NAHA Header


"I Live Well, But . . . ":
Letters from Norwegians in Industrial America
    by John R. Jenswold (Volume 31: Page 113)

The brown heirloom daguerreotype of the frontier farm family of the mid-nineteenth century is beginning to give way, in the light of recent research, to the starker black and white portrait of the turn-of-the century immigrant. {1} The new picture bears the stamp of the bustling city. It is the image of a solitary young man. He is dressed for work and holds a lunch-pail in his left hand, his tools in his right. In the background is the suggestion of a busy dock, a factory floor, or a shipyard.

His experience differed from that of his compatriots who had settled the Illinois and Wisconsin countryside in the 1840s and 1850s. The earlier immigrants had tended to cluster together in “communities of neighbors of like origins.” The rural settlers worked, played, and worshipped with a small group of neighbors who were themselves immigrants from Norway, even from the same district in Norway. Their compact settlements were preserves of Norwegian language and culture. Isolated in newly settled frontier land, these subsistence farmers were able to live their daily lives with few contacts with Yankees and other outsiders. {2}

In contrast, the new Norwegian immigrant of the city encountered non-Norwegians daily. His enclave may have been no larger than his room in a boardinghouse. Outside his [114] door were a variety of people, languages, and cultures. Down the hall may have lived an Italian, a Swede, a Finn, and a Canadian. On the street he passed shops with signs bearing unNorwegian names - an Italian grocer, an Austrian cobbler, a Jewish tailor. The workday was punctuated by the sound of strange languages. He may have been supervised by a Yankee foreman and received his pay from a British clerk. On Sunday, his day off, he may have attended church, visited friends from Norway, or sung in a Norwegian chorus. Only then was he among his own people, speaking his native language. For most of his American experience, he was a stranger in a land of other strangers.

The new Norwegian immigrants were but a small contingent of the great migration of workers from all parts of Europe who contributed to the industrialization of America. While overshadowed in raw numbers by those coming from eastern and southern Europe, the flow of immigrants from Norway and other northern and western lands did not merely continue but increased. Three-quarters of a million Norwegians left for America between the end of the Civil War and the beginning of the Great Depression, dwarfing the better-documented wave of 71,000 who emigrated in the rural migration of 1846-1865. Emigration from Norway and other parts of Europe followed American economic cycles. It accelerated in times of prosperity, such as 1882, when 28,804 Norwegians left in the migration’s peak year. It lagged when depression and war dimmed the opportunities promised by American industry. {3}

The new immigrants’ identity as workers is established by the group’s demographics. While the majority of the earlier group had migrated in families, the later Norwegians usually came to America alone. Most were men, 60 percent of those who came between 1880 and 1930. The proportion of male emigrants rose in periods of heavy emigration, when the appeal of industrial opportunities was strong, and fell when general emigration declined. Most of these immigrants were between the ages of 15 and 29 - younger than those who had arrived in the first wave. Between 1866 and 1915 [115] the proportion of men in that age group increased from 40 percent to 78 percent, while among the women those in that same working-age group increased from 35 percent to 70 percent. {4}

A quiet revolution had changed the face of Norwegian emigration, making the newcomers, in the words of Einar Haugen, “children of a new age in Norway.” They were members of a mid-century “baby boom” that more than replenished the population the country had lost to the earlier emigration. Coming of age in the second half of the century, they were witnesses to the vast changes an incomplete industrialization had brought to everyday Norwegian life. They had seen new machinery change forever the old work processes in the mills, on the farms, and in the forests and fisheries. The streams and rivers of fairy - tale Norway were harnessed to power plants. Rail lines and telegraph wires crossed the mountains to link the countryside with the factories and markets of the towns. {5}

Rural Norway sent to the towns not only its crops and livestock, but its people as well. While boosting production, the new mechanization created a surplus of farm workers and craftsmen. For the remainder of the century, many of those displaced abandoned the traditional life of farming to move to the cities and towns. The country became increasingly urban: from fewer than 20 percent of the population in 1865, over a third were living in the towns and cities by the turn of the century. And the towns, themselves no havens for persons with traditional skills, became but a stage in a longer journey - emigration to the United States. Increasingly, the Norwegians brought some urban experience with them to America. Nearly one-third of those who emigrated between 1880 and 1915 came from towns, as compared with one- tenth in the period before the Civil War. Even if many of them had come from the countryside originally, they arrived in the New World not totally unfamiliar with urban life. {6}

