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Alaskans Reveled in 1958 Statehood Act

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Unidentified Announcer: Alaska celebrates the long-awaited grant of statehood with enthusiasm worthy of Gold-Rush days. There isn't a dogsled in sight…

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Fifty years ago today, Alaskans rejoiced when they heard the news that they were one step closer to becoming the 49th state. On this day in 1958, the U.S. Senate passed the Statehood Act. Though it wouldn't be until January, 1959, that President Eisenhower made it official by signing the bill, Alaskans began celebrating immediately.

News coverage on June 30th, 50 years ago, shows the federal building in Anchorage draped in a large American flag and a woman climbing up the ladder of a fire truck to pin on a 49th star.

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Unidentified Announcer: They're already wondering where to put the new star. For the purposes of celebration, it's a glittering, king-sized star that dominates the field.

MONTAGNE: Excited Alaskans lit bonfires, and near Fairbanks, even dyed the Chena River gold, harkening back to Alaska's Gold-Rush days.

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Unidentified Announcer: Once Russian America, then Seward's Folly, now becoming the newest state in the union, Alaska stands on the threshold of a dynamic new era.

MONTAGNE: It would take 92 years from when the U.S. bought the territory from Russia for Alaska to officially gain its star on the American flag. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.