The Alaska Adjustment of 1867 and the Samoa Adjustment of 1892

From about the 1740s the north-western regions of North America had been explored by Russian adventurers and Russian whalers and fur trappers who subsequently settled there observed both the Asian day reckoning as well as the Julian calendar upon which the liturgical calendar of the Eastern Orthodox Church was based. The neighbouring Canadians however observed both the American day reckoning and the Gregorian calendar and their time keeping therefore differed 12 days (13 days after 1800) with those of the Russians.

In 1867 Alaska was acquired in the Alaska Purchase by the United States from Russia for a sum of $7,200,000. The change to the American mode of time reckoning was put into effect by decreeing that Friday, 6 October, of the same year would be followed by Friday (sic), 18 October – a shift of 12 days due to the change to the Gregorian calendar, plus one day on account of the day change and minus one day for the relocation of the date line to the waters of the Bering Strait.

A similar adjustment of the date line occurred in 1892 when king Malietoa Laupepa of Samoa was persuaded by a major American business house trading in that region to adopt the American day reckoning instead of the Asian day reckoning. In a fine stroke of diplomatic flattery this was put into effect by ordaining that the 4th of July in that year would be celebrated twice.

Margaret Isabella (Balfour) Stevenson (1829-1897), the mother of the Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) who had settled in Samoa in 1890, described the occurrence of the ‘second 4th July, 1892’ as follows in her Letters from Samoa:

“Surely now I have been round the world, since at last I have done that to which I used to look forward, I have ‘gained a day.’ It seems that all this time we have been counting wrong, because in former days communication was entirely with Australia, and it was simpler and in every way more natural to follow the Australian calendar; but now that so many vessels come from San Francisco, the powers that be have decided to set this right, and to adopt the date that belongs to our actual geographical position. To this end, therefore, we are ordered to keep two Mondays in this week, which will get us straight.”

Return to the page top Return to home