While Norwegians continued to settle on American farms - with relatives in the Midwest or on new farms in the Great Plains and the Pacific Northwest - a growing number [116] were lured to the cities. As Norwegians Rolf Kåre Østrem and Peter Rinnan state with compelling logic, “Persons with urban skills and experience would more naturally migrate to American cities.” {7} Norwegians began to be found in urban occupations. In the 1880s, the number of Norwegian men working in manufacturing tripled, while those in the trades and urban service jobs also increased dramatically. Similarly, the number of employed women (excluding farm wives) tripled during the 1880s, the majority of them migrating to cities and towns to work in trades, transportation, and domestic service. {8}

These immigrant workers were the pioneers of a new kind of Norwegian community in America - the urban koloni. As Norwegian America became less rural after 1880, ethnic neighborhoods began to appear in several cities. Chicago served as the first major urban center for Norwegians, to be rivaled by Minneapolis and Seattle as the main destinations for Norwegian immigrants in the 1890s. These three cities became the cultural centers of their respective regions: Chicago for Norwegians in the Great Lakes states, Minneapolis for those in the Upper Midwest and Great Plains, and Seattle for both new arrivals and transplanted midwesterners in the Pacific Northwest. After the turn of the century, greater numbers of Norwegians made it no farther into the new land than New York City. There they found residence and work among their compatriots in Brooklyn, the emerging center of Norwegian culture on the Atlantic coast. The percentage of Norwegians residing in four major urban centers - Brooklyn, Chicago, Minneapolis, and Seattle - grew from 6 percent in 1880 to 20 percent in 1920. {9}

In these four cities, the later immigrants joined descendants of the rural pioneers who were leaving the Norwegian enclaves of the Midwest to seek work in industry. Visible elements of ethnic community life appeared among the urban Norwegians - churches and their subsidiary charitable and social associations, fraternal and athletic clubs, and singing societies, as well as Norwegian-language newspapers and ethnic business enterprises. Less comprehensive colonies [117] appeared in such American cities as Boston, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. By 1930, most Norwegian Americans, like most Americans in general, were classified as “urban.” {10} Within a century, Norwegians had found their way from the countryside to the city.

A large number of Norwegians, however, cannot be found in the records of the colonies’ population or institutions. An uncounted number of Norwegians - and other Europeans - roamed through the cities in search of work. Many sought seasonal employment in factories and mills on the eastern seaboard before returning home. Their search led them through industrial cities- Chicago, Detroit, San Francisco, and, on the east coast, Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Boston, and the ports of New Jersey. {11}

Like other immigrants of the era (and “guest workers” in present-day Europe), these Norwegians were temporary members of the American work force. According to Norwegian government records, one-quarter of all those who emigrated to America between 1881 and 1920 returned home between 1891 and 1940. The percentage rose during recessions and depressions. {12} Such persons had not made a permanent commitment to America. They were uncertain how long the American industrial boom would last. Some had simply given up on their dream of America and returned home. Others had never intended to stay in the first place. Married workingmen left Norway determined to earn and save for a few years before reuniting their families - on either side of the Atlantic. Young men who would have been apprenticed to craftsmen or hired out to farmers in an earlier time were sent to supplement their family’s income by working in American factories. Young women sought positions as housekeepers, intending to build a dowry. They had left determined to work in America only for a summer or for a year or two.

These birds of passage tend to escape the historian’s vision. They present two major problems: First, as residents of two countries and people of two cultures, they have often been unclaimed by either American or Norwegian ethnic [118] historians and genealogists. Second, like other working persons, they tend to be underdocumented. A footloose carpenter is not as likely as a successful industrialist or a prolific journalist to leave a diary or a collection of letters treasured by descendants and by archives.

