Alaskans dear,
The simple flag of a last frontier.

Willow Ptarmigan Pic

Willow Ptarmigan painted by John James Audubon

Yellow StarBird: Willow Ptarmigan (Lagopus lagopus alascensis Swarth)
The ptarmigan was adopted on February 4, 1955, before Alaska became a state. The willow ptarmigan can be found almost everywhere in Alaska and is a year-round resident. It’s the only state bird that turns white in winter. Willow ptarmigan are commonly hunted for food and sport.

Yellow StarFish: King Salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha)
The King salmon is one of the most important sport and commercial fish native to the Pacific coast of North America. It is the largest of all Pacific salmon, with weights of individual fish commonly exceeding 30 pounds. A 126-pound chinook salmon taken in a fish trap near Petersburg, Alaska in 1949 is the largest on record. The largest sport-caught chinook salmon was a 97-pound fish taken in the Kenai River in 1986.

This salmon has numerous local names. Most people in Alaska know them as Kings. In Washington and Oregon, they are called Chinook, while in British Columbia they are called Spring salmon. Other names are Quinnat, Tyee, Tule, and Blackmouth.

Forget-Me-Nots © Barbara Logan

(photo © 2002 Barbara Logan)

Yellow StarFlower: Forget-Me-Not
The Pioneers of Alaska was a lodge formed in 1907 that only men who had arrived in Alaska before January 1, 1900 could join. In 1908, it and two other lodges merged into one lodge known as the Grand Igloo. The first constitution of the Grand Igloo said "The official flower of the Pioneers of Alaska shall be the Alaska For-get-me-not." Later, women formed "Auxiliaries" to the Grand Igloo and also adopted the forget-me-not as their emblem. The members of the Grand Igloo decided the forget-me-not would make a fine symbol for the Territory of Alaska. The bill to adopt the forget-me-not included a poem written by Esther Birdsall Darling:

So in thinking for an emblem
For this Empire of the North
We will choose this azure flower
That the golden days bring forth,
For we want men to remember
That Alaska came to stay
Though she slept unknown for ages
And awakened in a day.
So although they say we’re living
In the land that God forgot,
We’ll recall Alaska to them
With our blue Forget-me-not.

And this little poem was written in the margins of the bill:

A little flower blossoms forth
On every hill and dale,

The emblem of the Pioneers
Upon the rugged trail;

The Pioneers have asked it
And we could deny them not;

So the emblem of Alaska
Is the blue Forget-me-not.

The Governor signed the bill into law April 28, 1917. The forget-me-not was also honored when Alaska’s flag was later adopted. When Alaska became a state in 1959, it kept the forget-me-not as the official state flower.

The forget-me-not grows wild in Alaska. It is a small flower, consisting of five round pale blue petals and a yellow center.

Wooly Mammoth Pic

Wooly Mammoith - a recreation of frozen and fossil Wooly Mammoth remains

Yellow StarFossil: Woolly Mammoth
Yellow StarGem: Jade
Yellow StarInsect: Four Spot Skimmer Dragonfly
Yellow StarLand Mammal: Moose
Yellow StarMarine Mammal: Bowhead Whale
Yellow StarMineral: Gold
Gold has played a major role in Alaska’s history. The Gold Rush Era began in 1880 with a major gold discovery by Chief Kowee (an Auk Indian), Joe Juneau and Richard Harris. Soon hundreds of prospectors poured into the site that later became Alaska’s capital city, Juneau, named for the man who used his first summer's earnings to buy the votes of his fellow miners. In 1896, gold was discovered on the Klondike River in Canada’s Yukon Territory. Some 10,000 fortune seekers headed for the Klondike gold fields. Many of them hiked from Skagway across the treacherous Chilkoot Trail. In 1899, gold was found on the beaches near Nome. A city of tents sprang up overnight, and by 1900, 232 ships had arrived in Nome carrying nearly 18,000 prospectors. In 1902 Felix Pedro, an Italian immigrant, reported several significant gold strikes in the area near what is now Fairbanks. Some miners immediately came into the area, but the stampede did not take off until 1904. In the end, the Fairbanks mines had more annual production than either Juneau or Dawson in the Yukon.
Yellow StarSport: Dog mushing
Dog mushing was once a primary form of transportation in many areas of Alaska. Dog mushing races in Alaska, ranging from local club meets to world championships are held throughout the winter. The 1,049 mile Iditarod, which runs from Anchorage to Nome, is Alaska’s most famous sled dog race, but Fairbanks is the dog mushing capital of the world. Fairbanks is host of the Open North American Sled Dog Championships and the Yukon Quest held annually. The Fairbanks Junior Dog Mushers' Association hosts Junior versions of the North American races for the "younger" set. The Yukon Quest International also puts on a Junior Yukon Quest.

Dog Mushing Pic

(photo © 2000 Barbara Logan)
Dan Daigle and his dog team head out March 17, 2000, the first day of the
year 2000 Open North American Championships. They won 5th place overall.

Yellow StarTree: Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis)
Alaska State House Bill 325 approved February 28, 1962 reads:

"The Sitka spruce (picea sitchensis), which is recognized as the most
valuable tree species in Alaska and which is found in both national forests
of the state, is designated the official tree of the State of Alaska."

Tall, with straight trunk and a buttressed base, the Sitka spruce has a broad crown of horizontal branches that taper to a point at the top which allows the lower branches to have access to light. Sitka spruce may grow more than 90 meters tall, making them the world's largest spruce. Sitka spruce grows in the coastal fog belt from southern Alaska to northern California, growing a few miles from the coast and up river valleys. It is the dominant tree of the temperate rain forest valleys. Old growth forests are often dominated by Sitka spruce because of its long life span and its ability to resist and benefit from disturbance. Sitka spruce quickly occupies a space left by the death of a tree or by a moderate fire that does not devastate the canopy.

Young Sitka spruce are able to grow well in the shade of the forest canopy. However, Sitka spruce seedlings have a difficult time getting started on the forest floor. There is too much competition from the dense mosses and other plants which carpet the forest floor for the seedlings to develop. If Sitka spruce seeds land on a downed log, they have an open growing area to germinate and develop. These downed logs are called nurse logs and are a vital part of the regeneration of the forest. Most Sitka spruce in the forest start on nurse logs.

To identify the Sitka spruce look for the tree with the thin purplish bark which is broken into large loose scales. The needles of the Sitka spruce are flat and very sharply pointed. They are jointed at the base to woody pegs and arranged spirally around the twig. They are flattened and whitened in two bands on the upper surface, rounded and green on the lower surface, making the tree appear frosted. The cones which are 2 1/2 - 4 inches long have papery scales. Sitka spruce can reach heights of 300 feet and live up to 600 years.

Sitka spruce has one of the highest timber yields. They are fast growing, shade tolerant and regenerate well in disturbed areas. The fast growing ability of Sitka spruce contributes to its commercial value and they are farmed extensively in Alaska and British Columbia for their high grade lumber.

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This page was last updated 4 April 2006 © Barbara Logan
URL is http://freepages.family.rootsweb.com/~soakbear/facts.htm