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Concerning Emigration*
    by John A. Johnson translated by C. A. Clausen (Volume 33: Page 205)

*Billed-Magazin, January 23, 30, February 6, 13, March 13, 20, 1869. Johnson, who became a prominent industrialist, signed these articles with his original name, J. A. Johnsen Skibsnæs. See Agnes M. Larson, John A. Johnson: An Uncommon American (Northfield, Minnesota, 1969).


Emigration is a question which at present especially occupies men’s minds both in the old world and the new. When I learned that many of Billed-Magazin’s subscribers send it home to relatives and friends in Norway I concluded that a brief discussion concerning conditions in this country would be well received by the readers - particularly by those who send the magazine to acquaintances in the homeland where all information about far-off America is read with great interest. And now, with the new postal rate, it is possible to send a batch of papers weighing four ounces (eight lod) to any place in Norway for eleven cents. As a result of this cheap postal rate, Norwegian-American newspapers will presumably, in the future, find their way across the ocean much more frequently than has been the case in the past.


What shall I do? Shall I go to America? Is it true that over there people are not plagued by the agonizing question of how to make a living? Can I believe those who tell me that in America hard work and frugality will unfailingly lead to wealth and economic independence? Thus the Norwegian day laborer often ponders when, with a sorrow-laden mind, he realizes that the only reward for all his sweat and toil is a miserable subsistence, void of any prospects for better days. Thus queries the destitute, still robust laborer when he considers his desperate situation. He dreads approaching old age and often sees no other solution than the humiliation of poor-relief, unless a merciful death puts an end to his existence while he still enjoys the gift of good health and the undiminished strength of an able body. The same questions haunt the family breadwinner who considers the future of his children. Memories of a past life full of woe and want fill his thoughts with concern for the future of those dependent on him. He knows that they, like him, must take up the struggle for existence and, matured in the school of experience, he lets his thoughts roam abroad to see if he might possibly discover some place in this wide world which offers better prospects for happiness and wellbeing than does the same spot where he first saw the light of day and his children were cradled as well. Servants are now beginning to ask whether there might not be a country where toil is better rewarded than in Norway - whether in America, even in a servant’s humble position, they may have hopes of better days and a happier future than in the homeland. A humble form of existence and wages which barely suffice to provide the most modest demands for clothing - this is the whole reward which a Norwegian servant garners from all his labors; and the future seldom offers him any other prospect than entry into the cotter’s or the day laborer’s unenviable form of life.


But who can give a reliable account of life in America? It has been said that the most sincere and honest friend cannot be believed, not even brothers or sisters, when discussion involves the United States. The Norwegian newspapers look upon all those who emigrate as merely duped fools, while in no uncertain terms they imply that Norwegian laborers have themselves to blame for their depressed condition. America is pictured as the land of seduction, an immoral Sodom; and those who dare raise their voices against manifest lies are well-nigh put in a class with traitors. Because of confused patriotism, many otherwise decent men rave against emigration, which, in their blindness, they believe to be a misfortune for the country; and without any show of mercy they pass the most damning judgment over anyone whom they suspect of furthering emigration by giving information about the true state of affairs on the other side of the Atlantic.


In order to check the flow of emigration, the Norwegian government has evidently not resorted to such sordid means as several of the small German states adopted in earlier days: that is, with the aid of hired shysters to spread warped accounts about conditions and circumstances in America. But there are other obliging spirits who believe themselves ordained to curb emigration, and like fanatics in general they are immune to all rationality; their zeal grows in proportion to the proofs of the indefensibility of the arguments on which they base their contentions. Now and then they are joined by some ne’er-do-well whose hopes of living at other people’s expense were wrecked in America. Our fanatics are, of course, past masters at exploiting such gold mines to buttress their own biased judgments about life and conditions in the New World.


It is by no means my intention, with the present articles, to promote emigration. My purpose is purely and simply to give a true picture of America as a possible place of residence for Norwegians; and if someone should ask: “Shall I leave my native land in order to seek a new home beyond the Atlantic?” then I will merely answer: “Do as you may deem best.” I can only promise to give such guidance as emigrants and newcomers need; and the accounts I render shall be transfused with the spirit of truth. If they can be of some service to my fellow countrymen, then my aim has been achieved.


There is still another question which must be answered before I take up for discussion the main points to be considered. We often hear that opinions about America vary even among people who have lived in this country a long time. Reliable men express divergent views concerning the nation itself and the real essence of its social life. How can this be possible without violence being done to truth? The right answer is not difficult to find. In the first place, different people can interpret or understand one and the same thing in highly divergent ways. In the second place, we must bear in mind that America covers a vast expanse, so that an account which may fit one particular place cannot, without making an exception to the rule, be applied to districts with quite different natural conditions and opportunities for achieving success and well-being. Furthermore, it is a well-known fact that the judgments of newcomers generally differ widely from the opinions of their countrymen who migrated earlier. While the former, during their first year abroad, often sadly yearn for Old Norway and cannot adjust to life in the New World, you will scarcely find one out of a hundred of the old settlers who does not bless the day when he resolved to leave for America. But the newcomer’s despondency also disappears as he gradually becomes familiar with the customs and traditions of the Americans, masters the language, and comes to realize that America has bread sufficient for all who are willing and able to work.


