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Statehood for Alaska #395: Lester C. Hunt Papers

As a territory in the 1940s, Alaska had a land mass of more than five hundred thousand square miles. The region played an important role in World War II and the Japanese even invaded the Aleutian Islands off the coast of Alaska in 1942. But the people of Alaska lacked representation in the U.S. government.

They launched a concerted effort towards statehood, pointing out that the territory was instrumental in deterring Soviet aggression across the Bering Strait. Bills proposing statehood were repeatedly introduced, often passing in the House but failing in the Senate.

Alaskans went so far as to elect two Senators and a Representative which they dispatched to Washington D.C. to argue their case. But lobbyists from the canned salmon industry and political schemes in Washington denied the pleas for statehood.

Finally, in 1959, the political objections were overcome and Alaska became the 49th U.S. state.

Read the Lester C. Hunt papers at UW’s American Heritage Center to learn more about the efforts to grant Alaska statehood.

For more information, visit the American Heritage Center site.