Traditionally, immigrants’ letters have been invaluable tools in reconstructing the world they lived in. Scandinavians’ “America letters” had the effect, Theodore Blegen noted, of “a vast advertising movement,” attracting immigrants in the first half of the nineteenth century. {13} Passed from hand to hand and home to home in a Norwegian community, or read aloud at family gatherings, the accounts of Norwegians’ adventures in a new world “were undoubtedly the decisive influence in ripening many a decision to emigrate.” {14}

More often than not, the early America letters were desperate attempts of permanent immigrants to keep in contact with neighbors and relatives whom they might never see again. The first dispatch home would contain a lengthy description of the once-in-a-lifetime trip across the Atlantic to an uncertain future. Reading further, those at home learned of the immigrants’ first feelings about setting foot in the new homeland, the legal procedures of entry, and the initial, and usually unpleasant, encounter with the city. The first stage ended with an account of the long trek across the vast continent to the new farm in Wisconsin or Minnesota.

Subsequent letters described the first year in America - the search for shelter, the difficult winter on the prairie, and the coming of the first spring. The immigrant would attempt to describe new kinds of implements, crops, and livestock to people who had never seen them. He might write about the region and its climate, the neighboring farmlands, and the closest town. The immigrants’ first steps toward American citizenship were recounted along with news from the new homeland, including political and economic events. The reports to Norway ended with requests to be remembered to friends and family left behind. They promised vaguely to [119] return to visit after becoming more prosperous, and exhorted others to emigrate.

In time, the letters became annual reports of major events in the American experience, and then they came less often until one correspondent finally stopped writing altogether. In some cases, the exchange was ended by death. In others, the separate lives they lived in America and Norway drew the letter writers away from the common feelings and experiences they had shared before one of them had emigrated.

The letters Kristian Kristoffersen posted from Chicago to his friend Frants Michaelsen between 1885 and 1891 followed this pattern. {15} Like the initial letters from the rural emigrants, Kristoffersen’s first letter, in December, 1885, detailed his experiences after leaving his native Buskerud. He described the trip from Kristiania to Liverpool and across the Atlantic to New York. The inconvenience of the immigration formalities at Castle Garden was contrasted with the exhilaration of setting foot in his new homeland.

During his first year in Chicago, Kristoffersen reported proudly on his American adventures, balancing enthusiasm for his new home with nostalgia for the old. He left no doubt that he would become a permanent resident. He told of finding work in terms that could be considered an encouragement to emigrate. For the past six weeks he had been one of 250 men working in a piano factory. It was hard work, but good pay - ten hours a day for a dollar a day. Despite his good job, Kristoffersen found everything - even the necessities of life - very expensive. But this frustration could not dim the glamour of Chicago. The city was a wonderland “so big that we see little of it.” At the end of each letter, his thoughts returned to Norway. He inquired about Michaelsen’s family and their mutual friends. He closed by insisting that his “dear friend in Old Norway” write soon.

After a few months, Kristoffersen became more deeply immersed in his new environment. In August, 1886, he wrote lengthy and breathless commentary on American events - the Haymarket Affair and forest fires in Wisconsin - in a way that assumed that these events were well [120] reported in the Norwegian press. His work remained steady and satisfying, but prices were still high. Nonetheless, he confided, he planned to splurge and go boating on Lake Michigan on Sunday, his day off. Labor violence, the factory routine, and idyllic leisure left little time to feel homesick for Norway.

After a year, Kristoffersen began to write of returning to Norway to visit. He told Michaelsen that his homecoming would not be the homing flight of a bird of passage. Nor would it be the embarrassed return of a prodigal son. It would be the homecoming of a successful immigrant. He would return “as an American, not as a Norwegian.” Like one newly betrothed, his enthusiasm broke through an affected coyness as he reported that he had just visited the courthouse to take out citizenship papers. Being American has many practical benefits, he informed Michaelsen solemnly. With the beginning of the new year of 1887, his first-year papers filed, he subtly changed his signature. “K. Kristoffersen” of Buskerud had become “C. Christophersen” of Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.

In the summer of 1891, Christophersen took up his pen again to invite his Norwegian friend and his wife to the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893. The fair, he promised, would display wonders the two Norwegian boys would never have thought possible. He offered the Michaelsens free lodging “if I’m alive and healthy.” He recorded his address and suggested that Michaelsen write if he had the inclination, ink, and paper. Beneath the signature, C. Christophersen scrawled, “I hope you remember the name.”

