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Norwegians and Swedes in the United States

Friends and Neighbors

Edited by Philip J. Anderson and Dag Blanck

Publication Year: 2011

To early American immigrants, nineteenth-century newcomers from the Scandinavian peninsula likely seemed all of a type. to immigrants hailing from Norway and Sweden, however, differences in language, culture, and religion sorted them into distinct groupings: not Scandinavian, but Norwegian or Swedish—and proud of their lineage. How did these differences affect relationships in the new world? In what ways did Swedes and Norwegians preserve their cultures in the city and in rural areas? On what political subjects did they disagree—or perhaps agree? Did they build communities together or in opposition to each other? Where they were neighbors, were they also friends? In this groundbreaking volume, scholars from the United States, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark debate these issues and more, sharing perspectives on context, culture, conflict, and community. Essayists include Philip J. Anderson, Jennifer Attebery, H. Arnold Barton, Ulf Jonas Björk, Dag Blanck, Jørn Brøndal, Angela Falk, Mark Granquist, Per Olof Grönberg, Ingeborg Kongslien, James p. Leary, Joy K. Lintelman, Odd S. Lovoll, David Mauk, Byron J. Nordstrom, Kurt W. Peterson, Harald Runblom, and Mark Safstrom.

Published by: Minnesota Historical Society Press

Title Page, Copyright

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Table of Contents

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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-xiv

Twenty years ago, Rudolph J. Vecoli made a powerful appeal to scholars to begin writing from “an inter-ethnic perspective on American immigration history.” And as he did so, Swedes, at least, were very much on his mind. Vecoli discussed this “inter-ethnic perspective” and its development....

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. xv

This book, which explores in a fresh and unprecedented way facets of the relationship between the two largest immigrant groups from Scandinavia to the United States, has come about through the work of many persons and the institutions they represent...


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Chapter 1. Friends and Neighbors? Patterns of Norwegian-Swedish Interaction in the United States

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pp. 5-20

In 1980 the Norwegian American professor Sverre Arestad of the University of Washington recalled his childhood in a small settlement known locally as “Snus Hill,” near Bellingham, Washington, consisting of ten Swedish and twentyfour Norwegian households. Reflecting on the relationship between the two groups, he noted that the larger number of Norwegians on Snus...

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Chapter 2. Norwegians and Swedes in America: Some Comparisons

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pp. 21-34

Norwegians and Swedes were by far the largest Nordic immigrant groups in the United States. They are also particularly well suited for a comparative study, having since time immemorial shared the long Scandinavian Peninsula, and being closely related by blood, culture, language, and religion. Yet notable differences between the two peoples are due...


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Chapter 3. Preserving a Cultural Heritage across Boundaries: A Comparative Perspective on Riksföreningen Sverigekontakt

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pp. 37-53

“Immigration,” Nancy L. Green and François Weil wrote, “has come to be seen as a litmus test for how nations define themselves.” Indeed, historians have traditionally directed major attention to the countries of immigration and how the immigrants integrated into a new...

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Chapter 4. Freedom, Identity, and Double Perspectives: Representations of the Migrant Experience in the Novels of Vilhelm Moberg and O.E. Rølvaag

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pp. 54-66

The emigrant and immigrant epics written by the novelists Vilhelm Moberg and Ole Edvart Rølvaag respectively have contributed important depictions and interpretations of the Scandinavian emigrant and Scandinavian American immigrant experience. These novels are cultural representations of migrant movements, their historical, sociological,...

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“Ar Du Svensk?”—“Norsk, Norsk!”, Folk Humor and Cultural Difference in Scandinavian America

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pp. 67-84

I was born in 1950 and raised in Rice Lake, a farming and logging town in northwestern Wisconsin. Like some in the area, we were Irish, but the community also included Ojibwes, French Canadians, Germans, Swiss, assorted Slavs, Italians, and especially Scandinavians...

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Chapter 6: Long after the Immigrant Language Shift: Swedish and Norwegian in Heritage Communities

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pp. 85-106

When Swedish and Norwegian emigrants left their home parishes to migrate to the United States, the status of their native languages for them and their families was no longer the same. The language contact they experienced with English as individuals and as groups set into motion a dynamic state of affairs that is still perceptible...

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Chapter 7. Writing History Together: Norwegian American and Swedish American Historians in Dialogue

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pp. 107-122

Is there a special relationship between Norwegian America and Swedish America? Participants raised this central question at the “Friends and Neighbors” conference at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois, October 19–20, 2007. Answering this broad question would require more time than the weekend conference allowed. What...


