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Norwegian Americans ( ) are Americansmarker of Norwegian descent. Norwegian immigrants went to the United States primarily in the later half of the 19th century and the first few decades of the 20th century. There are more than five million Norwegian Americans according to the most recent U.S. census, and most live in the Upper Midwest.

Norwegians in the United States

History

Viking exploration

Norsemen from Greenland and Iceland were the first Europeans to reach North America in what is today Newfoundland, Canada, when the Icelander Leif Ericson reached North America via Norse settlements in Greenlandmarker around the year 1000, nearly five centuries before Columbus reached the Caribbean. It is generally accepted that the Norse settlers in Greenland founded the settlement of L'Anse aux Meadowsmarker in Vinland, their name for what is now Newfoundland, Canada. Just how much they explored further past the Canadianmarker Maritimes has been a matter of debate for the past hundred years amongst romantic and ethnic nationalists as well as historians. Some highly disputed evidence suggests that Norwegians may have traveled much further into the North American mainland (See Kensington Runestonemarker).



Post-Columbian settlement

There was a Norwegian presence in New Amsterdam (New Yorkmarker after 1664) in the early part of 17th century. Hans Hansen Bergen, a native of Bergenmarker, Norway, was one of the earliest settlers of the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam having immigrated in 1633. Another of the first Norwegian settlers was Albert Andriessen Bradt who arrived in New Amsterdam in 1637. Approximately 60 persons had settled in the Manhattanmarker area before the British take-over in 1664. How many Norwegians that settled in New Netherlands (the area up the Hudson River to Fort Oranjemarker—now Albanymarker) is not known. The Netherlands (and especially Amsterdammarker and Hoornmarker) had strong commercial ties with the coastal lumber trade of Norway during the 17th century and many Norwegians emigrated to Amsterdam. Some of them settled in Dutch colonies, although never in large numbers. (For further reading, see for example J.H. Innes, New Amsterdam and its people.) There were also Norwegian settlers in Pennsylvaniamarker in the first half of the 18th century, and in upstate New Yorkmarker in the latter half of the same century.

Organized immigration

Cleng Peerson
Organized Norwegian immigration to North America began in 1825, when several dozen Norwegians left Stavangermarker bound for North America on the sloop Restauration (often called the "Norwegian Mayflower") under the leadership of Cleng Peerson. To a great extent, this early emigration from Norway was borne out of religious persecution, especially for Quakers and a local religious group, the Haugianerne. The ship landed in New York Citymarker, where it was at first impounded for exceeding its passenger limit. After intervention from President John Quincy Adams, the passengers moved on to settle in Kendall, New Yorkmarker with the help of Andreas Stangeland, witnessing the opening of the Erie Canal en route. Most of these immigrants moved on from Kendall, settling in Illinoismarker and Wisconsinmarker. Cleng Peerson became a traveling emissary for Norwegian immigrants and died in a Norwegian Settlement near Cranfills Gapmarker, Texasmarker, in 1865.

While there were about 65 Norwegian individuals who emigrated via ports in Swedenmarker and elsewhere in the intervening years, the next emigrant ship did not leave Norway for the New World until 1836, when the ships Den Norske Klippe and Norden departed. In 1837, a group of immigrants from Tinnmarker emigrated via Gothenburgmarker to the Fox River Settlement, near present-day Sheridan, Illinoismarker. But it was the writings of Ole Rynning, who traveled to the U.S. on the Ægir in 1837 that energized Norwegian immigration.

The good majority of Norwegian immigrants, close to 500,000 came to the USA via Canada, and the Canadian port of Quebec. The British Government repealed the navigation laws in 1849 in Canada and from 1850 on, Canada became the port of choice as Norwegian ships carried passengers to Canada and took lumber back to Norway. The Canadian route offered many advantages to the emigrant over traveling to the USA directly. "They moved on from Quebec both by rail and by steamer for another thousand or more miles (1600 km) for a steerage fare of slightly less than $9.00. Steamers from Quebec, Canada brought them to Toronto, Canada then the immigrants often traveled by rail for 93 miles to Collingwood, Ontario, Canada on Lake Huron, from where steamers transported them across Lake Michigan to Chicago, Milwaukee and Green Bay. Not until the turn of the century did Norwegians accept Canada as a land of the second chance. This was also true of the many American-Norwegians who moved to Canada seeking homesteads and new economic opportunities. By 1921 one-third of all Norwegians in Canada had been born in the U.S.

