A good book about the immigration of Norwegians to the Midwest?
January 9, 2012 10:47 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a good book about the Scandinavia to Midwest America immigrant experience (non-fiction).

The Midwest is filled with Norwegians who arrived seemingly in droves to Minnesota and Iowa and Wisconsin in the late 19th century. I'd like to read a good history of how this came about.

Resources other than books (websites, documentaries, etc) are welcome also.

Any suggestions? Thanks.
posted by Lutoslawski to Society & Culture (14 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You might contact someone at our Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Cultures, specifically Jim Leary. He's a cool guy, but he's in and out of the office.
posted by Madamina at 11:00 AM on January 9, 2012

Best answer: The University of Minnesota Press is probably the best place to look for this kind of thing. Here's their "Minnesota and the Upper Midwest" section; there's a bunch of good stuff in there.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:27 AM on January 9, 2012

(Long story short, though: The upper midwest is very, very cold, so the US campaigned for Scandinavians -- used to the cold -- to come over and fill some space. Many relocated from there to Alaska -- same reason -- which is why Sarah Palin sounds like that. It's much the same story in the Canadian prairies, especially Manitoba.)
posted by Sys Rq at 11:34 AM on January 9, 2012

Best answer: The Vesterheim Museum in Iowa is dedicated to the Norwegian immigration experience. They could probably recommend a great book.
posted by Foam Pants at 11:57 AM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The first permanent Norwegian and Swedish settlements in the Midwest were both in Illinois. Bishop Hill for the Swedes: "Bishop Hill was the site of a utopian religious community founded in 1846 by Swedish pietist Eric Janson (1808-1850) and his followers. Many consider the Jansonist emigration as the beginning of Swedish America. A number of historically significant buildings have survived and are scattered throughout the village, four of which are owned by the state and managed as part of the Bishop Hill State Historic Site." If you call or e-mail the state historic site, they can direct you to further resources -- the town survives on tourism related to the Jansonist settlers, and there are several organizations in the town dedicated to preserving it. (I know they have books on it, but many are small press and I don't have any to hand ... but the Bishop Hill people will!)

And also in Illinois, the town of Norway was "the first permanent Norwegian settlement in the Midwest" in 1834. They have a museum in the nearest big town.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:07 PM on January 9, 2012

Best answer: The Swedish American Museum in Chicago lists several books on their site that might be of interest to you (as well as several that might not!).
posted by carrienation at 12:43 PM on January 9, 2012

Best answer: I've heard a lot of good things about I go to America, by Joy K. Lintelman. This memoir was written by a Swedish woman who traveled to Minnesota in the late 1800's. It won the 2012 Minnesota Book Award for non-fiction - I didn't read it myself, but those of my colleagues who did read it said it was a great book about the lives of single immigrant women to came to the upper midwest in droves.
posted by Elly Vortex at 12:49 PM on January 9, 2012

Response by poster: These are all fantastic suggestions. Thank you everyone. And keep them coming if you've got 'em!
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:10 PM on January 9, 2012

Oh, btw, my great-grandpa came over from Sweden to Chicago via Ellis Island (1905) and later settled in north-central Illinois. If you'd like some personal reminiscences, he wrote them all out and I could probably share them. He had something like 11 brothers and sisters, too, most of whom came to various Midwestern places, so that might be interesting.
posted by Madamina at 3:08 PM on January 9, 2012

Best answer: The Minnesota Historical Society Press (which published Lintelman's book) is even better than U of M when it comes to this (I think). They do a nice, basic introductory series "______ [Hmong, Finns, Swedes, Ojibwe, what-have-you] in Minnesota," and have more in-depth titles like Norwegians on the Prairie or Norwegians and Swedes in Minnesota as well.
posted by kickingthecrap at 10:19 PM on January 9, 2012

Best answer: A friend of mine works at the Minnesota Historical Society, and they are GREAT people there.

What about the organization Sons Of Norway? Try asking them: http://www.sofn.com/about_us/showPage.jsp?document=History.html

And down at St. Olaf college they have a Norwegian-American Historical Association who should be able to help. They're also on Facebook!
posted by wenestvedt at 9:02 AM on January 10, 2012

Best answer: D'oh! How could I forget the Versterheim museum?!

Their library page says, "Call Jennifer Kovarik at 563-382-9681 or email info@vesterheim.org to schedule an appointment." I bet she could help make some suggestions.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:04 AM on January 10, 2012

Another good resource for you: The Swenson Swedish Immigration Research Center at Augustana College in Rock Island, IL.
posted by Fred Mars at 2:05 PM on January 10, 2012

Historian and Norwegian immigrant Hjalmar Holand* wrote a number of books on Midwestern history and Norwegian immigrants, including some detailed studies of the communities in Door County, WI. The Wikipedia entry linked above includes his bibliography.

(* my great-great grandfather!)
posted by Fin Azvandi at 7:08 PM on January 21, 2012

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