With this poignant plea to be remembered, the collected correspondence ends. The boyhood friends became two men facing middle age in separate lives on different continents. Their shared experiences had dimmed as, with commitment to permanent American residence and citizenship, K. Kristoffersen of Buskerud vanished into the bustling milieu of turn-of-the century Chicago.

The Kristoffersen-Michaelsen letters differ greatly from a group of urban America letters discovered at Grimstad in [121] Norway. The accidental finding of these letters underscores the difficulty in documenting the experience of most immigrants. In the fall of 1981, a worker repairing an old building in Grimstad, East Agder, uncovered a sack of mail hidden behind an attic beam. The cache contained sixty-seven letters postmarked from various American cities in March and April of 1896 and addressed to persons in the area. After several months of public debate and controversy, Norwegian officials declared that the Grimstad letters were public property, as national historical materials whose value exceeded the interests of the descendants of the letters’ intended recipients. {16} Indeed, these letters from Norwegian immigrant workers provide a rare glimpse into the world of the later Norwegian immigrant.

Fate, in the form of two young postal employees who stole the letters in the 1890s, delivered these America letters to historians in the 1980s. Mail theft was a common fear among correspondents through the period of immigration. The abrupt end of a correspondence raised the suspicion that letters had been stolen from the mail on one side of the ocean or the other. One suspects that “mail theft” sometimes provided a convenient alibi for curtailing unwanted correspondence. The presence of large amounts of cash in the letters provided the thieves with a motive and the recipients with a fear. Ironically, the writer of one of the purloined letters suspected mischief on the part of the “mail boys.” “I would not put anything in the letters after you said ‘Stop!’” she wrote, “but at that time we had already sent a letter with four dollars enclosed.” {17}

Such references help define the letter writers as birds of passage, temporary workers who sent a portion of their earnings home in cash. In part, their willingness to send cash through the mail reflects the immaturity of the Norwegian-American banking system. While banks that were “Norwegian” or “Scandinavian” in name if not in management appeared in Chicago and Minneapolis, as well as smaller midwestern cities, Norwegians on the east coast had few alternatives to Yankee bankers. Brooklyn’s Nordisk Tidende noted [122] periodically the reluctance of the immigrants to patronize American banks. The newspaper warned its readers of the dangers of hoarding cash or sending it through the mail, and advised them to open savings accounts and send non-transferable money orders to Norway. {18} The newspaper praised the opening of the Hamilton Bank in the heart of the Norwegian colony in 1892, noting the large number of Norwegian names on the accounts register. An “American Norwegian Envoy Bank,” established in New York in the following decade, also won Nordisk Tidende’s approval, although the newspaper noted darkly that most of the depositors were Swedish. {19} A more satisfactory ethnic arrangement was found when Edwin O. Lee opened a “savings bank division” in his popular store and ticket agency. Among other services, Lee offered “Scandinavian Money Orders” for the immigrants to send money safely. One such money order - $33 for a memorial fund for a deceased worker - was among the few enclosures the mail thieves left in the Grimstad letter sack.

Despite their nearness to New York, the emerging banking center of the world, most itinerant workers lacked the confidence or the stability of residence to patronize banks, be they run by Yankees or fellow immigrants. They eschewed non-transferable certificates for American currency, preferring its convenience or, perhaps, its symbolism. The value of American currency was apparent: it represented a hard-earned wage that was parted with only at great sacrifice.

Money - the motive for both emigration and mail theft - was the most common theme of the letters. Many writers promised future shipments of cash and apologized for not sending more. One young man pledged to his family to send money “in three or four weeks. It has already cost a lot to travel so far,” he wrote, “and I have no money to give you or I would give you some.” A man advised his “dear wife and little daughter” to “be glad if I can earn a little so we can get our debts paid.” In the meantime, he pointed out, “I must live and have good health until next summer, so that we can soon be free of debt.” “It is about time for me to send home money [123] again,” Anna Jensen wrote her parents, but she could not send any until the second of April. Then, she advised them to deposit the money in the bank, even if they are “in need.” Her family was not to think her “hardhearted” for her frugality. These promises and apologies reflect the frustrations of people living at the subsistence level during the depression of the 1890s.