Norwegian immigration through the years was predominantly motivated by economic concerns. Compounded by crop failures, Norwegian agricultural resources were unable to keep up with population growth, and the Homestead Act promised fertile, flat land. As a result, settlement trended westward with each passing year.

Early Norwegian settlements were in Pennsylvania and Illinois, but moved westward into Wisconsin, Minnesotamarker, and the Dakotas. Later waves of Norwegian immigration went to the Western states such as Washingtonmarker and Oregonmarker, and Utahmarker through missionary efforts of gaining Norwegian and Swedish converts by the Mormons. Additionally, craftsmen also emigrated to a larger, more diverse market. Until recently, there was a Norwegian area in Sunset Park, Brooklyn originally populated by Norwegian craftsmen.

Between 1825 and 1925, more than 800,000 Norwegians immigrated to North America—about one-third of Norway's population with the majority immigrating to the USA, and lesser numbers immigrating to the Dominion of Canada. With the exception of Irelandmarker, no single country contributed a larger percentage of its population to the United States than Norway.

Today



  • There are more than 4.5 million people of Norwegian ancestry in the United States today. Of these, approximately three million claim "Norwegian" as their sole or primary ancestry.
  • A little more than 2% of whites in the United States are of Norwegian descent. In the Upper Midwest, especially Minnesotamarker, western Wisconsinmarker, northern Iowamarker, and the Dakotasmarker, more than 15% of whites are of Norwegian descent. Nearly one-third of all North Dakotans claim Norwegian as their ancestry.
  • 55% of Norwegian Americans live in the Midwest, although a large number (21%) live in the Pacific States of Washingtonmarker, Oregonmarker, and Californiamarker.
  • Norwegian Americans actively celebrate and maintain their heritage in many ways. Much of it centers on the Lutheran-Evangelical churches they were born into, but also culinary customs (e.g., lutefisk and lefse), costumes (bunad), and Norwegian holidays (Syttende Mai, May 17) are popular. A number of towns in the United States, particularly in the Upper Midwest, display very strong Norwegian influences.
  • Although the Norwegians were the most numerous of all the Scandinavian immigrant groups, other Scandinavians also immigrated to America during the same time period. Today, there are 11–12 million Americans of Scandinavian ancestry. Scandinavian descendants represent about 6% of the white population in the United States as a whole, and more than 25% of the white population of the Upper Midwest.
  • Norwegian Americans tend to be Lutheran, although substantial minorities are Roman Catholic or belong to other Protestant denominations. Unlike Danish and Swedish Americans, very few converted to Mormonism. See The Norwegian Lutheran Church in the United States.
  • There are more people of Norwegian ancestry in America than in Norway.


Norwegian Americans by state



The U.S states by Norwegian Americans:

State Rank State Norwegian American Percent Norwegian American
- 4,669,516 1.6%
1 878,744 16.8%
2 462,694 8.2%
3 411,571 1.1%
4 399,460 6.1%
5 194,886 30.4%
6 177,448 1.4%
7 168,362 5.6%
8 157,601 4.2%
9 121,671 15.1%
10 119,225 1.8%
11 118,968 0.6%
12 114,762 0.6%
13 113,764 2.3%
14 92,676 9.6%
15 89,372 0.9%
16 87,332 0.4%
17 62,953 2.3%
18 51,338 0.7%
19 49,729 3.3%
20 46,787 0.8%
21 46,632 0.4%
22 43,192 0.5%
23 43,052 1.7%
24 42,173 0.5%
25 39,565 0.6%
26 38,431 0.3%
27 38,261 0.4%
28 36,642 2.1%
29 35,558 1.3%
30 33,948 0.5%
31 31,732 4.6%
32 30,868 0.5%
33 28,167 0.5%
34 22,592 0.6%
35 21,392 4.0%
36 16,550 0.5%
37 16,154 0.8%
38 16,121 0.4%
39 16,014 0.3%
40 12,890 1.0%
41 12,812 0.4%
42 11,904 0.3%
43 11,795 0.3%
44 11,131 0.8%
45 11,067 0.9%
46 9,286 0.3%
47 6,044 0.6%
48 5,551 0.9%
- 4,563 0.8%
49 3,844 0.2%
50 3,016 0.3%
- 360 0.0%


The U.S states with the highest percentage Norwegian Americans

State Rank State Percent Norwegian American Norwegian American
- 1.6% 4,669,516
1 30.4% 194,886
2 16.8% 878,744
3 15.1% 121,671
4 9.6% 92,676
5 8.2% 462,694
6 6.1% 399,460
7 5.6% 168,362
8 4.2% 157,601
9 4.6% 31,732
10 4.0% 21,392
- 0.8% 4,563
- 0.0% 360


U.S. communities with high percentages of people of Norwegian ancestry

The 10 U.S. communities with the highest percentage of residents claiming Norwegian ancestry are:

  1. Northwood, North Dakotamarker 55.5%%
  2. Fertile, Minnesotamarker 54.4%%
  3. Blair, Wisconsinmarker 53.3%
  4. Crosby, North Dakotamarker 52.3%
  5. Spring Grove, Minnesotamarker 52.0%
  6. Strum, Wisconsinmarker 50.9%
  7. Twin Valley, Minnesotamarker 49.9%
  8. Mayville, North Dakotamarker 48.5%
  9. Westby, Wisconsinmarker 48.1%
  10. Cooperstown, North Dakotamarker 46.6%


Use of Norwegian language in the United States

Use of the Norwegian language in the United States was at its peak between 1900 and World War I, then:
  • Over one million Americans spoke Norwegian as their primary language.
  • There were hundreds of Norwegian-language newspapers across the Upper Midwest.
    • Decorah Posten and Skandinaven were major Norwegian language newspapers.
    • The Northfieldmarker Independent was another notable newspaper. The Editor Was Andrew Roberg, who collected massive amounts of Norwegian births and deaths in U.S. The file he created is now known as The Rowberg File (Maintained at St. Olaf Collegemarker, and is commonly used in family research across the USA and Norway.
    • Over 600,000 homes received at least one Norwegian newspaper in 1910.
  • More than 3,000 Lutheran churches in the Upper Midwest used Norwegian as their sole language.


Use of the Norwegian language declined in the 1920s and 1930s due in large part to the rise of nationalism among the American population during and after World War I. During this period, readership of Norwegian-language publications fell, Norwegian Lutheran churches began to hold their services in English, and the younger generation of Norwegian Americans was encouraged to speak English rather than Norwegian. When Norway itself was liberated from Nazi Germany in 1945, relatively few Norwegian Americans under the age of 40 still spoke Norwegian as their primary language (although many still understood the language). As such, they were not passing the language on to their children, the next generation of Norwegian Americans.

Some source stated that today there are 81,000 Americans who speak Norwegian as their primary language, however, according to the US Census, only 55,475 Americans spoke Norwegian at home as of 2000, and the American Community Survey in 2005 showed that only 39,524 people use the language at home.[96056]

Many Lutheran colleges that were established by immigrants and people of Norwegian background, such as Luther Collegemarker in Decorah, Iowamarker, Pacific Lutheran Universitymarker in Tacoma, Washingtonmarker, and St. Olaf Collegemarker in Northfield, Minnesotamarker, continue to offer Norwegian majors in their undergraduate programs. Many major American universities, such as the University of Washingtonmarker, University of Oregonmarker, University of Wisconsin–Madisonmarker, and the Indiana University offer Norwegian as a language within their Germanic language studies programs.

Two Norwegian Lutheran churches in the United States continue to use Norwegian as a primary liturgical language, Mindekirkenmarker in Minneapolismarker and Minnekirkenmarker in Chicago.

Literary writing in Norwegian in North America includes the works of Ole Edvart Rølvaag, whose best-known work Giants in the Earth ("I de dage", literally In Those Days) was published in both English and Norwegian versions. Rølvaag was a professor from 1906 to 1931 at St. Olaf College, where he was also head of the Norwegian studies department beginning in 1916.

Notable Norwegian Americans

In entertainment, Sigrid Gurie, an actress discovered by Samuel Goldwyn and billed as "the siren of the fjords," starred in numerous motion pictures in the 1930s and 1940s.

In the military, Knut Haukelid, Gurie's twin brother, became a Norwegian resistance fighter during World War II, and had a significant role in the Norwegian heavy water sabotage.

In journalism, Eric Sevareid, a CBS reporter and one of a group of elite war correspondents known as the "Murrow's Boys" - named so because they were hired by Edward R. Murrow - covered the Second World War in Francemarker and the Blitz of London.

In literature, Ole Edvart Rølvaag wrote about the immigrant experience, especially the Norwegian-American experience in The Dakotasmarker. Rølvaag's former home is a National Historic Landmark.

In labor unions, Andrew Furuseth was largely responsible for the passage of four reforms that changed the lives of American mariners. Two of them, the Maguire Act of 1895 and the White Act of 1898, ended corporal punishment and abolished imprisonment for deserting a vessel. The Seamen's Act of 1915 included all these and was his main project.

In public service, Earl Warren was Governor of California, Republican Party nominee for Vice President of the United States in 1948, and the 14th Chief Justice of the United States.

In science, Lars Onsager, a physical chemist and theoretical physicist, was the winner of the 1968 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Christian B. Anfinsen won the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1972. He postulated Anfinsen's dogma. Ole Evinrude invented the first outboard motor with practical commercial application, recognizable today on modern motorboats. Norman Borlaug, father of the Green Revolution, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. Borlaug's humanitarian work is often said to have changed the world of agronomics.

In religion, Olaf M. Norlie created the Simplified New Testament.

In sports, Knute Rockne became one of the greatest coaches in college football history, while Babe Zaharias was named by the Guinness Book of Records as the most versatile female athlete of all time. Zaharias achieved outstanding success in golf, basketball and track and field athletics.

In medicine, Earl Bakken developed the first wearable transistorized pacemaker and founded the Fortune 500 medical technology company Medtronic as well as the Bakken Museummarker.

See also



Notes

  1. Incidentally, the number of Americans of Norwegian descent living in the U.S. today (4.5 million) is roughly equal to the population of Norway (4.6 million).
  2. OliveTreeGenealogy.com: The Norwegian Bradt Family in New Netherland New York


References

  1. University of Oslo "Vinland – Myth and Reality" [1]
  2. Scandinavian Immigrants in New York 1630-1674 (by John O. Evjen, K. C. Holter Publishing Company, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1916)
  3. Haugeans, Rappites, and the Emigration of 1825 ( by Ingrid Semmingsen, translated by C. A. Clausen. Norwegian- American Historic Association. Volume 29: Page 3)[2]
  4. Erling Viksund “The Ægir People.” January, 2005 [3]
  5. U.S Census Bureau
  6. Official Website (Daughters of Norway Website) [4]


Primary sources

  • Blegen, Theodore C. ed. Norwegian Emigrant Songs and Ballads (Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1936)
  • Gulliksen, Øyvind T. Letters to Immigrants in the Midwest from the Telemark Region of Norway (Norwegian American Historic Association, Volume 32: Page 157)
  • Nilsson, Svein. A Chronicler of Immigrant Life (Billed-Magazin, Madison, Wisconsin, trans. and ed. C. A. Clausen. Norwegian-American Historical Association, 1982).
  • Ræder, Ole Munch. America in the Forties: The Letters of Ole Munch Ræder (ed. and trans. Gunnar J. Malmin. Minneapolis: Norwegian-American Historical Association, 1929)


Secondary sources

  • Bjork, Kenneth. West of the Great Divide: Norwegian Migration to the Pacific Coast, 1847–1893 (Norwegian-American Historical Association, Northfield, Minn., 1958)
  • Blegen, Theodore C. Norwegian Migration to the United States (2 vols., Norwegian-American Historical Association, Northfield, Minn., 1931-40)
  • Blegen, Theodore C. Cleng Peerson and Norwegian Immigration, (Mississippi Valley Historical Review, 7 March 1921: 303–21)
  • Evjen, John O. Scandinavian Immigrants in New York 1630-1674 ((Genealogical Pub. Co., Baltimore, 1972)
  • Flom, George T. A History of Norwegian Immigration to the United States: From the Earliest Beginning Down to the Year 1848 (Private Printing. Iowa City, IA. 1909)
  • Gjerde, Jon. The Minds of the West: Ethnocultural Evolution in the Rural Middle West, 1830–1917 (University of North Carolina Press, 1997)
  • Gjerde, Jon From Peasants to Farmers: The Migration from Balestrand, Norway, to the Upper Middle West (Cambridge, New York : Cambridge University Press, 1985)
  • Jacobs, Henry Eyster. A History of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the United States (New York, Christian Literature Co.,1893)
  • Munch, Peter A. Authority and Freedom: Controversy in Norwegian-American Congregations, (Norwegian-American Studies 28. 1979)
  • Nelson, E. Clifford, and Eugene L. Fevold, The Lutheran Church among Norwegian Americans: A History of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Minneapolis, Augsburg Pub. House, 2 vols. 1960)
  • Norlie, Olaf M. History of the Norwegian People in America (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House, 1925)
  • Qualey, Carlton C. Norwegian Settlement in the United States (Northfield, Minn.: Norwegian-American Historical Association, 1938)
  • Rygg, Andrew Nilsen Norwegians in New York, 1825— 1925 (Brooklyn, N.Y.: Norwegian News Co. 1941)

External links

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U.S. Census Bureau statistics



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