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American Finns

Joseph S. Roucek

I

The History of Finnish Immigration

One of the earliest and some of the later Finnish emigrants to America were born in the northern parts of Norway, where for a long time there has been a considerable Finnish population. This explains why the first Finns to come to America accompanied a group of Swedes who made their homes in what is now the state of Delaware, near the present site of the city of Wilmington, at the beginning of the seventeenth century.

Gustavus Adolphus saw the advantages which might be expected from establishing colonies and thereby extending commerce, and in June 1626, at the instance of Willem Usselinx, a Netherlander, a commercial company was formed for this purpose. But in May 1630 Gustavus resolved to invade Germany, and the funds of the company were arbitrarily applied as resources in this war. After Gustavus's death the Swedish Government carried the original design into effect early in 1638, when the band of Swedes and Finns arrived in the Delaware Bay.

There were many Finnish settlers in Sweden in the State forest lands. They were engaged in felling timber, burning branches and bringing the land under cultivation. These activities were known as 'burn beating'. The Finns eventually fell into disfavour with the Governor, and many of their homes and fields were destroyed and their families rendered destitute. Some of them lived in the forests by hunting, and others sought employment at the mines and farms. These wandering Finns, deprived of their houses and farms, were branded as 'Finnish vagrants', and the Swedish Government proposed that they should be prevailed upon to go with their wives and children to New Sweden with the third expedition. Four Finnish peasants who had been found guilty of burn beating applied to the Government for permission to go to New Sweden. Other Finns voluntarily offered their services, and in 1640 Måns Kling hired fourteen soldiers and servants, many of whom were Finns, for the expedition. But the number of colonists was still regarded as insufficient. As settlers for the new colony the Swedish Finns seemed thoroughly well qualified, and instructions were given to offer them inducements to emigrate and, if enough would not go voluntarily, to 'capture the forest destroyers' and keep them in readiness to sail for New Sweden.1 More than thirty emigrants, some accompanied by their families and nearly all Finns, were collected, and in July 1641 the Kalmar Nyckel and the Charitas sailed from Gothenburg for New Sweden.

The colonists became prosperous and wrote letters to their relatives in Sweden praising the new country. More and more Finns in Sweden now applied to be taken to the colony, and soon there were more volunteers than the ships could carry. The emigration of Finns even created international complications. In 1664 a number of Finnish families made their way across Norway to Christiania and thence to Holland intent on emigration. The Swedish Government protested, as its colony had been taken by the Dutch, but the Dutch shipped the emigrants to America in spite of these objections.

The Finns continued to arrive. In 1669 an imposter known as Long Fin, who styled himself 'Königsmark, a son of Count Königsmark, the Swedish General' but whose real name was Marcus Jacobson, came with a group of Swedes and Finns, and with Henry Coleman, a Finn, as his chief accomplice incited them to an insurrection against the English, who were now in possession of the colony. Long Fin was arrested, whipped, branded and sent to Barbados as a slave.

These Finns soon turned the land upon which now stand the cities of Wilmington, Philadelphia and Chester, Pennsylvania, from a wilderness into cultivated farms, and in time they began to migrate toward Southern New York. Many names in Delaware, Pennsylvania and Southern New York testify to the existence of Finns there, and recent historical research has revealed that a number of the oldest established and best known families of the Philadelphia and Delaware valley trace their origins to these early Finnish settlers. For instance, John Morton, one of the signatories of the Declaration of Independence, boasted of Finnish ancestry. William Penn bought land from these settlers and has left written testimony to the cleanliness of their home life, their large families and their habits of hard work. He was impressed by the fact that in nearly all Finnish families there were from ten to twenty children.

After this first period of Finnish colonization there was a long interval during which no Finns are known to have come to America, and the old settlers soon merged with their neighbours. Individual cases of emigration to America in the first half of the nineteenth century have, however, been recorded.

The next notable immigration took place in Alaska. When this vast territory belonged to Russia, it was used mainly for trading purposes. The Russian merchant marine was dependent to a great extent on the services of Finns. Arvid Adolf Etholen, a Finn, who was Governor of Alaska, was also the promoter of Finnish immigration there. Several hundred Finns arrived between 1835 and 1865 and formed the majority among the Europeans who had moved there as free immigrants during the Russian rule. As fishermen, hunters and foresters in the Sitka district the Finnish settlers prospered greatly. They were accompanied or followed by a number of pastors, among whom was the late Uno Cygnaeus, who was to become famous as the founder of the system of primary education in Finland.

The Finns became more numerous in the United States after the discovery of gold in California. Several hundreds came as seamen to the Pacific coast in 1849 and afterwards settled there. In 1855, during the Crimean War, some Finnish sailors who had enlisted under the Russian flag remained in America in order to avoid being captured by the British on the high seas and stayed on in New Orleans, Philadelphia, Baltimore and New York. In 1861 more than a hundred Finns entered the United States Navy and served during the last years of the Civil War. They settled subsequently in Boston, New York and Philadelphia.

The Finnish immigration on a large scale, however, began only in 1864. A number of Finns came to the copper country in Upper Michigan, Houghton County, with the Norwegians who had been engaged by the Quincy Mining Company of Hancock to work in the mines there. A group of Finns emigrated from Tromsö in Norway in the spring of that year to St. Peter, Minnesota. Another small group sailed from Hammerfest somewhat later with Red Wing, Michigan, as its destination. A third group came from Vadsö in the same summer. Some found work in lumber camps, others took up farms in Cokato, Holmes City, and Franklin, Minnesota, and several joined the United States Army at the end of the Civil War. Duluth, Minnesota, became the central point of concentration for the Finnish immigrants in this part of the country.

After the Civil War the Finnish soldiers settled in different parts of the United States, but mainly in the Middle West. Many returned to farming or working in the newly opened mines of Michigan.

In the eighties and nineties the numbers of Finnish immigrants increased greatly. The majority went to Michigan, Minnesota and other northern states where the climate and soil most closely resembled their native land. They worked in the railway gangs which helped to build communication across the continent, in the logging camps of the North West and in the iron and copper mines. They soon gained good reputations as miners in Michigan, Minnesota and Montana, for most of the first miners of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan were Finns who had gained experience in the mines of Northern Sweden and Norway. Others settled in New England. Finns came to Boston as early as 1860 as sailors. Some attracted their friends by correspondence, and others returned to their homeland to spread news of America. Since then the Finns in New England have been centred principally in Gardner, Fitchburg, Worcester, the suburbs of Boston, Quincy and the Cape Ann district, where they have slowly, and methodically rehabilitated abandoned farms.

The first Finnish immigrants came from Norway, where there are several thousand Finnish fishermen. The next wave of immigration came from the Finnish settlements in Northern Sweden, particularly in the province of Norrbotten and along the Torneå river and its tributaries, the Muonio and the Kalix. Then immigrants began to come from the north of Finland and eventually from other parts of the country. By 1870 the province of Vaasa too had been reached by the emigration fever.

In the early days the proportion of emigrants to the whole native population was more than three times as great among the Swedish-speaking as among the Finnish-speaking inhabitants of Finland. Later the proportions became more nearly equal, but even then the loss of population was relatively greater among the Swedish-speaking group. About 1870 there was a change in language conditions both in the towns and in the country of Finland. The industrial revolution combined with other factors to cause a movement in the community which mixed the Swedes and Finns in a hitherto unknown manner. Many towns, especially the capital, grew up very quickly. This had the effect of increasing the percentage of those who spoke Finnish as their mother tongue. The emigration fever also spread among the Swedes, especially in Österbotten, where it found ready victims as a result of the decline in the shipbuilding trade. The Swedish peasants, not being bound to the soil, abandoned agricultural pursuits in search of other kinds of work in greater numbers than did the Finns. Most of the sailors who were generally known as 'Russian Finns' and who had such a good name in international seafaring circles came from the Swedish coast or the archipelago districts of Finland.

The first Finnish immigrants left their homes because their country, being industrially undeveloped, consisted chiefly of large families and small farms, and it seemed easier to break up the former than the latter. News of the opportunities in the New World was brought to the Finns in Norway, Sweden and Finland either by returning sailors or through the communications of their relatives and friends in America. A failure of the crops in Norway, Sweden and Finland in 1867, with a resultant famine in 1868, gave the emigration movement a new impetus. The shortage of food was felt first in Norway and Sweden and later in Finland. The introduction of compulsory military service in Finland came just at the time when emigration was increasing, and this increase was fostered by the Russification policy of the Tsarist Government which culminated in the February manifesto in 1899, whereby the constitutional rights of Finland were revoked. Against this general background we must consider the economic and social changes produced in the traditionally agricultural community by the industrial and capitalistic revolution. These changes induced the Pohjalaiset, the settlers of the prosperous farming province of Vaasa, to provide the bulk of immigrants from Finland. In addition, American steamship companies were promoting immigration in order to attract workers for railway construction.

The result of all these factors was that more than one-tenth of the population left its homeland, although before the World War about 40 per cent. of the emigrants returned there later.2

II

The Present Finnish Population

From 1899 to 1930 the United States admitted 230,523 Finnish immigrants. 58,640 of these arrived between 1901 and 1910, the period when Finnish immigration reached its height. The census of 1930 recorded 142,478 persons whose country of birth was Finland and 320,563 Finns of 'foreign white stock'. Of the former number 122,710 spoke Finnish as their mother tongue. The number of foreign born Americans whose mother tongue is Finnish is raised to 124,994 by the inclusion of those born in countries other than Finland.

These figures, however, are not strictly accurate. It is difficult to determine both the exact number of Finns who have emigrated to the United States and the dates of their immigration. This is partly because when they entered the country via Norway they were frequently classified as Norwegians. Similar ethnographical inaccuracies occurred when they came in Swedish or Danish boats or entered the United States through Canada. The Finns estimate their numbers in the U.S.A. as high as 350,000 to 400,000, including the children born in America of Finnish parents.3

Table 1
Distribution of Finns in the U. S. A.

State

Number

State

Number

Maine
New Hampshire
Vermont
Massachusetts
Rhode Island
Connecticut
Minnesota
Iowa
Missouri
North Dakota
South Dakota
Nebraska
Kansas
New York
New Jersey
Pennsylvania
Ohio
Indiana
Illinois
Michigan
Wisconsin
Kentucky
Tennessee
Alabama

1,355
1,378
547
11,352
322
1,222
22,876
48
77
873
847
32
32
14,892
2,067
1,845
5,526
244
3,576
25,321
4,988
23
14
38

Mississippi
Delaware
Maryland
D. C.
Virginia
North Carolina
South Carolina
Georgia
Florida
Montana
Idaho
Wyoming
Colorado
New Mexico
Arizona
Utah
Nevada
Arkansas
Louisiana
Oklahoma
Texas
Washington
Oregon
California

44
44
361
54
55
5
22
94
259
2,522
723
619
355
31
245
221
97
4
57
19
142
8,450
4,586
6,362

The Finns have always sought those regions of the United States which most closely resemble Finland. Although there are Finns in every state of the Union, three-quarters of them live in the extreme north, in Massachusetts, North Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio and Michigan, the only other states with large Finnish populations being California and Washington.

The distribution of American Finns is indicated by the official figures of the United States Census Bureau of 1930, in which foreign born citizens were registered according to their mother tongue. These figures are given in Table 1. Of the total number recorded there 67,628 came from urban, 33,345 from agricultural and 24,021 from rural, non-farming districts. The towns whose total population exceeded 25,000 and in which there were more than 1,000 foreign born citizens speaking Finnish as their mother tongue in 1930 are given in Table 2.

Table 2
Towns with the Largest Finnish Populations

Town

Number

Fitchburg, Mass.
Worcester, Mass.
Chicago
Detroit
Minneapolis
Portland
San Francisco
Quincy, Mass.
New York
Duluth, Minn.
Seattle

1,940
1,292
1,793
2,800
1,070
1,137
1,469
1,153
11,184
2,541
1,446

To some extent the Finns cohere in colonies. The largest Finnish population has always been found in Houghton County, with Calumet and Hancock as its chief urban centres. Another Finnish colony in Michigan is found in Marquette County and the towns of Ishpeming, Negaunee, Marquette and Republic. Thousand of Finns have moved from Duluth, Minnesota, to the mining towns on the Vermillion and Mesaba Ranges. Thousands more have taken up farming in the vicinity of mining towns, and St. Louis County contains one of the largest Finnish communities in America. On the western coast Astoria, Oregon, has attracted Finnish fishermen, and one of the chief canning factories there is owned by Finns. From there they have spread to the neighbouring farmlands, and many are farmers on the dike lands along the Columbia River. Several thousand Finns are found in Aberdeen, Washington. Many are working in the saw-mills of Eureka and Fort Bragg, California, and others as loggers in the red-wood forests. There is a settlement of raisin growers in Reedley, California. In Wisconsin Finnish farmers are found mostly at Turtle Lake, Owen and Phelps. In Illinois the majority of the Finns live in Chicago, Waukegan and De Kalb and work in the wire mills and other factories. In Ohio many have moved from the coast of Lake Erie to the inland steel mills and farms. Others own land near the manufacturing towns in Massachusetts and make a good living by growing strawberries and garden produce. Several hundred Finnish farmers live in Maine. In general, though they may serve for a time in the factories in large towns or in mines, as soon as they have saved enough money to purchase a piece of land or claim a farm or 'homestead', the Finns leave the city and make the farm their permanent home and their main source of income. Many attempts have been made to settle Finnish farmers in Florida, Georgia, New Mexico, Texas and other southern states, but the men have mostly returned to the north, not being accustomed to the southern climatic conditions and forms of vegetation.

The Finns are believers in the cooperative system, and their cooperative creameries in Minnesota and shops in New England testify to their ability in establishing this method of production and distribution. Even some of the smallest Finnish communities in America have their own osuuskauppa (cooperative stores). The first notable cooperative enterprise was the Finnish Cannery in Astoria, Oregon, where the famous Columbia River salmon and other fish are packed and canned. Many other forms of cooperative business have since been set on foot by the Finns, such as restaurants, farms, fire insurance, wholesale and retail grocery stores, newspapers, meat markets and buildings for flats.

III

Church Organizations, Societies and Newspapers

Nearly all Finns in the United States belong to the Lutheran Church, the minority being divided between other denominations such as Methodists, Baptists and Unitarians. There are three main religious groups, of which the Suomi Synod or Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church of America is the strongest.

The first Finnish Lutheran Church was organized in 1867 at Calumet, Michigan, among the fishermen from Northern Norway. Its members were chiefly Finns, but there were also some Norwegians and Swedes, and for many years it was cared for by a .Norwegian pastor. The first ordained Finnish minister of the gospel came to the district known as the copper country in 1876 and took charge of the Finnish Lutherans in Calumet, Hancock and Allouez, Michigan. In December 1899, four Finnish Lutheran ministers present at a meeting in Hancock expressed their belief in the need of an organized Church among their countrymen in America, and, as a result, the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church of America was organized and held its first convention at Calumet in March 1890. Nine congregations were represented and a constitution was adopted. Although the Church is not officially connected with the Church of Finland, it is significant that at the celebrations of the fortieth anniversary of its foundation, the Archbishop of Finland was represented by a special delegate, Provost K. R. Kares.

In doctrine the Suomi Synod accepts the Apostle's, the Nicene and the Athanasian Creeds, the Unaltered Confession of Augsburg and the other symbolical books of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, and maintains as the highest law of confession that the Holy Word of God is the only standard for the doctrine of the Church.

In polity the local churches retain the right to administer their internal affairs but have conferred the responsibility of superintendency upon the annual Synodical Convention, which is composed of the ministers and of lay delegates from the congregations and is recognized as the highest authority in matters common to all the churches. The constitution confers a certain judicial and executive authority upon a Permanent Consistory of four members, namely the President, Vice-President, Secretary and Notary of the Convention, who are elected for a term of four years.

For home mission work the Synod supports missionary pastors, who have the care of churches and preaching stations too small to support pastors of their own. In other activities it cooperates with the United Lutheran Church in America. It has no foreign missions of its own but works in collaboration with the Foreign Missionary Society of Finland, supporting regularly one missionary in China and, in addition, aiding work in other fields.

The Church's educational work is extensive. In 1926 there were 100 summer schools, the pupils numbering 4,747 and the teachers 105. The educational department of the Synod also includes the Suomi College and Theological Seminary at Hancock.

The history of this college dates back to 1896.4 It was decided to found it in the copper country because this was the home of thousands of Finns, while the headquarters of the Church government was also situated there. The College was opened in rented quarters, but in 1900 it acquired its own premises, and plans are now being made for adding new buildings.

In the early days the Finnish immigrants had experienced great difficulty in finding pastors who could serve them in their own language. Very few ministers could be induced to come from Finland, and most of those who came remained only a short time. Hence the training of Finnish ministers was the primary aim of the College.

The Theological Seminary was opened in 1904. It offers a three-year course in the main branches of theology, and two years of work in the liberal arts curriculum is required for entrance. About 75 per cent. of the pastors of the Synod have received their training in this department.

The College is the only institution for higher learning in the United States which offers courses in Finnish, and in 1932 it was recognized as a department of the University of Michigan. In the early days all the students were of Finnish descent, but in recent years the numbers of students who are not Finnish-speaking have steadily increased, and in 1935-36 they came to about 25 per cent. of the total student body. The average number of students entering the College annually has been a little over a hundred, but the figure for 1920 was 165. Finnish is the medium of instruction in the Finnish courses and some of the branches of theology; all other courses are given in English.

At the time of the establishment of the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church in 1890 there developed, particularly in Calumet, considerable opposition to the new organization, with the result that a separate local Church known as the Finnish National Church was founded. As other churches joined the movement, an organization was formed at Rock Springs, Wyoming, on June 26, 1898, and was later incorporated at Ironwood, Michigan, as the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran National Church of America.

In doctrine the Church agrees with the majority of Lutheran bodies. In polity the local churches are independent, but they send delegates to the annual meeting which exercises its authority in the ordination of ministers, the installation of pastors, the appointment of missionaries and any other work which belongs to the churches as a body. Its powers are vested in a board of five trustees elected at each annual meeting by a majority vote of the delegates. The president of the annual meeting is the executive officer of the Church.

The Church has no seminary of its own, but its boys are sent to the Theological Seminary of the Missouri Synod at Springfield, Illinois. It has no foreign mission work under its own control, but individual congregations help to support the missions maintained in Japan by the Foreign Missionary Society of Finland. The educational work is confined to sunday-school classes and to the summer school classes conducted in various congregations. There are 55 so-called Young People's Christian Endeavor societies with a membership of about 2,700.

Among the Finns who first settled in Calumet were a number belonging to a sect founded by Provost Lars Levi Laestadius of Pajala in Sweden. Disagreements arose between them and other Lutherans, and in December 1872 under the lead of Salomon Korteniemi they formed a congregation of their own which they called the Salomon Korteniemi Lutheran Society. In 1879 this name was changed to the Finnish Apostolic Lutheran Congregation. As other congregations of Finns in Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota and Oregon were organized on the same basis, they came into fellowship with this body under the name of the Finnish Apostolic Lutheran Church.

The churches accept in general the creeds of the Evangelical Lutheran Church and emphasize the necessity of regeneration and the practical importance of absolution from sin. In polity they are absolutely congregational and have no central organization.

One activity in which the Finns have been especially prominent in America has been the temperance movement. In 1895 the Pohjan Tähti (North Star) Temperance Association was founded, and many similar societies arose later. Their names such as Koitto (Morning Twilight), Onni (Luck), Hyvä Toivo (Good Hope), Säde (Ray) and Soihtu (Torch) indicate how idealistic was their nature.

These organizations cooperated with the Anti-Saloon League in carrying on the fight against the sale of intoxicating drinks, while they also served as social centres. At one time there were 160 Finnish temperance societies possessing halls for meetings, and the Finnish National Brotherhood Temperance Association had a membership of over 10,000 in 1904.

In recent years the temperance movement has lost force. The revocation of the eighteenth amendment to the Constitution of the United States has deprived the temperance organizations of their chief purpose, and in the process of Americanization many of their entertainment activities have disappeared.

A number of secret societies and fraternal organizations have also been formed. Towards the close of the last century the Knights of Kaleva were organized in Montana, and their auxiliary organization of the Ladies of Kaleva appeared shortly afterwards. These societies are in the main social and educational in purpose and aim at maintaining the unity of the Finnish-speaking people. Their membership is restricted to persons of Finnish extraction. The only benefit society of importance operates in the western states, having its headquarters in San Francisco. The socialist societies work independently of other Finnish societies and in conjunction with other American labour organizations.

The first Finnish newspaper in the United States was founded on April 14, 1876, by A. J. Muikku, a student from Finland, and was called Amerikan Suomalainen Lehti (The Finnish Newspaper of America). In all only eleven and a half numbers were printed. Since then about a hundred other periodicals have appeared but few of them have survived long.

A number of Finnish newspapers serve to promote Finnish nationalism and adopt a friendly attitude toward the church organization of the American Finns. Such are the New Yorkin Uutiset (New York News) which is published three times a week in Brooklyn and has a circulation of 9,200; the daily Päivälehti published in Duluth, Minnesota, the Amerikan Sanomat (Tidings of America), a weekly with Republican sympathies published at Fairport Harbor, Ohio, and having a circulation of 1900 and the Minnesotan Uutiset (Minnesota News) of New York Mills, Minnesota, a bi-weekly with a circulation of 7,900.

Many periodicals of a religious nature are published in Finnish. The Amerikan Suometar (American Spirit of Finland), a tri-weekly founded in 1899, was purchased in 1900 by the Suomi Synod and since then has been published by the Finnish Lutheran Book Concern of Hancock, Michigan, which also issues monthly 1,500 copies of the Paimenen Sanomat (Shepherd's Tidings). The Lasten Lehti is a monthly sunday-school paper. The Nuorten Ystävä, a monthly paper for young Lutherans, appears in Finnish and English and has 1,500 subscribers. The Kirkollinen Kalenteri is a church year-book. The Suomi College publishes its religious and educational quarterly, the Suomi-Opiston 'Juhlajulkaisut' (Festival Publications of the Suomi College), and the Suomi Synod issues a bulletin, the Vuosikirja (Yearbook), containing reports and statistics of the Synod's activities. The Lännen Suometar (Western Spirit of Finland) is a bi-weekly published in Astoria, Oregon, with a circulation of 2,225. The Auttaja (Assistant) of Ironwood is a weekly of the Finnish National Synod with a circulation of 1,800. This Synod also publishes a sunday-school paper. A paper of a semi-religious character is the Valvoja (Observer), which appears three times a week and of which 6,839 copies are issued. It is Republican in sympathy. The Opas (Guide), which has a circulation of 6,600, is also semi-religious and has Republican tendencies. It is published in Calumet by an independent group but is supported by the Apostolic Lutheran Church.

Among the socialist papers there is the Työmies (Working Man), a daily, issued by the Työmies Publishing Company at Superior, Wisconsin, with a circulation of 11,964. Another daily, the Industrialisti of Duluth, with 8,250 issues is controlled by the International Workers (Finnish Group). The Raivaaja (Pioneer), a radical daily, is published by the Finnish supporters of the Workers' Labor Party at Fitchburg, Massachusetts, and has a circulation of 6,745. The socialist publishing companies also issue year-books and various kinds of pamphlets.

English is an especially difficult language for Finns to master, and this has been an obstacle in the course of their Americanization. Nevertheless, they have not been slow in becoming naturalized. In 1930 the United States census showed that 50.5 per cent. of the foreign born Finnish men had become naturalized and 16 per cent. had taken out their first papers; of the foreign women 52.8 per cent. had been naturalized and 5 per cent. had their first papers.

IV

Contributions of Finns to American Life

The absorption of Finns into the American environment has been favoured by the tendency of the immigrants to move out from the bounds of their settlements. The homogeneity of racial groups is disappearing, and the cessation of immigration has made the loosening of many ties with Europe inevitable. Consequently there has been a disposition to promote the assimilative process. Many Finns of the second generation are inter-marrying with other American groups, and the American born children of foreign born Finns often look with disfavour upon everything Finnish. They openly resist Finnish customs and traditions, fail to participate in immigrant institutions and lose the command of the Finnish language. Finnish Christian names are changed to American renderings - Toivo to Tom, Tyyne to Mary - , and surnames often suffer the same fate, as in the change from Koivumäki to Hill. In the process of learning to speak English the immigrants have given new forms to a number of Finnish words, thereby creating a kind of Finnish-American. Dr. Kolehmainen has provided us with examples of such Finnish-American words, which are shown in Table 3.5 The spread of the English language is also apparent in the Church. English is coming increasingly into use in sunday-schools, confirmation classes and young people's work, as well as in Church services.

Table 3
Development of Finnish Words in America

Finnish

Finnish-American

English

maanviljeliä
vakka
omenia
makuuhuone
astia
leipuri
talo
farmari
pasketti
äpyliä
petiruuma
tiski
pakari
haussi
farmer
basket
apples
bedroom
dish
bakery
house

Politically the Finns are mostly members of the socialist, temperance or progressive parties, although the more Americanized Finns tend more and more to be aligned with the traditional Republican or Democratic organizations. Professor Van Cleef traces the reason for their radical tendencies - not long ago more than 25 per cent. of the Finnish immigrants were estimated to be socialists - to the days of Russian oppression. Many of them immigrated during that period and were filled with bitterness against established order of all kinds.

Although the number of Finns in America is not very large, their influence has been outstanding in the development of the country, especially in the capacity of pioneers and frontiersmen, for it has been calculated that Finns have brought a million acres of land under cultivation.

It is seldom known that a Finn made the first scientific study of the plants and animals of what is now the United States. He was Pehr Kalm, Professor of Economics and Natural History in the University of Åbo, who later became one of the foremost scientists of Northern Europe. Kalm landed in Philadelphia on September 15, 1748, with several letters of introduction, among them one to Benjamin Franklin. He remained in America for two-and-a-half years, travelling through the territory which now forms the states of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. On his return he carried back with him to Linnaeus, whose pupil he was, a large collection of plants, seeds and insects. In 1751 he published an account of his studies entitled En resa till Norra Amerika (A journey to North America)6, which was subsequently translated into English, German, Dutch and French. In his book Kalm predicted that the American colonies would shortly declare their independence, a prediction that, was fulfilled in twenty-five years. He was also the first European scientist to describe the Niagara Falls.

Of those Finns who have travelled to America in recent years the best known are probably Sibelius and Saarinen, one of the greatest composers and one of the greatest architects of our time. Sibelius's reputation stands particularly high in the United States, and the performance of his Second Symphony by the Philadelphia Orchestra at the Carnegie Hall on March 10, 1937 led the musical critic of the New York Times to write in the most eulogistic terms of this great work. Sibelius composed his Symphonic Poem, Daughters of the Dean, for the 128th. Norfolk, Connecticut, Festival in June 1914, coming to America to conduct the première and receiving the honorary degree of Doctor of Music from Yale University.

Gottlieb Eliel Saarinen came to the United States in 1923 after gaining second place in the international contest for the design of the Chicago Tribune building. For a year he occupied the Chair of Architecture at the University of Michigan, having been invited there by Professor Emil Larch as a lecturer on design. Later he was employed by the Detroit Chapter of the American Institute of Architects to make a study of the River Front project.

As architect of the railway stations in Helsinki and Viipuri and of the city halls in Lahti and Joensuu, Saarinen acquired an international reputation which was furthered by his plans for Sofia and other cities in Europe, the United States and Australia. One American critic wrote of his work:

'In city planning Saarinen thinks in terms that are refreshing to the American who has lived too long in cities of right angles and among vastly impressive but uninspiring vistas down unending straight streets. Combining a thorough study of traffic, circulation and distribution of population with that accidental quality in plan which gives such charm to the large cities of the old world, he arrives at a plan that is thoroughly scientific, and whose focal points have far more accent than perfect symmetry and the use of cross axes and parallel lines can give.' 7

There are a number of other Finns prominent in American life. Alfred J. E. Norton, head of the Norton Construction Company of New York, is of Finnish birth. Oscar J. Larson was elected to the House of Representatives in 1920, and several other men of Finnish descent have served in the state legislatures of Michigan, Minnesota and other states. When James A. Farley, the Democratic National Chairman, a week before the Presidential election of 1936 took place, correctly predicted that his candidate, President Roosevelt, would be returned by forty-six states, his forecast was based on the graphs and tables of his assistant, Emil Hurja. The son of a Finnish immigrant, Hurja began his career as a gold-miner in Alaska, later worked for a newspaper and finally became a financial analyst. Dr. John Wargelin, the second President of Suomi College, was born in Isokyrö on September 26, 1881. The degree of Master of Arts was conferred on him by the University of Michigan in 1923, and the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity by Wittenberg College, Springfield, Ohio, in 1925. He has served many congregations in Michigan, Illinois and Minnesota. He was President of Suomi College from 1919 to 1927 and again from 1930 to the present day. While serving the church at Duluth he was also the Principal of Mountain Iron, Minnesota, High School. He has been honoured by the Finnish Government which decorated him with the Second and First Class of the Order of the White Rose.

Aho, G. A.: 'The Finnish Evangelical Lutheran National Church of America', The Lutheran World Almanac and Encyclopedia, 1931-1933, New York 1932, pp. 61-62.
- 'The Finnish Apostolic Lutheran Church', ibid.., p. 62.
Babson, H.: 'The Finns in Lanesville, Massachusetts', Studies in Sociology, University of South California, Vol. IV, No. 1.
Bancroft, G.: History of the United States of America, New York 1887.
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References

1 A. W. