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Frank H. Waskey (right) with Senator Ernest Gruening of Alaska, photograph, 1959

After allowing Alaska territorial status with the Second Organic Act of 1912, Congress granted it statehood in 1959. Ernest Gruening and Robert Bartlett first represented the state in the U.S. Senate. At a statehood celebration, Gruening honored 84-year-old Frank H. Waskey, for his service as Alaska’s first delegate to the House of Representatives more than a half-century earlier.

Alaska State Library, ASL-Waskey-1

Frank H. Waskey (right) with Senator Ernest Gruening of Alaska, photograph, 1959

Alaskan Delegates to Congress

Congress narrowly approved the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867. It largely ignored the region until 1884, when it passed an Organic Act defining Alaska as a federal district with fewer privileges than a territory. When gold was discovered there in 1898, Alaska’s population swelled, and its residents pressed for territorial status and congressional representation. Congress responded in 1906 by authorizing the election of a nonvoting Alaskan delegate to the House of Representatives. Congress granted Alaska territorial status in 1912 and statehood in 1959.

My efforts and my wishes, and I might say the wishes of the people of Alaska, are for a Territorial legislature.

Delegate Thomas Cale of Alaska, Territorial Government for Alaska, U.S. Congress, 1908