Work is the foundation of society. From this fountain flow the wealth and general prosperity of the country. Work is honored and the person with initiative is respected and can count on being supported in his endeavors. In “Help wanted” advertisements in Norwegian newspapers we often read: “Those without good recommendations need not apply.” Similarly, the proposition should be driven home that no one should enlist for emigration unless he is a good worker. The only quality demanded is two able hands and a willingness to use them. Idlers and loafers had better remain at home. Such persons are not tolerated here. They must either starve or get themselves a job. There is no poor-relief here which serves as a pillow for idlers to rest on. The Americans know that anyone who can and will work does not need help from others. Those who are sick or those who - because of no fault of their own - are suffering want can count on generous support. Americans gladly extend a helping hand to their fellowmen when they are certain that the gift reaches someone worthy of aid. But the drunkard and the shirker find no mercy in their eyes.


There are well-paid jobs for craftsmen. It may happen that at some certain place there are no openings for newcomers, whether because of a great inrush of emigrants or other chance circumstances. But a person can generally find employment here in the western states by changing his place of residence for a while or by temporarily accepting whatever job may present itself. In the eastern states conditions are somewhat different. There it frequently happens that a newcomer cannot find work during the winter months. The emigrant should, therefore, go as far west as Wisconsin. Great numbers come here every year and no complaints are heard about want of employment. At first the language causes some inconvenience; but no other immigrants master English as readily as the Norwegians: after a few months the difficulties will be overcome. To be sure, working methods differ a bit from what the artisans are used to in the home country. They will discover that work is less arduous here and that much of it is done by machines, thus reducing the amount of manual labor. But our countrymen are gifted to a high degree with the ability to learn and “catch on.” Many of them have gained so much expertise after a few years that as independent masters, operating their own establishments, they can compete on equal terms with the most skilled of our native craftsmen. Wheelwrights, carpenters, smiths, and masons can expect good wages: the job seeks the man. Ability is the only thing that counts. Good workers who behave decently do not need to worry about making a living, even if they are fathers who must support and bring up a group of children.


No other group of immigrants is more fortunately situated than the artisans: their skill is everywhere in demand. But they must be willing to adopt new methods and acquire the art of working quickly. In this country we have better and more suitable implements for practically any type of skilled activity than they have in Norway. Consequently the work is easier and more is accomplished. At first some effort is undoubtedly necessary to become familiar with the new methods - but it can be done, and the effort brings good returns as it opens up prospects for good employment. Right here in Wisconsin there are hundreds of Norwegians who arrived as apprentice craftsmen with two empty hands but have now worked themselves up to positions of independence. The virtually unprecedented progress in all fields of endeavor - great construction works, extension of the railway system, founding of factories and machine shops, the flowering of industry, exploiting of new resources, developing of mining, the rapid growth of population - everything combines to create employment and salaries for all types of artisans.


An ordinary laborer who has not learned any craft or trade will likewise find prospects in America for a happy future. If he is in good health and has both the strength and the desire to work he will soon be able to gain economic independence. In the great forests of the northern part of the state thousands of men, among them numerous Norwegians, are employed at wages ranging from twenty-five to fifty dollars per month. Even an unskilled laborer can thus, through a couple of winters, earn enough money to equip a farm, which he acquires free thanks to the Homestead Law. During the summer months newcomers from Norway can secure work on farms; and the good wages earned there will enable them to lay up capital against the time when they hope to set foot under their own tables.

In answer to the question as to what prospects an immigrant laborer has in America, we can state briefly and directly: daily wages in Wisconsin are high; employment will not be lacking for those who have the will and ability to work; food and lodging are good; and the labor is not unendurable. It should also be noted that many railways are being built and that other improvements in the means of communication are being planned, such as making rivers more navigable and building canals and roads. Such undertakings will, presumably, call for a great number of laborers next summer.


There will always be positions open for able Norwegian servant girls. They are held to be industrious and dependable, and the Yankees prefer them to servant girls of other nationalities. Wages are high: up to $100 per year and at times even higher. We know of instances where servant girls in Chicago earn six dollars per week. This is, of course, exceptional. Norwegian women are highly respected in this country, and I have as yet never heard of any one being idled by lack of opportunity for employment.


As a rule jobs are easily obtained by laborers who are seeking employment. Consequently, most of them prefer to be free and untrammeled in order to seize the opportunity of obtaining the highest wages possible. But for newcomers who are unacquainted with the language it would generally be advisable to accept a steady job - at least for several months - as this will give them a chance to familiarize themselves with conditions over here. After gathering some experience, they can with greater assurance lay plans for the future. With some discretion and astuteness they will usually be able to obtain a desirable position. Numerous opportunities for good employment are open to laborers who are free and unattached. The only requirement is that they watch their chances and have some knowledge of the language. While in the Old World, and especially in Norway, there are “many dogs for each bone,” we can truly say that in America there are many bones for each dog. Here the job seeks the man while the reverse usually holds true in other parts of the world.


