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    Volume XXXI

Norwegian-American Studies
Volume 31
The Norwegian-American Historical Association
Copyright © 1986 by the
ISBN 0-87732-072-1

In Honor of C.A. Clausen on His Ninetieth Birthday


In 1928 the Norwegian-language newspaper Scandia described a district on the West Side of Chicago as “Little Norway” because of its concentration of Norwegians and their churches, lodge halls, and places of business. The neighborhood was but one of a large number of easily identifiable ethnic enclaves in the Chicago landscape; the same situation existed in other cities such as Brooklyn, Minneapolis, and Seattle, where Norwegians settled in considerable numbers.

The present volume of Studies, the thirty-first in the series, contains twelve articles largely devoted to immigrant life in America’s great cities. Due at least partly to a rural bias in Norwegian-American historiography, this picture of Norwegian immigrants does not readily surface. Consequently, it is our wish to provide a better balance by giving increased attention to the urban environment, while we take care not to neglect the study of other significant aspects of the Norwegian-American experience.

In the lead article John Higham reviews the scholarly debate about the immigrant impact on urban America. He then explores the issues and forces that mobilized some ethnic groups to mass action; it was a militant phase of their American experience that Higham sees as having been neglected by historians during the ethnic revival of the past decades, in part because of the conventions that governed the writing of ethnic histories. It is therefore conceivable that a closer reading of the sources will reveal involvement of Scandinavians in some of the many episodes of ethnic assertiveness. Except for the Finns, Nordic nationalities appear at present to be conspicuous by their near invisibility; if the latter is actually the case, we need to explain why.

Profiling the career of a Norwegian-American Minneapolis politician, Lars M. Rand, in the heavily Scandinavian sixth ward, Carl H. Chrislock shows how Rand through his political organization and by his own shrewdness responded to the divisions, needs, and interests within his constituency to advance his political ambitions. In the next essay Christen T. Jonassen interprets how transplanted ethnic value systems and attitudes, and also American patterns, influenced behavior and produced conflict as well as cooperation within the Norwegian Brooklyn community. Appropriately in this the centennial year of the Haymarket Affair of May 4, 1886, Arlow W. Andersen surveys contemporary Norwegian-American press opinion about this disturbing incident, which left the entire American labor movement with a taint of radicalism and violence.

The following three contributions employ various kinds of evidence to gain entry into the immigrant community. John R. Jenswold uses “America letters,” specifically a collection uncovered accidentally in 1981, to document the experiences of Norwegian immigrant workers in the 1890s. Deborah L. Miller delivers a striking photographic essay on Norwegian Minneapolis - a first in this series - and suggests how photographs may aid historical inquiry. The role of the immigrant press is the subject of the article by Odd S. Lovoll, which, relying heavily on the Norwegian-language Washington Posten, delineates the contours and stages of development and adjustment in the Norwegian community in Seattle.

How the successful newspaper Skandinaven in Chicago fostered Norwegian immigrant literature through its professional publishing venture is detailed by Orm Overland in an article treating the Norwegian-American book trade in the 1860s and 1870s. Ingrid Semmingsen recounts the life and career of a Norwegian-American humorist and dissident, Ole S. Hervin, known by his pseudonym as Herm. Wang; she believes that additional biographical studies of individuals such as Hervin will establish the existence of an influential liberal and intellectual element in urban centers, and thereby serve to broaden our conception of Norwegian Americans. Janet E. Rasmussen writes about the Norwegian pioneer feminist Aasta Hansteen and her years in America, 1880 to 1889; Hansteen was greatly affected by the more advanced American feminist movement and by extension its impact was felt on the corresponding movement in Norway. The hitherto unknown correspondence between O. E. Rølvaag and Marie Halling Swensen, of a distinguished family in Norway, as presented by Einar Haugen offers glimpses of a deeply moving and unique relationship that developed during the final years of Rølvaag’s life.

The ethnic community stimulated artistic activity, and eventually the practitioners arranged exhibitions, some of them attracting participation on a national scale. Rolf H. Erickson demonstrates the value for scholarly investigation of the catalogs and checklists that were prepared on such occasions. C. A. Clausen continues his listings of recent publications, assisted for Norwegian titles by Johanna Barstad. Charlotte Jacobson contributes another installment on acquisitions, which makes evident that important documents are being collected, but which also reminds us of the need for renewed effort to collect and preserve such records before they are lost or destroyed.

The altered appearance of Studies reflects the beginning of our fourth ten volumes, and we are indebted to Nancy Leeper for the design. Again I wish to acknowledge with deep appreciation and admiration the services of my competent and genial editorial assistant Mary R. Hove, my treasured co-worker now for nearly seven years.

St. Olaf College


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