Studies and Records
Published by the Norwegian-American Historical Association,
Copyright © 1940 by the Norwegian-American Historical Association
As the Association enters the second decade of its series of Norwegian-American Studies and Records, utilizing the momentum of its achievements of the first, it turns from the form of a pamphlet to that of a book, signalizing externally its goal of permanent values. An index to the first ten volumes is being compiled which will give emphasis, I hope, to the totality of the contributions made. The volumes, appearing from 1926 to 1938, contain more than fourscore articles and documents. If the series is impressive in sum total, it is not less so in the range of the interests that its many studies exhibit. They illustrate both the richness and variety of the Norwegian-American saga and its integration with the larger history of American life.
It is precisely such a union of range and integration that furnishes the key to the essays in this volume. Professors Paulson and Bjørk make a new contribution to Ibsen lore which illuminates the "cultural life of the transplanted Norwegian" and is not without interest for all students of American civilization in that epoch when not only sod huts but a "Doll's House" appeared on the American prairie. Mr. Evjen turns a searchlight upon a Lutheran college in the Lincoln country of the 1850's, where Scandinavian farm boys, under the ægis of the Synod of Northern Illinois, trod the uncertain path of higher education. Mr. Heg draws the portrait of a Norwegian-American surgeon who served in the Civil War with Colonel Heg and the soldiers of the "Fifteenth Wisconsin."
Dr. Swansen tells the story of a congregational library in an Iowa settlement and gives the reader a new understanding of the cultural importance of the church in a pioneer community. Mrs. Semmingsen sketches in broad strokes the Norwegian backgrounds of the mass movement of emigration during the second half of the nineteenth century. Dr. Qualey exhibits treasure-trove: a fund of "America letters" which enable him to follow a Norwegian traveler of curious and liberal mind to America in the middle 1870's and to share his observations of the American and Norwegian-American scene. Mr. Peterson takes the reader to Alaska where Norwegians played some part in introducing reindeer into the landscape and economic life of the Alaskan North.
By exploring "The Unknown Rølvaag," Dr. Bjørk brings the Association itself into the purview of American cultural history. The central interest of his essay lies, however, in the character and ideals of a great man. Rølvaag moves again in these pages as once he moved in this Association, exuberant, stirred by a vision of things to come, a worker who never shirked, a leader whose faith was a banner flying, a continuing dynamic force. Professor So]urn does a genuine service by describing the extent and variety of the sources that she and Professor Jorgenson used in their biography of Rølvaag. Finally, Mr. Hodnefield adds another installment to his series of bibliographical reports whose value, like that of the Studies and Records of which they are a part, gains with a comprehensiveness built up item by item and volume by volume.
Theodore C. Blegen
University of Minnesota