What I have said refers especially to the western states. As already indicated, conditions in the East are somewhat different. The emigrant ought, therefore, to go at least as far west as Wisconsin. There he can meet fellow countrymen who will welcome him with open arms and gladly help him with advice and assistance. I do not mean to say that it is necessarily unwise to strike roots in the eastern states. Many have done very well there. But as a general rule the statement holds good that, for the Norwegian immigrant, the West offers the best opportunities. It is not strange, therefore, that in recent years the immigrant stream from Norway has taken its course exclusively towards the western states. Decades of experience have convinced the Scandinavians that out here, more easily than anywhere else, they can win economic independence and a bright future. Even native-born Americans, in great numbers, are trekking westward from New York and other Atlantic states. More than anything else this phenomenon testifies that within the vast reaches of the United States it is just this region which most generously assures its inhabitants of prosperity and well-being. An able workman who comes to the western states can always count on good earnings; and within a short while he will be able to save enough money to become independent, either through buying a farm or engaging in some other activity of his own. The opportunities here are manifold. With a bit of capital as a starter and some business instinct, a person will generally succeed in building a small fortune - assuming that the efforts in this direction are furthered by frugality and prudence.


The day laborer in Norway can rarely get beyond the hand to mouth stage; over here he can put aside cash and be respected as highly as his employer because everyone knows that within a short time he himself may be hiring men. In Norway a laborer toils year after year and earns nothing for his sweat beyond the bare necessities for existence while here he can, within two or three years, become the owner of a farm large enough to support a family. Even the most able cotter or landless tenant in Norway may, throughout his entire life, continue the labors of Sisyphus without making any headway. Barely has the rock been wrestled to the top of the mountain before it hurtles back into the valley, and the labor must begin all over again.

Year follows year but the spectre of famine will not leave the cotter’s cabin. And when his strength fades, the poor-law officials begin casting furtive glances at him as if they fear that death will not soon enough relieve the cotter of his misery and he will remain a burden on the community. If all the work which a cotter performs during some twenty or thirty years were expended on a good farm here in the West it would generally yield him $500 for every year of labor. Among the settlers here in Wisconsin we can point to numerous individuals as verification of this statement. Many of them came here without a penny in their pockets. Now they live free of debt on their good farms, and not a few have money on deposit, drawing interest.


Two willing hands, good health, reliability, and thrift: this is all that is required to achieve independence and a good income. Those who are born in a poor man’s cabin in Norway find it very difficult to struggle their way out of poverty. And it becomes almost impossible if a cotter or landless tenant has a family. For people of this class America is to be preferred before any other country in the world. If they can break away and secure the wherewithal to defray travel expenses, they will do a service to themselves and fulfill a duty to their descendants by emigrating. America is an Eden for the laborer. This has often been said, and with good reason. But the immigrant must not imagine that money and wealth can be won even here without exertion. Nowhere in the world do broiled doves fly into a person’s mouth; they must be caught and cooked here also. Nature is prolific, the soil is fertile, economic opportunities are many, wages are high, and all essentials for earthly happiness are here. We need only make use of the gifts God has bestowed upon the country - but that demands labor. A loafer can by hook or crook survive in Norway as a parasite at the expense of others, but over here he will starve to death. Consequently he should shun emigration if he values his own life. But for the willing worker it is good to be in America. Handicraftsmen, mechanics, and common laborers will, through thrift and industry, be able to achieve economic security as a minimum - and possibly wealth. This can be asserted without reservations, and we need merely point to many actual cases in order to verify this statement.


It is often maintained that industrious and frugal people can live well in Norway also. True enough; but what kind of life is led by a great number of people over there? Those who live well in the Old Country and are satisfied with their lot ought to remain where they are. But those who struggle under a load of poverty without any prospects for better days can win a bright future over here, provided that they come before their strength has been exhausted and the years have become too many. It is for these that I write; and the account given above is based on my own experience and the opinions of people well acquainted with conditions in America. I am convinced that the great majority of Scandinavians who have lived here long enough to become acquainted with the country will support what I have said. To be sure, there are some who are dissatisfied and talk about returning home; but strangely enough, even these seldom actually do leave, despite the fact that they have sufficient means to carry out such a project.


There is still a question which ought to be answered before we proceed. So far we have talked primarily about free and unattached persons. But how will matters shape themselves for a laborer who arrives in America with a large group of children too young to do anything toward their own support? The answer is that the situation may become very difficult unless he has relatives or friends who are willing to give him a helping hand as a starter. But we can point to many instances where people even in such circumstances have made good, especially if they were able to get out into country districts where rent and food are less expensive than in the cities. Girls aged ten to twelve years can usually find places in homes as helpers while boys of the same age are generally able to support themselves with light jobs. Unless all the children are very small, the family will manage somehow even where the wife is unable to contribute toward the financial support of the household. And if the father has a couple of older children who are willing to help him for a while, he need not fear for the future even though he may have several youngsters to bring up. When the first difficulties in the new surroundings have been overcome, the children will gradually be able to help their parents. Wages are high in this country and the man who is assisted by his children, either on a farm or in a shop, is considered fortunate compared with those who have to hire all their help. Consequently, we have the saying that “a large flock of children makes a man rich.” This will be true in so far as the children remain at home for a while even after they are grown up. But it is generally the case here that the children leave their parents at an early age in order to try fortune on their own.


Seamen can count on good wages out here. The Scandinavian people are presumably well informed about shipping in our large Atlantic seaports so I will limit myself to a discussion of conditions here in the West. Seamen employed on the Great Lakes earn from seventy to eighty dollars per month with board. At times there is a great demand for sailors. Frequently shipowners are forced to hire inexperienced help since there is a shortage of trained seamen. Traffic on the lakes usually lasts eight or nine months per year; but good employment can generally be had during the other months also, especially for those who are skilled in sailmaking. Shipping expands from year to year, so many of our countrymen have found well-paid jobs there. Others are shipowners while still others own shares in ships plying the Great Lakes or navigable rivers.


