Alaska and Hawaii - 50 Years of Statehood


In 1959 Alaska and Hawaii became the last two states to join the USA. They are the only ones not connected to the other 48 states. Although they are very different they were both important in the 2008 presidential elections. Hawaii is the birthplace of President Barack Obama and Alaska is the home of the Republican candidate for Vice President, Sarah Palin.

Alaska is the biggest American state, but only 700,000 people live there. It is a land of thousands of lakes, rivers and glaciers. Seventeen of the tallest mountains of the US are situated in Alaska, including Mount McKinley, which is 6,200 high.

Alaska is part of the Pacific "Ring of Fire". It has over 70 volcanoes and every year thousands of earthquakes are reported in the state.

In 1867 the United States bought Alaska from Russia for 7 million dollars. At that time many Americans were against this but as it turned out Alaska was a great investment. The state has a lot of mineral resources and is the biggest oil-producing state in the US.

In the 1890s gold was found in the Yukon area of Canada. Thousands of gold seekers travelled there and many of them decided to stay in nearby Alaska. They earned their money as miners, trappers or store owners.

In 1912 Alaska became an American territory. Although the people who lived there wanted their own state many other Americans thought that it was too far away and that the inhabitants were not real Americans.



After the Second World War, Alaskans started working towards statehood again. Finally, on January 3, 1959 President Eisenhower declared Alaska the 49th state of the union.

Today, Alaska's economy is based on the oil industry. Oil and gas were found in the Prudhoe Bay region in 1968. The construction of the Alaska Pipeline was finished in 1977 and oil started to flow through Canada to the other 48 states.

In March 1989, Alaska suffered one of the biggest environmental disasters in history. The Exxon Valdez, a huge tanker ship, created a big oil spill along the Alaskan coast. Today many environmental groups are fighting to protect wildlife and nature in the area. Economists say, on the other hand, that the country needs Alaska's oil more than ever before.

Tourism is the second important industry in the state. It brings about a billion dollars to the state economy. Almost 10% of the population are employed in tourism.

Experts are uncertain about Alaska's future. Oil prices have been going down and because of the recession people are not travelling as much as they did before.



Travel and tourism is even more important in Hawaii. The tropical weather and sandy beaches attract tourists from all over the globe.

About 1.3 million people live on four of the eight major islands. The Hawaiian Islands were formed millions of years ago, as hot magma from undersea volcanoes pushed up through the ocean's surface. Visitors can still see volcanic activity on Hawaii. On the Big Island, named Hawaii, red hot lava has been coming out of the Kilauea volcano since the 1980s.

The first inhabitants came to the islands from Polynesia about 2000 years ago. When the British explorer James Cook discovered the islands he was treated as a god, but the natives killed him in 1779.

Hawaii became an American territory in 1900. Three years before, The US installed a naval base at Pearl Harbour. It served as the command base for the American operations during World War II.

In August 1959 Hawaii became the 50th state of the USA. Today, Hawaiians are thinking more about their future. Simple being a "sand, surf and sun" state is not enough. Goals for the future include strengthening the economy, building more houses and homes as well as creating better transportation between the islands and preserving the natural beauty of the islands.




Related Topics



  • although = obwohl
  • attract =pull towards you = anziehen
  • billion = a thousand million
  • birthplace = the place where someone was born
  • candidate = someone who is taking part in an election
  • connected = linked
  • create = make, cause
  • declare = to say officially
  • discover = to find for the first time
  • earthquake= a sudden movement of the earth that often causes destruction and a lot of damage
  • economists = people who are experts on the economy
  • economy = the system of producing and making money = Wirtschaft
  • employ = to work for someone
  • environment = the world around us
  • explorer = someone who travels to an unknown area and tries to find out things about it
  • flow = when oil or gas moves through a pipeline = fließen
  • glacier = a large mass of ice that moves down a mountain valley
  • globe = world
  • goal = aim, target
  • gold seeker = a person who searches for gold
  • inhabitants = people who live in a place
  • install = set up
  • investment= here: to spend money on something that brings you a lot more later on
  • join = to become a member
  • magma = hot melted rock that comes up from the inside of the Earth
  • major = main, important
  • miner = someone who works to get gold or other minerals out of the Earth
  • mineral resources = raw materials, like oil, gas or gold
  • naval base = place where ships are kept and the military operations are done
  • Polynesia = the islands in the central and southern Pacific Ocean
  • preserve = keep
  • recession = the bad economic situation
  • serve as = to have the job, task
  • situated = located
  • spill = Ölteppich
  • statehood = to officially become a state
  • suffer = go though, experience
  • surface = Oberfläche
  • territory = land that is owned by a country
  • trapper = someone who hunts wild animals, especially for their fur
  • uncertain = not sure about
  • union = here: the United States of America