Signing of the Alaska Treaty, 1868
Oil on canvas
On loan from the Seward House Museum, New York.
Emanuel Leutze, Signing of the Alaska Treaty
Oil on canvas, on loan from the Seward House Museum, New York.
At the end of his life, William Henry Seward was asked which of his public acts would live longest in the memory of the American people. Seward’s answer was the purchase of Alaska, but he recognized that it would take another generation to find it out.
The historic home of William H. Seward is now a museum in New York. The collection includes gifts that Seward received during his 1869 Alaska visit, including a kayak, slat armor, carvings and a scrapbook of pressed Alaska flowers and plants. Seward also brought back a bald eagle that lived in his Auburn house garden for a few years as well as an “Alaska dog.”
Seward had served as governor of New York for eight years, a U.S. Senator from New York for 12 years, and the Secretary of State under President Lincoln. An ardent expansionist and fervent proponent of Manifest Destiny, Seward believed, “Our population is destined to roll its resistless waves to the icy barriers of the North.”
This original oil painting by Emanuel Leutze is one of two copies made in 1934. One hangs in the Department of the Interior Treaty Room in Washington, D.C. The image shows Russian and American diplomats as they sign the Treaty of Cession, whereby the United States bought Alaska from the Russian Empire, Washington, DC, March 30, 1867.
Illustrated are (left to right): American diplomat Robert Smith Chew (1811 - 1873); American Secretary of State William Henry Seward (1801 - 1872); American diplomat William Hunter Jr. (1805 - 1886); secretary of the Russian mission Waldemar de Bodisco (d. 1878); Russian ambassador Eduard de Stoeckl (1804 - 1892); American senator Charles Sumner (1811 - 1874); American Assistant Secretary of State and son of the Secretary of State, Frederick William Seward (1835 - 1915).