Flags of the United States: Twenty-Sixth U.S. Flag,
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Flags of the United States: Twenty-Sixth U.S. Flag,


By Jon R. Warren

On January 3, 1959, alaska became the first new state in nearly a half-century to be admitted to the Union. In July 1959 the forty-nine star flag was raised at Fort McHenry, Maryland, with elaborate ceremony, including a reenactment of the British bombardment of 1814. Following another flag-raising ceremony at Juneau, Alaska's capital, a balloon carrying the new flag was released into the air, as shown by the illustration.

When Alaska was acquired from the Russian Empire in 1867 by Secretary of State William H. Seward the purchase was widely ridiculated in the United States. The new territory was called "Seward's Foly," or "Seward's Icebox." However, the development of a salmon-canning industry at Sitka and Klaweck was an indication of Alaska's future value. And the discovery of gold in the Gastineau Channel area two years later, in 1880, silenced Seward's critics.

From the mining towns of Juneau, Douglas and Treadwell, the prospectors fanned out over the immense Yukon area. Gold was found at Forty Mile in 1886. The Birch Creek deposits were discovered in 1892. In 1896, on the Canadian side of the border, the Klondike lode was struck and thousands of prospectors headed into Canada and Alaska. Mines were started in Mome in 1899 and Fairbanks in 1902. In the process of the search for gold, the border between Alaska and Canada was fixed. In 1912 an Act of Congress created a territorial legislature for Alaska. 

By the 1950s there was strong feeling on the part of the alaskans against what they regarded as "second-class citizenship." in 1958 a statehood Enabling Act was passed, and the Alaskan voters approved the act by a margin of more than five to one. statehood was proclaimed on January 3, 1959.

With the admission of Alaska, the territory of Hawaii also presed for statehood, and Alaska was not the newest state in the union for long. Less than two months after the forty-nine star flag was raised, Hawaii was admitted as the fiftieth state on August 21, 1959.

During the year in which the forty-nine star flew, a recession caused by the erratic performance of a post-war expanding economy was in progress. American foreign policy hammered out in the aftermath of the Second World War, began to falter in the late 1950s. the nation's black citizens increasingly spoke forth to gain the equal rights guaranteed them by the constitution. These three issues-economy, foreign policy, and civil rights-were to dominate the national scene in the coming decade. 

The forty-nine star flag came down July 3, 1960, in the midst of a Presidential election year.

This article has been read 4077 times. Last read on 1/16/2021 1:24:32 PM

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