It's common knowledge that Alaska is the biggest U.S. state, but just how big is it? At 663,268 square miles (1,717,856 sq km), it's actually more than twice as big as Texas. Considered another way, it's bigger than the combined size of Texas, California and Montana, the next three states ranked by area.
In fact, if Alaska was its own country, it would be the 16th-largest in the world – bigger than places like Iran and Mongolia. So perhaps it's not entirely surprising that Alaska is more than 400 times bigger than Rhode Island, the smallest U.S. state, though Rhode Island actually has a larger population.
Everything's (much) bigger in Alaska:
- Alaska has 640 square miles (1,658 sq km) of land for every mile of paved road, compared to Texas, which has 20 square miles (52 sq km) of land for every mile of road. Only 20 percent of Alaska’s roads are paved.
- In 1725, Russian Czar Peter the Great saw the value of nearby Alaska, a mere 55 miles (89 km) away across the Bering Strait. Russian explorers and traders expanded into a land that was rich in natural resources. In 1867, however, Russia sold Alaska to the U.S. for $7.2 million USD (roughly equivalent to $133 million in today's dollars).
- Skeptics labeled the purchase of Alaska “Seward’s Folly,” after then-Secretary of State William Seward, who was vindicated after a major gold deposit was discovered in the Yukon in 1896. Alaska became the 49th state on January 3, 1959.