Why was the purchase of Alaska called "Seward's Folly"?

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The purchase of Alaska was called Seward's Folly because it was considered to have been a mistake. The U.S. Secretary of State at the time, William H. Seward, arranged the deal for the United States to purchase Alaska from Russia. The sale was conducted for only $7 million dollars. Russia was eager to sell the land, as it was largely undeveloped and did not seem to hold much value. Additionally, Alaska was very far from Western Russia where the majority of the Russian population resided.

While many considered the purchase of Alaska to be a mistake, and the purchase of Alaska was barely approved by the U.S. Senate, it turned out to hold great value. The discovery of gold in Alaska was the first sign of its actual value. The later discovery of oil in Alaska further established the true value of "Seward's Folly."

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This was called Seward's Folly because there seemed to be no good reason to buy Alaska.

William Seward was the Secretary of State of the United States at the time of the purchase (1867).  This means that he was the one who negotiated the treaty.  It is for this reason that it was called "Seward's."  The treaty was called "Folly" because some people believed it to be a very bad deal for the US.  They felt that Seward had paid Russia millions of dollars for a huge chunk of frozen and worthless land.  For that reason, they felt it was foolish and called it a "folly."

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