The art of healing is universal. About the same ailments afflict mankind in both the hemispheres. It is therefore immaterial whether a doctor has taken his examination in a Scandinavian or an American university. The only question raised here concerns a man’s ability, and the man is judged by his deeds. No doubt quackery has freer play in America than in any other part of the civilized world, while patent medicines, combined with much other humbug, thrive where the scientifically trained doctor alone should hold sway. But the truly able man quickly gains recognition and people here also seek his help rather than that of the miracle-mongers or mountebanks who whoop it up in streets and alleys. Here as everywhere else in the world, a sick person grabs for anything that he hopes may help him. When the trained doctor’s remedies have failed, the patient often throws himself into the arms of quacks even though he may have only faint faith in the efficacy of their “cures.” One who is in dire need stretches forth his hand for any promised remedy. This has always been the case. As a rule, however, it can be said that Americans, like others, preferably entrust themselves to the scientifically trained doctor. But they do not have unqualified faith in university degrees or testimonials. These factors assume importance in the eyes of an American only when they have demonstrated their worth through some fortunate cures.


As for our countrymen over here, there apparently are some individuals who in Norway were inspired with such a fear of anything connected with doctors that the fear still haunts them like their shadow on a sunny day. Among them the practitioners of black magic have some followers. But the great majority prefer to entrust themselves to a medically trained man wherever such a one can be found. In several Norwegian settlements the people have on numerous occasions expressed the hope that a duly trained doctor would set up practice in their community. To the best of my knowledge the Norwegian doctors who are practicing here have every reason to be satisfied; and I am convinced that the Scandinavians in many areas feel the need of medical aid - an able physician would be welcomed with open arms. It would undoubtedly be advisable for a medical graduate from one of the northern countries, upon arrival in America, to enroll for a couple of months at a school of medicine so as to become better acquainted with the language and gain familiarity with the American pharmacology and some of the ailments peculiar to this country.


Those airs which in Norway are held to be signs of importance must be dropped in America. An unassuming conduct, a reliable character, a sincere desire to relieve the ills of others whenever possible, and a capability which is not only vouched for by written testimonials but substantiated by successful cures - these are qualifications which an American doctor must possess. With such competence a doctor will harvest a richer measure of fame and fortune here than in any other part of the world. A doctor who is a thorough master of his profession and conscientiously performs his duties will always be met with respect and trust. A graduate from a Scandinavian medical school who visits his countrymen in the western hemisphere will discover that he has by no means lost by his change of residence. Quite the contrary. With improved economic conditions the mind has become freer and the spirit ennobled; the better qualities characteristic of a Norseman have developed and matured here because of the favorable conditions for independence and well-being offered by the new homeland.

Quite frequently a person meets farmers over here who are widely read and well informed. This can be true even of men who left Norway only some ten or fifteen years ago with no more schooling than the barest necessities for “getting by the preacher” at confirmation time. People of this type expect to be treated as rational beings and do not tolerate snobbery in any form whatsoever.


Concerning pharmacists, it is difficult to express a definite opinion as to the advisability of their coming to America. There are several Norwegians who operate pharmacies in this country; and as far as I know, they have every reason to be satisfied with their present positions. I am afraid, however, that those who come here without capital will generally find it difficult to get established in their profession. But a man who has at his disposal a sum of about $1,000 should be able to create an independent career for himself. The pharmacy business is very profitable over here and there are many who have accumulated large fortunes in this pursuit. I do not believe there is another nation on the face of the earth where people consume such vast quantities of pills, powders, “drops,” mixtures, and medicaments of all sorts. We can say, therefore, that the United States is a veritable Goshen for the sons of Asclepias. As a rule the apothecaries here in the West also deal in general merchandise. Only those who are located in large cities limit themselves to goods closely related to their profession. If a pharmacist has some knowledge of the English language it will be easier for him to secure a salaried position on arrival. He may, for instance, get employment in a pharmacy until he is able to set up in business for himself. But even the most capable person, if he is ignorant of the language and devoid of capital and influential connections, should carefully ponder the question before he decides to emigrate.


There is a large field over here for men trained in theology. In many settlements our countrymen must get along practically without any spiritual services. A number of our pastors are overloaded with work and wear themselves out at an early age. Many of them are almost constantly traveling from settlement to distant settlement in order to serve the people. It is odd that so few pastors from the motherland answer the call for service among their fellow countrymen on this side of the Atlantic. This neglect must be caused by a misunderstanding, a misconception of the ecclesiastical life over here. It is frequently complained that theology graduates in Norway must spend the best years of their lives in occupations quite out of harmony with their desires and inclinations. Not until their faculties and powers are in decline - so we are told - do they secure a fitting position. To a degree these complaints are undoubtedly justified: numerous seminarians must, for years, accept positions as tutors in wealthy homes or as schoolteachers in order to earn a living. The tumult caused by the conflict between our various synods may have discouraged many from coming to America. No doubt all of us desire less discord and more peace, greater tolerance and less hairsplitting sophistry. But seen close at hand, the condition does not appear as scary as it does when seen from afar through a telescopic imagination. Furthermore, symptoms indicate that the crisis has been reached, so we have hopes that the situation under discussion will soon take a turn toward the better.


