Across the Deep Blue Sea, The Saga of Early Norwegian Immigrants

Across the Deep Blue SeaMy great grandparents are there in the story told by Lovoll of Norwegian immigrants coming from rural Norway to the rural Midwest. An expanding American nation needed settlers to live on the prairie and farm it, so Scandinavians were recruited. A tradition of sailing going back to the Vikings, a deep familiarity with the timber trade in Canada, the lure of opportunity in America, and the excitement of young and growing Norwegian communities there all combined to draw adventuresome Norwegians to the immigrant inlet of New York and to the port of Quebec, then on westward to Scandinavian and German settlements in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and the Dakotas.

Emigrant traffic was the backbone of transatlantic trade. The transportation of millions of emigrants from Europe beginning in the 1820s and growing dramatically throughout the century resulted in the establishment of large passenger shipping firms in England, the United States and Germany.  p. 22

The Norwegian merchant fleet enjoyed unbroken growth from 1826 until 1879; in fact it quadrupled in tonnage…The Norwegian fleet achieved a leading position among the world’s shipping nations…The sustained flow of Norwegian immigrants, with Quebec as the main port of entry, laid the foundation for strong Norwegian participation in the Canadian wood trade.  p. 43 ff

Norwegian emigrants are in general seen as economic migrants. They were not refugees or escapers from famine, but in the main emigrated for the purpose of seeking better employment and an improved financial position…America was the land of promise and opportunity, a powerful magnet throughout the era of emigration.  p. 52

The upper Red River Valley was destined to become one of the principal areas of Norwegian settlement…Beginning in the 1850s, the westward movement of Norwegian immigrants was directed especially into southern Minnesota and northern Iowa in advance of the railroad; the mother colonies were in most cases old settlements in Wisconsin. p. 170

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