At that level, work and the search for work were at the center of life. The new immigrants found that the industrial economy and their position in it affected all aspects of their experience. “When I have work, I am in a better humor,” J. Håland wrote from Brooklyn, “and time goes faster.” Poverty was a common concern and a startling reality between jobs. Theodor Gundersen, apologizing to his mother for not writing, claimed that he lacked the five cents needed to post a letter. Like other immigrants, he sought to understand his position in the fluctuating economy during the depression when job security was rare, and during the rough winter of 1895-1896 when unemployment rose and wages fell. Optimists predicted improvements in the spring. “Here times are still bad,” Jacob Olsen Fevig wrote home in April, “but things will soon get better when summer sets in.”

Working and surviving in the new environment seemed to demand a tougher attitude than the immigrants had been used to at home. Those with steady employment accepted their wages stoically but complained of high prices. After paying for his own tools and paying $4 a week for board, one man calculated, his job at the docks left him with only 50 cents a day.

Work in American factories was more regulated than in Norway, the immigrants reported. Hours were long and voluntary time-off was not common. Holidays were fewer in the more secular country. J. Håland complained that he had to work not only on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, but on Easter Monday as well. “Today is Easter Monday,” another immigrant wrote his family from Westline, Pennsylvania, “and I think I would rather be home now.”

Sundays offered some relief. The immigrants reserved [124] their day of rest for simple pleasures and nostalgia. On Sundays, J. Håland wrote, he could sit contentedly with a pot of coffee and a bit of tobacco at his side to write letters. Others ventured out to explore the new land, to take in a concert or a circus, or the city’s parks and museums. Norwegians in New Jersey and New York traveled to Brooklyn to seek friends from home, or to socialize in the cafes and taverns. The day might end with a small party in a home. It is not surprising that many of the Grimstad letters were written on Sundays.

Through their letters, many immigrants tried to manage their affairs in Norway. Intending to return, they were determined to keep their farms and households running, their families and loved ones faithful, and their children obedient during their absence. In one letter, a man expressed concern for the family farm, directed renovations, and advised on fire insurance. In another, a husband gave his wife permission to buy a loom and a rocking chair. A young woman wrote her parents to protest their decision to take her younger sister out of school. “She needs another year of school,” she begged. Her own education, she told them, “stays in my head and I have often wished I could go to school again.” Nils Danielsen advised his ill wife to seek medical treatment in Kristiania. Another man tried to prevent his daughter from leaving home for Kristiania. He was certain, he wrote her, that she had badgered her mother into allowing her to go. “Isn’t Grimstad good enough for you anymore?” he scolded. “I have few children, and I worry about you in such a big city as Kristiania,” he wrote - from Brooklyn.

The letter writers sought not only to influence events at home, but to retain ties of family and friendship by reporting on others in America. Kristine Olsen greeted her family for Anders, who is greatly respected in his job, and from Danjel Olvesen, who has found work at last. B. G. Aanonsen sent greetings from his co-worker Aanon and from Mathias, who “drives around town selling potatoes for someone from Kristiansand.” Reports of neighbors’ successes and failures ended [125] frequently with pleas to greet a host of named persons in Norway.

This common desire to maintain control of events and persons from overseas reflects a general frustration with poor communications. Throughout the period, Norwegian-American newspapers printed regular columns of names of immigrants from whom little had been heard. The immigrants had similar worries about persons at home who had become silent. “I have been over to Brooklyn every day and asked after letters from you,” one writer lamented, “but nothing.” A young immigrant appealed in desperation to his girlfriend from whom he had heard nothing in two months. He was tired of waiting, he wrote her from Philadelphia. This letter would be his last, he vowed, if he did not hear from her in the next few days. Another young man, Carl Christiansen, confessed to his correspondent that “it has been a long time since I heard anything from you, so I thought you were dead.” His letter was written in Philadelphia but mailed from Boston - a reflection of the effects of mobility on communication.

In addition to their frustrations over money, work, and lack of letters, the immigrants expressed their homesickness freely. “I have now been over here in this fabled land a long time” one wrote from Boston, “but my thoughts are on that little island where I was happiest.” A young woman urged her best friend to recall their school days. Although Johan Andersen feared that he had been forgotten at home, it would be nice to return. “O, if only I were there today,” he wrote. “I should have gone home earlier.” A young woman described her loneliness on her eighteenth birthday. At home, it would have been a great event, she lamented, but she felt alone in Chicago.