To be sure, the size of a pastor’s salary is not fixed by law here; but as yet I have never heard of any congregation failing to provide the minister and his family with the necessities of life. To the contrary: churches are built, land for parsonages is bought and buildings erected, and the people show admirable concern about the welfare of their pastors. A person must have seen it himself to fully appreciate the sacrifices the Norwegians here are willing to make, without whines or whimpers, in behalf of the church and the spreading of the word. Norwegians with theological training have repeatedly been importuned to come and serve congregations here but they prefer to sit smugly at home, with arms crossed, in the hope that a parish in Norway will be divided or that some aged pastor will sink into the grave, thus creating an opening. Very few are willing to come where the need is greatest. They seem to have closed their ears to the cries of distress coming from their countrymen in America. It is curious, indeed, that men who have chosen as their profession to testify concerning Him who is the fountain of life and salvation will not accept with joy any opportunity to work for the expansion of God’s Kingdom here on earth. A layman can hardly avoid feeling that under these circumstances Norwegian pastors are more interested in their own ease and comfort than in fulfilling an obligation which any sincere Christian should be glad to undertake.


Among emigrants from Norway are at times found schoolteachers and men who have studied at teachers’ colleges. Some of these have enrolled in the seminaries at St. Louis, Decorah, and Paxton, while others have secured positions as schoolteachers, and still others have entered diverse professions. I believe that an able graduate can count on securing desirable employment in this country. Before departure, however, it would be advisable for him to explore the territory and learn whether it would be possible for him to enroll as a student at one of the colleges mentioned above; or he might inquire about the possibility of securing a teaching position in some Norwegian parish over here. Information of this nature can undoubtedly be obtained from some of our pastors. Prudence dictates that he ought to obtain promise in advance of a position to his liking. Matters are quite different, however, if he is willing to accept a job of any kind or if he is skilled in some craft. In such a case he is placed on the same footing as a laborer, and it has repeatedly been emphasized that America is a real Goshen for men of this class. Later he might find employment more suited for a man with academic training. But anyone who comes here with the illusion of soon becoming an archbishop is due for a rude awakening.


As I have never been in the mining regions, I am unable to give any firsthand information concerning the opportunities for employment which may be offered graduates from schools of mines. Judging by what informed men say, however, I fear that mining engineers from Norway would, in general, have to begin as common laborers. But if they have the patience to await developments and do not regard it as beneath their dignity to start at the bottom and work upward, then I feel assured that they will be able to achieve respected and well-salaried positions - granted, of course, that they have those abilities and characteristics which Americans expect of a specialist. On the whole, book learning is not highly respected here unless it is combined with skill and insight. What has been said about mining engineers will also, in all essentials, apply to architects and other engineers. Even though there is a surplus of work for men in those fields, I must emphasize again that the first essential is to win recognition and the people’s trust. Until this has been achieved, even specialists will have to rest satisfied with sharing the lot of common laborers. A man holding a degree in science could probably secure a position in some institution of higher learning, provided that he had the necessary knowledge of the English language. It appears that Norwegian lawyers are at the greatest disadvantage in this country, and I can not see how they would be able to make any use of their legal training over here. Members of all the classes discussed in this paragraph run a great risk by immigrating to America. They had better not test fortune too much or play blindman’s buff with fate.


Testimonials and recommendations from Europe generally carry very little weight among Americans. They want to see for themselves and get definite proof of the skills mentioned in the testimonials. A recommendation is of value here only when it is signed by a man whose name is well known, and this means only the brightest luminaries among European scientists. As for attestations in general, we can say once and for all that a whole sheaf of recommendations will be of no help, while a few words of commendation from a person known and respected here may clear the way to a good position and advancement. It has been maintained by many people that recommendations are of absolutely no value in this country. In a sense this is true of those testimonials which the immigrant brings along from his home country in case he should want to use them among Americans. But on the other hand it can be argued that in no other place on earth does so much hinge on good recommendations and connections as right here in America. All a person need do is to present a recommendation from a man whose name has a good ring and he will be received with open arms. However, those who have to depend solely on their own abilities need not despair. They can also make headway; but progress is more difficult for those who must carve their own way than for the many who are helped into good positions through the influence of others. Day laborers and craftsmen need not worry about recommendations in order to secure employment. Their own work will soon testify concerning their ability, and a slight mistake can generally be amended without any great loss to the employer.


Norwegian salesmen are sought in those towns where many of our countrymen are found or near Norwegian settlements. Businessmen regard it as advantageous to employ a Norwegian clerk in such places, and in many towns you will find one or two Norwegian salesmen in practically every store or shop. But the merchants usually hire people who have been in this country for some time, as they assume that they will be better acquainted with local people and conditions than newcomers will be. Because of this fact, and because of the general difficulty of those other than laborers and craftsmen in securing good jobs, I must advise Norwegian salesmen not to emigrate unless they have beforehand been assured of employment through the instrumentality of relatives or friends. To be sure, quite a number of instances can be mentioned where bookkeepers or clerks of various kinds, directly from Norway, have done well in this country. Still, these cases are exceptions and should not be cited as indicative of the general rule.


