As Alaska’s population grew to 63,592 in 1900, the federal government sought to encourage agriculture. As early as 1897, the U.S. Department of Agriculture had sent three agents to various regions in Alaska to examine their suitability for agriculture. Acting on the agents’ recommendations, the department established several agricultural experiment stations, first at Sitka in 1898, then at Kenai, Kodiak, Rampart, Copper Center, Fairbanks, and finally Matanuska in 1917.
Alaska also needed a transportation system, but road building did not begin until passage of the Nelson Act and the creation of the Board of Road Commissioners in 1905. The Nelson Act created the Alaska Fund, decreeing that 70 percent of all money collected from license fees outside of incorporated towns was to be used for road building. Another 25 percent went for education, and the remaining 5 percent for care of the insane.
Since the Nelson Fund did not accumulate enough money, Congress annually appropriated additional road construction funds. By 1920 the Alaska Road Commission, as the board came to be called, had built 7,870 km (4,890 mi) of roads and trails.
The United States elected Democrat Woodrow Wilson as president in 1912. He promised to give Alaska’s problems the utmost consideration. Among other items, he recommended that Congress aid in unlocking Alaska’s resources by constructing a railroad.
Congress authorized the construction of the Alaska Railroad in 1914 and appropriated $35 million; construction began in 1915. The line was to run from Seward to Fairbanks. The project was finished in 1923 at a cost of about $65 million. Anchorage, now Alaska’s largest city, owes its origin to the railroad. It began as construction headquarters for the Alaska Engineering Commission in charge of railroad construction. The commission built Anchorage, installing water, electrical, sewage, and telephone facilities. It put in streets and provided firefighting services as well as a hospital and a school for children of its employees. The railroad construction brought an economic boom, employing more than 2,000 workers in 1914 and rising to a high of 4,500."USA" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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