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Chapter 8. "We are Norwegians and Swedes Now, Not Scandinavians": The Impact of Norwegian Independence on Scandinavian American Politics in the Midwest

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pp. 125-138

In the summer of 1906, about one year after Norway had emerged as an independent nation, Ole A. Buslett, the Norwegian American writer and politician, wrote a letter to Skandinaven, the politically most influential Norwegianlanguage newspaper...

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Chapter 9. An End to Brotherhood? Swedes and Norwegians in American Discuss the 1905 Union Dissolution

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pp. 139-153

In early 1906, a Norwegian immigrant in northern Minnesota wrote to the Norwegian-language weekly Minneapolis Tidende to tell its readers a little about life in newly settled Beltrami County. Most of its inhabitants were Scandinavians, according to Gust Pederson, and...

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Chapter 10. "The Sociological Factor Is Not to Be Underestimated": Swedes, Norwegians, adn American Luthern Merger Negotiations, 1920–60

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pp. 154-169

In working through E. Clifford Nelson’s history of Lutherans in North America, the reader comes across an interesting and somewhat enigmatic passage concerning merger negotiations in the early 1940s. A number of midwestern Lutheran denominations, including the...

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Chapter 11. A Question of Conscience: Minnesota's Norwegian American Lutherans and the Teaching of Evolution

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pp. 170-194

On March 8, 1927, hundreds of Minnesota’s concerned citizens packed the Minneapolis State House chamber to hear debate over proposed legislation that would forbid the teaching of evolution in the state’s tax-supported primary, secondary, and university institutions. Three hours before the meeting was scheduled to begin the seats...


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Chapter 12. Journeymen or Traditional Emigrants? Norwegian and Swedish Engineers and Architects in North America, 1880–1930

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pp. 197-218

Norwegian American historian Kenneth O. Bjork describes engineers as a specific group of transatlantic migrants differing considerably from immigrants settling as farmers in the midwestern prairie. At a 1901 meeting of returned engineers and architects, one participant claimed that Swedish technicians rarely migrated in order to settle permanently...

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Chapter 13. Corncobs to Classmates: Swedish Americans at a Norwegian American College

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pp. 219-235

The nickname for students, alumni, and athletic teams at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, is “Cobbers,” a shortened version of the earlier nickname “Corncobs.” An unusual appellation for students at a Christian liberal arts institution, the name developed...

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Chapter 14. A Scandinavian Eclave on Lake Superior's North Shore: Settlement Patterns and Community Building among Norwegians, Swedes, and Swede Finns in Hovland, Minnesota 1888–1932,

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pp. 236-257

Human life has always aspired to a personal and collective sense of place and being rooted in belonging, even in the complex patterns of migration where the old and the new become negotiated over time in transformed identities. It has been said that...

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Chapter 15. Norwegians and Swedes in Willmar, Minnesota in the Early Twentieth Century: Neighbors, Friends, Schoolmates, and Lovers

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pp. 258-274

The setting for this chapter is the town of Willmar, Minnesota. Located about ninety miles west of Minneapolis, it is the county seat for Kandiyohi County. It is named after Leon Willmar, a Belgian who worked as an agent for the St. Paul and Pacific Railroad (later the...

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Chapter 16. The Basis for Pan-Scandinavian Cooperation in Minneapolis-St. Paul: Nordic Involvement in American Politics Prior to 1930

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pp. 275-294

The first two voluntary organizations among Nordic immigrants in St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota—a Lutheran church in each city—conform to the conventional view of pan-Scandinavian institutions. Swedes and Norwegians joined forces early in community...

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Chapter 17 Scandinavianism in the Rocky Mountain West

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pp. 295-307

In May 1893 the Norwegian-language newspaper Montana Posten reported enthusiastically that the May 17 (Norwegian Constitution Day) celebration in Helena was a success, attended by Norwegians, Swedes, and “other nationalities.” But the Posten editor also complained about a misinformed announcement that had appeared in the English...

Notes on Contributors

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pp. 209-310


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pp. 311-328

Image Credits

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pp. 329

E-ISBN-13: 9780873518413
E-ISBN-10: 0873518411
Print-ISBN-13: 9780873518161
Print-ISBN-10: 0873518160

Page Count: 320
Illustrations: 40 b&w illus., 3 maps, notes, index, tables, bibliography
Publication Year: 2011

Edition: 1