An able painter can count on earning a good income in America. Presumably there will be certain periods during the winter when he can not secure steady employment. But wages are so high during spring, summer, and fall that he will be well repaid for some days of idleness during the off-season. Blacksmiths are probably better paid than any other class of artisans, and an able mechanic need have no fears for the future. Toolmakers will find well-paid employment in the larger cities, and tinsmiths are welcome everywhere. The field for Norwegian printers is very restricted over here and they are best served by remaining at home until a definite contract is offered them in this country. Founders and molders have good prospects for high wages; and according to reports, brass workers earn good money in various parts of the country. Coopers can also find profitable employment, while wheelwrights are among the most fortunate of skilled laborers, and wagonmakers have no reason for envying anyone his income. A mason accepts only high weekly wages and stonecutters are often shameless in their demands. It goes without saying that building contractors need not be unemployed in this land of progress. Likewise, the growing prosperity and the resultant demands for greater comfort give cabinetmakers more than enough to do. Even though, in recent years, farmers have been the special favorites of fortune, other social classes have had no cause for complaint. The great variety of industries and the well-nigh unparalleled progress in all fields of endeavor can offer employment and bread to anyone who is able and willing to work.


Chests or boxes made of strong boards - well joined and reinforced with iron fittings - should be secured for storage of the goods an immigrant expects to bring along to America. The owner’s name and destination should be painted on the boxes in large and clear letters. And the boxes should be of such dimensions that when fully packed they can be carried by two men. Too heavy boxes cause much inconvenience when they are to be reloaded at the railroad stations. Handles at each end will expedite transportation. We hear frequent complaints about the recklessness with which immigrant property is treated by employees of steamships and railroads. And it is true that these fellows do not wear silk gloves or treat things as if they were glass. The thousands upon thousands of articles they have to handle call for speed, and it may well happen that proper care is not always exercised. But it should also be remembered that the boxes are often so fragile that they scarcely bear touching without falling apart. Much trouble, many inconveniences and misunderstandings could be avoided if everyone would have his belongings packed in strong cases well marked with the owner’s name and place of destination. How much and which kinds of provisions the passengers should take along can best be explained by the shipping agents, so I will merely add that the chests or boxes in which the provisions are to be kept should be provided with locks because there could well be someone in the group of travelers whose conception of property rights might be somewhat dim.


Those emigrants who can raise enough money to pay for their passage without selling all their belongings ought to bring along wearing apparel of all sorts, as well as bedclothes, and table service such as tablecloths, knives, forks, and silverware. In Norway there are many who want to sell but comparatively few buyers. The emigrant would therefore be well advised to keep those articles rather than sell them at too low a price. Fur items such as caps, collars, and muffs will be useful here because the winters are cold and furs are expensive in this country. Craftsmen might also bring along their tools, provided they are not too heavy or bulky. No doubt the implements used here in America are as a rule better than the ones the immigrant brings along from Norway. But it is possible that he may be unable to buy new tools immediately on arrival and in the meantime the ones he brought along from home may come in handy.


Many people find the ocean passage extremely tiresome and suffer from homesickness. This is especially true during periods of calm or contrary winds. At such times the emigrant counts days and hours and looks longingly toward the distant West, from which he may still be separated by hundreds of miles. Then discontent spreads among the immigrants like a contagious disease. Such a spirit may contribute considerably to increasing the danger and unpleasantness of the voyage. On occasions like these it will be well for the emigrant if he has brought along good books. They will help him dispel monotony; and if he is in possession of maps and descriptions of various parts of America - especially of the state where he intends to settle - then a perusal of them may prove to be both entertaining and useful.


Shall I secure quarters aboard a steamship or shall I go with a sailing vessel? This question is usually raised by the emigrant as soon as he has decided to leave the homeland. Here advice is difficult to give: there are as many opinions as there are heads. It might well happen that an emigrant would get quite contradictory answers if he directed this question to several persons familiar with the field - all of whom, naturally, would be able to substantiate their reasoning with apparently sound arguments.

Nevertheless, this can not deter me from expressing my own opinion. If the emigrant has a large family or is not flush with money, then I would unhesitatingly advise him to go by sail. The money he thus saves by making use of this cheaper means of transportation will stand him in good stead after his arrival in this country. I have known several individuals who spent their last shilling in order to travel by steamship; but after stepping ashore, they were stranded with empty pockets at the mercy of chance or the sympathy of charitable people. If they had made use of sail, they might have had a little sum extra which would have insured them against want until they found work or came in touch with acquaintances who would be willing to help them out. My advice to all emigrants is, therefore, to choose the least expensive mode of travel and save as much as possible both before and after departure in order to avoid financial difficulties later. Transportation by means of sail undoubtedly requires more time than going by steamship, and it is said that “time is money.” And in truth, this can be applied to people who have enough money to bring them safely to their point of destination - provided that they have also assured themselves beforehand of immediate employment. If this has not been done, it occasionally happens that the newcomer - especially if he locates in a town - may have to wait several days before getting a job, and in the meantime he has to subsist on the means he brought along from home.


