Alaska and Hawaii Join the United States
Alaska and Hawaii became States of the United States of America in 1959. That put the number of states at 50. They are the only states not connected to other states.
Alaska has thousands of lakes, glaciers and rivers. It is the biggest state in size, but only 700,000 people live there. Mount McKinley and 16 other mountains in Alaska are the tallest mountains in America. Many earthquakes occur every year. Because Alaska is a part of the Ring of Fire, there are many volcanoes.
The Ring of Fire is a horseshoe-shaped line which surrounds the Pacific Ocean on three sides, along the top and two sides. It begins at the western tip of South America. It travels up the west coast of the United States and on into Alaska. Then it crosses over to Asia and travels down through lands on the western side of the Pacific Ocean. Along this line is a series of trenches, and volcanic plates.
In 1867, the United States bought Alaska from Russia. Americans thought that paying seven million dollars for a piece of land far away from the United States was foolish. However, Alaska has many minerals and is the biggest oil-producing state. It became a wise choice for the government.
In the 1890's, gold was discovered in the Yukon area of Canada east of Alaska. After the mines disappeared, many people moved west to Alaska. In 1912, Alaska became a U. S. territory even though the residents wanted to become a state. After WWII, the Alaskans pushed for statehood again. It became the 49th state on January 3, 1959.
The main resource in Alaska is oil. In 1977, the Alaska pipeline was finished. It brings oil from Alaska through Canada and down through the 'lower 48' states. Tourism is also a big industry. About ten percent of all residents are employed in the tourism industry.
Hawaii, or the Hawaiian Islands, became a U. S. Possession in 1898. This happened because of the pressure of the sugar plantation owners in Hawaii. They wanted to be exempt from paying taxes on their exports. Also, they did not want to be taken over by the new monarchy in Hawaii. Many in the United States thought we were not right in annexing Hawaii. They feared that with the right to vote, one ethnic group might gain power over other. Chinese, Japanese, Caucasians, Portuguese and Polynesians lived together in Hawaii. They had come to Hawaii years before in search of jobs.
Hawaii is the only state made up of islands. These islands are the tops of volcanoes. Its earliest inhabitants arrived about 1,000 years ago. In 1778, a British explorer, Captain James Cook, named the islands the Sandwich Islands after the Earl of Sandwich, a man who had funded his exploration. The United States operated a naval base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. When this base was bombed by the Japanese in WWII, the United States declared war on Japan.
The people of Hawaii had asked for statehood during the first half of the twentieth century. Ninety per cent of its citizens were American. Many Caucasians had been born in Hawaii. Concerns were raised about the long distance from the continental U.S. It is 2,000 miles from the west coast of the United States. During the early period of the Civil Rights Movement, lobbying convinced member s of Congress that it was a good time to make Hawaii a state. Its population was very diverse. Hawaii became the 50th state in August 1959.
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