Today in 1867, Secretary of State William Seward agreed to a deal where the US would spend 7.2 million dollars to acquire the land now known as Alaska.
A lot of people ridiculed the Alaska purchase.
They called the land “Seward’s Folly” and joked that maybe he was just trying to find a place for then-president Andrew Johnson to stash some polar bears.
Of course, today Alaska is one of the 50 United States, one that in some ways is like no other state.
It’s the only state with territory in the Arctic Circle, for example.
And it’s the only state that has a Gold Rush-era town that they meant to name for one bird and named for a different one instead.
This is the story of Chicken, Alaska, officially a census-designated area in eastern Alaska, not far from the border with Canada’s Yukon.
In the 19th century miners came to the area because they’d heard gold was plentiful there.
The thing that wasn’t necessarily plentiful: food.
Even today this is a pretty remote area, and back then there definitely wasn’t much in the way of stores or restaurants.
The miners relied on ptarmigan, which the state Department of Fish and Game calls a “stout, sociable bird.”
When enough people had come to the area, there was talk that they might as well start a town.
The story goes that they originally wanted to call their town Ptarmigan, but they either couldn’t agree on the right way to spell the name, or they thought too many people outside the town would have trouble with the unusual spelling.
So, it’s said, they decided, why not just pick a different bird’s name?
And the town of Chicken, Alaska, was born.
Which is just as well, because not only are visitors able to enjoy the beautiful scenery and Gold Rush-era tourist attractions, there’s also an annual music festival there each June.
It’s called Chickenstock.
Bookofjoe just recommended an unusual website called Just the Punctuation.
As the name suggests, you can type in any kind of text you want.
When you’re done, it’ll remove all the letters while leaving the periods, commas, question marks and so forth in place.
And at that point the screen definitely looks like one of those old computer program punch cards.
Chicken (Travel Alaska)
Got commas? (Bookofjoe)