When the decision has finally been taken, and all preparations have been made for the journey, then the emigrant need only appear at the seaport from which he has arranged for passage across the ocean. Ships intended for transportation of emigrants are inspected before departure, and there are laws regulating how such vessels are to be equipped. For every 2.08 register tons capacity (kommerselest) the ship is permitted to carry one passenger, crew members included. Two children under the age of fourteen are counted as one adult while infants under one year are not included in the estimates. The space thus allotted will suffice if the passengers know how to arrange things in a sensible manner. It is especially important that all the goods not needed during the passage be placed in the storage rooms located under the passenger quarters. Unless this is done, accommodations will soon be cramped because the beds take up a lot of space. According to the law, each passenger is allowed three quarts of fresh water daily. With proper management, this amount is sufficient. Seawater can be used for washing clothes and such matters. Complaints are often heard that there are not sufficient opportunities for cooking meals. The laws have regulations covering this subject also. The passengers will manage well with the legally required cookstoves as long as harmony and good relations exist among them. But frequently certain individuals are too grasping and ignore the rights of others. In such cases the captain will have to step in as an intermediary. It would be advisable for the emigrant to bring along from home such foods that it will be unnecessary to cook more than once a day - except for tea and coffee, of course. Furthermore, it is possible for several persons to go together and form a common household for cooking purposes. In that way, if they take turns, it will be easier for all the passengers to have their needs satisfied.


This is, of course, a truism; but it assumes special importance during a long voyage when so many circumstances conspire to make life nauseous and unwholesome. On such occasions it is the captain’s bounden duty to exercise his authority. No vacillation or undue leniency is then in order. Unless proper care is taken the ship will soon be transformed into a pest-ridden haunt where one after another succumbs and is given to the waves. Aboard the overloaded passenger ships which left Norway in earlier days little care was usually given to sanitary conditions - cleanliness and fresh air. Quite often contagious disease broke loose and death raged among the emigrants. Now matters have improved. The number of passengers in relation to space has been fixed by law; and, in general, greater care is taken concerning health conditions among the people. Both wearing apparel and bedclothes ought to be aired frequently during the voyage. The hold of the ship must be cleaned every second or third day, while the deck should be washed once or twice a day. This work can be performed by the passengers with a certain number of men taking turns doing the job. At times some individuals may prove reluctant to help in keeping the ship clean; and a simple scabby sheep may infect the whole flock, thus arousing obstinacy and defiance among the whole group of emigrants. But in such a case determined action should be taken because it is a matter of life or death for a large number of people. If under such circumstances the captain shows weakness and yields to the reluctance of these unreasonable ones, then all those who have respect for their own lives and wish to arrive whole and hearty in America should urge him to do his duty and see to it that cleanliness is maintained and fresh air provided - the prime rules of sanitation.

Aboard many emigrant vessels you will find harmony and a spirit of good will among the passengers while aboard others wrangling and arguing are the order of the day. To a degree, one or several obstinate people can make life unpleasant for everyone. By showing good judgment the captain is usually able to maintain peace and agreement among the people. And if cardplaying and drinking are forbidden, it is generally easy for a levelheaded leader to enforce law and order among the passengers. So very much depends on the personality of the captain. Many of them shut their eyes and permit the passengers to behave as they please, in the mistaken belief that they will thus gain popularity. Others go to the opposite extreme and busy themselves, in season and out, with matters which do not concern them, thus making themselves ridiculous and losing all respect.

The possibility of death is always with us, and the distance from a ship’s deck to a watery grave is not great. Even though no emigrant ship from Norway has capsized, a voyage across the Atlantic is connected with so many dangers that it may well arouse serious meditation. Prayers every morning and evening together with religious services on deck every Sunday - weather permitting - will contribute toward a greater trust in God and the benevolent will of Providence.


At the end of a voyage, the passengers often prepare a testimonial for the captain which is made public in the newspapers. This may be well enough; but in many cases a person would make a mistake if, without investigating, he accepted such a testimonial at face value. It frequently happens that a few people who for one reason or another feel that they owe the captain a favor prepare such a document and publish it in a newspaper either here or in Norway without the knowledge of the rest of the passengers, who may not approve of its contents. At other times it may occur that certain disgruntled people, out of pure malice or a desire to avenge some imaginary wrong, will censure the captain and have their statement appear in print. He will thus suffer an undeserved reproach against which the great majority of the emigrants would have protested had they been aware of the project. Newspapers usually devour such testimonials as pure delicacies without examining them and without knowing any of the signatories. To be of any value, such testimonials should at least be signed by all the heads of families who were aboard the ship and by as many others as possible. Under the present system, the testimonials usually fail to achieve their purpose. We find, for instance, that one and the same captain may be praised by the passengers on one voyage as a model of virtue and all good qualities while on another he may be vilified as the incarnation of all evil. As already stated, such testimonials are frequently misleading and deserve little attention from an emigrant trying to choose a ship and captain for the Atlantic crossing.


An ocean voyage is a long one. If the ship is becalmed or delayed by contrary winds, the passengers will need a large measure of patience. Through reading or similar diversions a person will, however, be able to relieve the monotony for a while. And everything will run more smoothly if the passengers get along well with each other and with the captain. “Birds of a feather flock together.” The truth of this saying can often be observed aboard emigrant vessels. City people and country folk seldom get along well together. In my opinion, the captain of such a vessel should therefore - as far as possible - carry passengers exclusively either from rural areas or from urban centers. If there is too much diversity in the group it will be relatively difficult even for the most conscientious and discreet captain to maintain order and good relations.


With favorable weather, the journey from Norway to some American port, for example, Quebec, can be covered in about five weeks. As an average we can estimate seven weeks, and the emigrants who cross the ocean that quickly have no cause for complaint. It has happened that emigrant vessels have been en route twelve or thirteen weeks, but such cases are unusual.

Springtime seems to be the right season for emigrating. If a person leaves Norway in April or May, he can count on arriving in America when farm wages are at their peak and it is easy to find work. For those who come here in late fall, it will always be more difficult to secure employment either in town or in the country.


