For Sale: Awards of man who sold Alaska to U.S.

Tue May 24, 2011 2:27pm EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article
[-] Text [+]

LONDON (Reuters) - Awards from a grateful Czar heaped upon the diplomat who negotiated the deal for the United States to buy Alaska from Russia are to be sold in London at auction next month.

The purchase of what eventually became America's 49th State happened in 1867 following an all-night session of negotiation between U.S. Secretary of State William H. Seward and Edouard de Stoeckl, Russia's Minister to the United States.

America paid $7.2 million for what was originally called the District of Alaska, an area twice the size of Texas.

Critics called the purchase "Seward's Folly" and the land "Seward's Icebox," but the subsequent discovery of gold, copper and oil changed their tune.

Baron de Stoeckl's honors from a relieved Czar Alexander II, in financially difficult times, were considerable.

They are expected to raise a total of around 150,000 pounds ($241,700) in the June 10 sale by auctioneers Morton & Eden.

Edouard de Stoeckl was born in Constantinople and became a Russian diplomat, serving as Chargé d'Affaires in Washington following the death of the Ambassador Baron Alexander de Bodisco in 1854.

In 1857, he was named Minister Plenipotentiary to the United States and married an American girl, Eliza Howard.

The couple enjoyed a very active social life, with Eliza becoming the toast of the Imperial Court during a visit to Russia in 1860. Well-rewarded by Alexander II, both financially and with the honours in the sale, de Stoeckl retired to Paris with his family in 1869.

The most valuable of the awards for sale is expected to be the Order of the White Eagle set of insignia, a gold and enamel sash badge dated 1869, and a silver and enamel breast star.

(London newsroom: Editing by Paul Casciato)