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STUDIES
Volume XXXII

Norwegian-American Studies

Volume 32

1989

The Norwegian-American Historical Association
NORTHFIELD, MINNESOTA

Copyright © 1989 by the
NORWEGIAN-AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION
ISBN 0-87732-076-4

In Memory of Carlton C. Qualey

Preface

The present volume of Studies, the thirty-second in the series, again makes apparent the need to pursue the story of immigration on both sides of the Atlantic. Immigration was a two-sided phenomenon that involved circumstances in the old as well as in the new society. The forces that sent people overseas to begin life anew in America are the subject of discussion in the article by Aage Engesæter. He considers the early and extensive emigration from the district of Sogn on Norway’s west coast and questions traditional causal explanations relating to population increase and the resulting strain on limited resources, but leaves the question open for further research and scholarly debate. B. Lindsay Lowell reviews sociological theories of migration and tests the accuracy of the different hypotheses with statistical methodology, citing several local Norwegian studies of the movement to America.

Information spread through personal correspondence influenced mobility, as has been evidenced in studies of immigrant letters from America; letters sent in the opposite direction simultaneously affected immigrant perception of the homeland. For the first time, the series offers examples of the latter. They are communications from the district of Telemark to immigrants in the Midwest - or “Norway letters,” as these exhibits may well be designated - collected and translated by Øyvind T. Gulliksen. They represent a largely untapped historical source which few students of immigration have hitherto considered. Letters exchanged, circulated, or printed in Norwegian-language newspapers in America have fared only slightly better, though their role in encouraging the westward movement of Norwegian settlers has long been recognized. Both types await the interested scholar for a more thorough treatment. The twelve Civil War letters from Col. Hans Christian Heg to his son, edited by E. Biddle Heg, reveal the value of such documents to the social historian; furthermore, the letters at hand give an intimate and touching glimpse of this Norwegian-American war hero within the family circle. Researchers have not nearly exhausted the potential of the better known “America letters” in the study of emigration and the image of America they created in Norway. J.R. Christianson introduces a letter written in the 1850s from the Eldorado settlement in northeastern Iowa, whose very name conveyed a favorable impression.

The lead essay, based on ethnographic field work by Robert A. Ibarra and Arnold Strickon, is an incisive analysis of farm production strategy in Norwegian farming communities in southwestern Wisconsin. The authors demonstrate how a combination of tobacco cultivation and dairying represented a logical production plan that also reflected ethnic values connected with Norwegian-American rural culture.

Norwegian values are likewise at the base of the interpretive illustrated article on the Jacobson farmstead by Steven L. Johnson and Marion J. Nelson. The farmstead, which was donated to Vesterheim, the Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah, Iowa, by the Jacobson family, is located seven miles southeast of Decorah. As the family grew, it was physically modified to satisfy changing needs and is thus typical of general developments, as is much of the family life depicted, with its tensions and conflicting influences. Reidar Bakken details the mixture of Norwegian and American features in two immigrant log houses built in the pioneer era in the Midwest, both of which have been moved to the grounds of the Norwegian Emigrant Museum at Hamar, Norway. Pictorial evidence and scale drawings illustrate how familiar building techniques were altered in the American environment.

The article by Janet E. Rasmussen deals with the intriguing issue of choosing a mate by Scandinavian women and the part played by ethnic loyalty in their selection. To a high degree the women interviewed for this study preferred Scandinavian husbands even though life in America brought about marked changes in attitude and courting behavior. Gracia Grindal, focusing on a drawing, enters the world of pastors’ wives in the Norwegian Synod with its aristocratic traditions during the early period in its history and shows the blend of Norwegian and American household practices that prevailed.

Einar Haugen relates the plot and places in context Ole F. Rølvaag’s apprentice work titled “Nils og Astri,” a novel which has received little notice in considerations of Rølvaag’s growth as a literary artist. Paul Benson directs the reader’s attention to another neglected area: the emergence and flourishing of a cappella choirs of high merit and reputation at Lutheran colleges founded by Scandinavian immigrants.

Rolf H. Erickson, assisted for Norwegian titles by Johanna Barstad, lists recent publications of both general and specialized interest. Charlotte Jacobson contributes yet another installment of archival acquisitions; the potential obviously exists for an even greater effort in securing documentation of the Norwegian-American experience.

This volume is fittingly dedicated to the memory of Carlton C. Qualey, who as a young scholar collected valuable materials for the Association’s archives, and who at the time of his death at age eighty-three in March, 1988, had served on its publications board for fifty-five years. By precept and by friendly advice and constructive criticism he encouraged high professional standards in the Association’s program.

C.A. Clausen translated the two articles originally written in Norwegian; the Association thereby, as on many past occasions during Clausen’s long service, again benefits from his skill as a translator, knowledge of the subject matter, and dedication to its mission. It is a privilege to acknowledge with much personal gratitude the work of my untiring and competent editorial assistant, Mary R. Hove; her assistance in preparing volume thirty-two for publication greatly eased the editorial burden and as in earlier volumes substantially enhanced its quality.

Odd S. Lovoll
St. Olaf College

 

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