In order to answer this question, we must choose a place in Norway as point of departure and a definite place in America as port of call. For these purposes I will select the Norwegian capital, Christiania, and Quebec in Canada and assume that the chosen route will be through the English Channel. The distance from Christiania to the Channel is about 650 nautical miles; when the approximately 300 nautical miles of the channel have been covered, we face the voyage across the vast Atlantic Ocean. Only after more than 2,300 nautical miles have been traveled can we expect to sight land: the island of St. Paul at the entrance of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. There is a distance of 320 miles across this gulf to the narrows of the St. Lawrence River between Pt. des Monts and Cap Chat, after which there are only 210 miles left to the city of Quebec. With Christiania as our point of departure we must thus cover 3,680 nautical miles before we can cast anchor in the harbor of Quebec. Generally, however, the mate is not able to steer a direct line, but is forced to tack. Hence, few ships sailing from Norway through the English Channel will be able to reach Quebec until some 4,000 miles have been covered.


When the voyage is successfully completed and the emigrant can finally step ashore, then he faces the responsibility of arranging for the trip inland to his destination. Most of the sailing ships which carry passengers from Norway to America land at Quebec. In exceptional cases, some captains do go on to Montreal. When signing up with the agents in Norway, the passengers ought to arrange for permission to remain aboard the ship two or three days after arrival at port. It may happen that they will have to stay some time in Quebec before their train is scheduled to leave. If, in the meanwhile, they are forced to pay for accommodations on land, they will incur expenses which may be very inconvenient for many of the immigrants.


Instead of carrying ready cash, most emigrants bring along a draft which is generally exchanged for American money in Quebec. But this transaction can just as well be delayed until they arrive in Chicago, Milwaukee, or Madison. At a scheduled time a steamer belonging to the railway company ferries the emigrants over the river to the St. Levi station, which lies on the south shore of the St. Lawrence, directly across from Quebec. There the emigrants are permitted to stay in the railway station until the train is ready to leave. When they leave St. Levi the emigrants should have enough food with them to last four or five days. That is usually the duration of the trip from Quebec to Chicago or Milwaukee. If a person is going still farther, then it would, of course, be well to have a larger supply of provisions. It is best to bring along enough money from home to obtain these supplies.


From Quebec or St. Levi to Sarnia in Ontario there is a distance by rail of 673 miles. If the emigrant is to continue the trip westward by rail, he will be ferried across the St. Clair River at Sarnia to Port Huron in the state of Michigan. From there to Chicago the distance is 347 miles. Thus we find that the distance between Quebec and Chicago totals 1,020 miles. For those emigrants who plan to go by way of Milwaukee, it will be most convenient to change trains in Detroit, Michigan, and go to Grand Haven in the same state - a distance of 189 miles. From there they can go by steamer across Lake Michigan to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a distance of merely 85 miles. Those who wish to settle in Wisconsin, Minnesota, or northern Iowa usually choose the Milwaukee route as the most convenient. For emigrants who wish to settle in the eastern states, it may possibly be of interest to know that a railroad runs south from Montreal to New York (404 miles) while another line connects Montreal with Boston, Massachusetts (330 miles).


Sometimes it happens that instead of going by rail from Sarnia westward emigrants are transported by steamboat through lakes Huron and Michigan. But this makes the trip a day and a half to two days longer than going directly by train from Sarnia (Port Huron) to Detroit and points west. If the passengers have a choice, they usually prefer the latter means of transportation. But they are not always able to have their wishes fulfilled in this respect, and then they must accept the decision of the railroad company. Below are listed the distances covered by the steamship route:

   From Sarnia (Port Huron) across Lake Huron
   the Straits of Mackinac 250 miles
   Through the Straits of Mackinac 40 miles
   Thence to Milwaukee 250 miles
   From Milwaukee to Chicago 75 miles
This makes a total of 615 miles.


Transportation by rail from Quebec to Chicago costs about ten American dollars. Tickets are bought in Quebec, and the captains usually assist the passengers in this matter; most of them also accompany the emigrants at least partway into the country. Arrangements are now being made by Norwegian shipping companies whereby they will be able to provide the emigrants with tickets from Quebec through either Milwaukee or Chicago directly to the station - in any northern state - which lies closest to their destination. Travelers who take the regular trains from Quebec to the western states must pay almost twice the sum demanded from emigrants - but then they travel in greater comfort and reach their destination sooner.

Complaints are heard from emigrants about inconsiderate treatment on the part of railway employees. It is also claimed that the railway cars are overcrowded, and that emigrants - to the detriment of their health - are stowed together aboard the steamships without any regard to comfort or sanitary requirements. Also their belongings may be somewhat damaged if boxes fall apart during transportation; or it happens at times that their baggage is forgotten at some station or sent to the wrong place. As regards the last two points, it should be mentioned that mishaps of this type generally could be prevented if the belongings were packed in strong boxes well provided with a clear address, bearing the owner’s name and place of destination.

Emigrants undoubtedly have cause for complaints concerning overcrowding. But the railway company should also be given its due when one considers that transportation for an emigrant is so extremely cheap that he can not justly expect the comforts provided other travelers who pay the regular price of twenty-three dollars in gold. Most emigrants bring along so much baggage that if they should pay full freight for this alone it would considerably exceed what they now pay for both themselves and their belongings.


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