Although reunion was the permanent solution to the problem of loneliness, the decision to stay in America or to return home was by no means simple. A man in Elizabeth, New Jersey, wrote that he could not possibly afford to stop working. Things were going so badly that he would be lucky to save anything at all. Maybe he would return home “next [126] summer.” A young woman admitted enjoying herself in America, but confessed “it would be good to see Norway again.” Such comments reflect the sentiments of people leading split lives.

One solution to the problem was to encourage others to emigrate, to rebuild the worker’s family and friendships in America. “I hear that Ida and Galugna will come over in May,” one wrote, adding, “so you should come too.” Writers filled letters with detailed practical advice. In his last letter to his wife prior to her departure, B. J. Aanonsen advised her to sell everything in their Norwegian household except the children’s schoolbooks, her clothes, bedding, and some family photographs which she was to bring to their new home in America. He reminded her to take some refreshments and an unbreakable chamber pot on the journey, “for the children’s sake.” Their four children’s hair should be cut short, he advised, so that they do not attract attention on the streets of New York. When she arrives in America, she will enter Ellis Island, “a big building the likes of which you have never seen.” “Don’t be shy,” he advised her, “act as if you were at home.” She was to sign her name as Andersen, as Yankees cannot handle the name of Birgette Aanonsen. She should stay at the immigration station until he or a substitute came to meet her. “I certainly look forward to the day when I shall see you again after four years of separation,” he concluded.

Another Brooklyn man advised his brother on the difficulties of finding work during the American depression. As an added challenge, the young man was advised, “You must learn early to drink beer, for that is the main thing in this country.” Another man sent a brother a ticket with the stern advice not to tell anyone that he had a job waiting for him, such an admission might identify him as a contract laborer, imported at the expense of native workers. Although an immigrant had to prove that he would not become a public charge, prepaid tickets and contracts for unskilled jobs made prior to emigration were outlawed by the contract labor law of 1885. A careless remark, the letter writer warned, could send the brother back to Norway. [127] The other solution to the problem of the split life - return to Norway - was described by Kristine Olsen in a letter to her sister. Her husband’s ill health required them to recross the Atlantic. The hardest part of turning their back on America seems to have been the necessity of selling all of their household goods, including a new icebox.

In such candid accounts of their everyday experiences and emotions, the immigrant letter writers described the new country. Most letters reveal aspects of American society and culture by implication. Stories of loneliness, alienation, and nostalgia reflect the Norwegians’ collision with a confusing and unsettling new environment. Some letter writers commented more directly on American society. A nurse bragged of socializing with “the best people of Staten Island” at a large wedding. “Seven hundred guests were invited!” she reported breathlessly. “They have the whole celebration in a church, not in the home!” she marvelled, adding, “It is really grand to be invited to such a place because there are only rich people there.” She ascribed her successful penetration of the prosperous class to the fact that “I am so well liked.” Another young woman revealed another way to American success. Beneath the letterhead of the Bryant and Stratton Business College, she demonstrated that she had learned to type fifty words a minute. In addition to studying bookkeeping, she worked from nine to five every day except Saturday. Her experience presaged the increasing availability of clerical jobs for women.

The commentary on America provided in these letters may be less explicit but it is no less powerful or valuable than that in the earlier immigrant letters. In his pioneering study of that group, Theodore Blegen identified three strengths of the America letters as historical sources. First, he noted, the letters provide details of the immigrant experience. Second, they reveal the reactions of the immigrant mind to the new environment, and third, they illustrate the types of influence brought to bear on the mind of the prospective emigrant in Norway. {20} [128]

The letters of the later Norwegian immigrants, such as those found at Grimstad, reflect no less vividly the identity and concerns of their writers. Together, these brief notes between persons who expected to see each other again soon furnish a cross section of the continuous translatlantic communication. Unlike the earlier, painstakingly written letters of record, the Grimstad letters are rich in details of the everyday lives of ordinary Norwegians in urban America at an important historical moment. They are among the very few sources scholars have with which to begin developing the portrait of the new Norwegian immigrant, making human figures appear from the rough outlines suggested by statistics and faded memories.


<1> Ingrid Semmingsen, Norway to America: A History of the Migration (Minneapolis, 1978), and Odd S. Lovoll, The Promise of America (Minneapolis, 1984), are two recent general histories that include treatment of the urban industrial immigrants. Recent research on the group was included in the symposium, “Scandinavians and Other Immigrants in Urban America,” held at St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minnesota, in October, 1984.

<2> Peter A. Munch, “Segregation and Assimilation of Norwegian Settlements in Wisconsin,” in Norwegian-American Studies and Records, 18 (Northfield, Minnesota, 1954), 102-140; Carlton C. Qualey, “A Typical Norwegian Settlement: Spring Grove, Minnesota,” in Norwegian-American Studies and Records, 9(1936), 54-66; Jon Gjerde, “The Effect of Community on Migration: Three Minnesota Townships, 1885-1905,” in Journal of Historical Geography, 5 (1979), 403-422.

<3> Arnfinn Engen, ed., Utvandringa. Det store oppbrotet (Oslo, 1978), 36; Utvandringsstatistikk (Kristiania, 1921). On the relationship between economic trends and general immigration to the United States, see Harry Jerome, Migration and Business Cycles (New York, 1926).

<4> Ingrid Semmingsen, “Norwegian Emigration to America during the Nineteenth Century,” in Norwegian-American Studies and Records, 11 (1940), 78-80. See Ekteskap, fødsler, og vandringer, published by the Norwegian Central Bureau of Statistics (Oslo, 1975).

<5> Semmingsen, Norway to America, 106 and following pages.

<6> Ingrid Semmingsen, “Family Emigration from Bergen, 1874-92: Some Preliminary Results of a Statistical Study,” in Americana-Norvegica, 3 (1971), 38-63.

<7> Rolf Kåre Østrem and Peter Rinnan, “Utvandring fra Kristiania, [129] 1880-1917. En studie i urban utvandring” (cand. philol. thesis, University of Oslo, 1979), 217.

<8> Edward P. Hutchinson, Immigrants and their Children, 1850-1950 (New York, 1956), 135, 150-151; Eleventh Census of the United States, 1890, 2:484-508.

<9> Fourteenth Census of the United States, 1920, 2:926-929, 959-962; Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930, 2:213, 232.

<10> Fifteenth Census, 232.

<11> summary of several studies of geographical mobility by Stephan Thernstrom, in The Other Bostonians: Poverty and Progress in the American Metropolis, 1880-1970 (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1973), 220-225, reveals that roughly half of the studied population could not be located in the same city ten years later. Thernstrom postulates that they joined the “floating proletariat.”

<12> Ekteskap, fødsler og vandringer, 218.

<13> Compilations and analyses include: Theodore C. Blegen, Land of Their Choice: The Immigrants Write Home (Minneapolis, 1955); Per Divine, ed., Brevet hjem; En samling brev fra norske utvandrere (Trondheim, 1975); H. Arnold Barton, ed., Letters from the Promised Land: Swedes in America, 1840-1914 (Minneapolis, 1975). Translations of many early America letters have appeared in volumes of Norwegian-American Studies.

<14> Theodore Blegen, Norwegian Migration to America, 1825-1860 (Northfield, Minnesota, 1931), 196, 212.

<15> The collected Kristoffersen-Michaelsen letters are to be found in the America-letter file of the Norwegian Institute of Historical Documents (Norsk Historisk Kjeldeskrift-Institutt) in Oslo, and in the archives of the Norwegian-American Historical Association.

<16> News releases and correspondence relating to “Brevfunnet i Grimstad,” 1982, are located at the Norsk Historisk Kjeldeskrift-Institutt. Additional information comes from discussions with Steinar Kjærheim, director of the Institute. See also Ingrid Semmingsen, “A Unique Collection of America-Letters in Norway” in Swedish-American Historical Quarterly, 35 (July, 1984), 316-321.

<17> This and subsequent quotations are from the “Grimstadbrevene” collection of sixty-seven America letters dated February 2-May 1, 1896, East Agder Archives, Arendal.

<18> Nordisk Tidende, March 18, 1915.

<19> Nordisk Tidende, May 13, 1892, February 18, 1909.

<20> Blegen, Norwegian Migration, 213.


<<   Previous Page   |   Next Page   >>

To the Home Page