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  • Alaska's entry into U.S. history and U.S. politics began with its purchase from Tsarist Russia in 1867. But even earlier Americans gained a foothold in Alaska. After 1807 the Russian-American Company, led by Alexander Baranov and engaged in fur trade, was dependent on U.S. hunters and traders, because the Russians had few personnel. The search for gold and other ores soon attracted U.S. entrepreneurs interested in exploring this untamed region in the far Northwest. In 1812 John Jacob Astor, chief of the American Fur Company of Astoria, Oregon, demanded access to fur resources with equal rights. Both companies agreed to avoid rivalry. In May 1812, a bilateral agreement defined a division of territorial spheres along the fifty-fifth north latitude: North of the line was the ...

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