Mistakes happen. Hindsight, as we are all often reminded by those who have made a blunder or two, is 20/20.
1. The Alaska Purchase was a huge waste of money
In 1867 when the United States sealed the deal with Russia on the purchase of Alaska for roughly two cents an acre, it was viewed as a major mistake by the U.S. Congress. Some members sarcastically referred to Alaska as then-president Andrew Johnson’s “polar bear garden.”
Considering the times and how little was known about the area, it also wasn’t surprising that the purchase came under intense scrutiny from the press. Even after the U.S. officially took control of Alaska and offered American citizenship to the few Russians who were living there, almost all politely declined the offer and moved back to Russia instead.
Russia’s Emperor Alexander II had been trying for years to tempt the United States with the purchase of Alaska’s 375 million acres, in part to pay off some hefty debt his country had accumulated as a result of the Crimean War (fought between 1853-1856).
Russia’s minister to the United States, Baron Eduard de Stoeckl, was instructed to get the talks back on track again when the start of the American Civil War sidelined everything in 1861.
Although economist David Barker infamously made the argument the deal was a bust for the United States, others counter that with the millions of barrels of oil that Alaska has provided over the decades America definitely came out on top.