Seward's Folly

Definition of Seward's Folly
Definition: Seward's Folly is also known as "Seward's Icebox" was the derisive nickname given to the Purchase of Alaska in 1867.  It was called Seward's Folly because the United States Secretary of State, William Seward, purchased Alaska from Russia for $7.2 million which was considered to be a massive mistake by many Americans.

Seward's Folly for kids
Andrew Johnson was the 17th American President who served in office from April 15, 1865 to March 4, 1869. One of the important events during his presidency was the purchase of Alaska which was initially called "Seward's Folly".


Seward's Folly Cartoon by Thomas Nast

Seward's Icebox Cartoon - Seward's Folly

The Seward's Folly Cartoon: Thomas Nast
The Seward's Folly Cartoon illustrates a satirical view of the purchase of Alaska. The Seward's Folly cartoon is by the famous cartoonist Thomas Nast who worked for Harpers Weekly, which was the most popular illustrated newspaper of the 1800's. (Thomas Nast is best remembered for his imaginative illustrations of Santa Claus). The Seward's Folly Cartoon provides an insight of the public opinion of the purchase of Alaska and why it was referred to as Seward's Folly.

Description of the Seward's Folly Cartoon
In the Seward's Folly Cartoon the dominant cartoon figure is a depiction of William Seward (cabinet member and Secretary of State) as a mother patting the head of her child. The 'child' is a cartoon representation of a small President Andrew Johnson ("Andy"), dressed as Uncle Sam. William Seward is depicted soothing President Andrew Jackson with "Russian Salve" to calm him from all the problems he was experiencing with Congress. The map is entitled "Map of the Russian Fairyland - Only $7,000,000 in Gold". Images on the Map of Alaska represent the hostile, snow covered landscape with seals and polar bears looking on. The picture on the wall depicts an Aleut family with the sub-heading "One of the Advantage" a sarcastic reference to the hostile reception the natives of Alaska had given to the Russians.

Seward's Folly:  Seward's Icebox Cartoon
Seward's Folly was also referred to as 'Seward's Icebox and the cartoon on your left depicts a 'different take' on Seward's Folly featuring a giant iceberg (called Russian American) being pushed and pulled along by William Seward and President Johnson being supported and moved by the wheelbarrow entitled 'Treaty' which refers to the Treaty of Russia and the booty of 7,000,000 fading away with the Russian Tsar.

Why was the Seward's Folly known as Seward's Folly?
Why was the Seward's Folly known as Seward's Folly? Seward's Folly is named for William H. Seward who was the Secretary of State under Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson. William Seward was a fervent believed in territorial expansion and the Manifest Destiny of the United States. The word folly means the result of a senseless action or enterprise.
The purchase of Alaska, negotiated by William Seward, on behalf of the United States with the Russian minister on behalf of Russia, was sarcastically and derisively known as Seward's Folly because so many Americans of the time thought the price of the territory was far too high - and there was nothing to gain except a hostile environment, hostile natives and limited resources.

Seward's Folly History for kids
The famous transaction called "Seward's Folly was initiated by William H. Seward, with the approval of President Johnson and agreed by the Treaty with Russia negotiated with the Russian Minister to the United States, Edouard de Stoeckl. The Treaty of Russia, signed on March 30, 1867, agreed the purchase of Russia's American territories for $7,200,000. The territories were called Alaska, and consisted of the enormous tract of land in the extreme Northwest of the continent of North America. The Treaty of Russia took the Senate by surprise as the negotiations were conducted in secret. The territory was named 'Alaska' as a derivation of an Aleut name which the Russians had called Alyaska. For detailed facts and information about the Purchase of Alaska

Facts about the Seward's Folly for kids
Interesting facts about the Seward's Folly are detailed below. The history of the Seward's Folly is told in a factual timeline sequence consisting of a series of interesting, short facts providing a simple method of relating the
history of the Seward's Folly for kids, schools and homework projects.

Seward's Folly Fact Sheet for kids

Seward's Folly Fact 1: William Seward firmly believed in the expansion of US territories and the purchase of Alaska increased the size of the United States by 20%

Seward's Folly Fact 2: He also believed in the Manifest Destiny of the United States which was based on the conviction  that the occupation the North American continent, was a divine right of the American people.

Seward's Folly Fact 3: He was regarded as a firm supporter of President Andrew Johnson and as such enrage the radical Republicans in Congress

Seward's Folly Fact 4: The Alaskan territory covered 586,412 square miles and at the purchase price of 7,200,000 worked out at about two cents per acre

Seward's Folly Fact 5: So many Americans opposed the purchase of Alaska because although only a few people were likely to move to the inhospitable territory, all citizens were taxed to obtain the purchase price

Seward's Folly Fact 6: Other criticism for the purchase of Alaska was because the government had to borrow the money to finance the transaction despite the fact that the nation was heavily in debt due to the expenses incurred during the Civil War

Seward's Folly Fact 7: Many were surprised that the Secretary of State obtained approval from Congress for the Treaty of Russia and the purchase of Alaska which led to speculation that bribery was involved to gain agreement 

Seward's Folly Fact 8: Seward and Johnson believed that if the United States had not purchased Alaska, it would probably have been taken by Great Britain and made a part of Canada.

Seward's Folly Fact 9: William Seward was finally vindicated for his decision to purchase Alaska when a Important gold deposit was discovered in the Yukon which led to the 1896 Klondike gold rush

Seward's Folly Fact 10: In addition to gold Alaska was also rich in oil, fish, timber and many other goods which far exceeded the purchase price of Alaska. In hindsight Seward's Folly should have been called Seward's Fortune!

Seward's Folly Fact Sheet for kids

Seward's Folly - President Andrew Johnson Video
The article on the Seward's Folly provides an overview of one of the Important events during his presidential term in office. The following Andrew Johnson video will give you additional important facts and dates about the political events experienced by the 17th American President whose presidency spanned from April 15, 1865 to March 4, 1869.

Seward's Folly

● Interesting Facts about the Alaska Purchase for kids and schools
● Key events and history of the William H. Seward  for kids
● Seward's Folly, a Important event in US history
● Andrew Johnson Presidency from April 15, 1865 to March 4, 1869
● Fast, fun facts about Seward's Folly
● Foreign & Domestic policies of President Andrew Johnson
● Andrew Johnson Presidency and Seward's Folly for schools, homework, kids and children

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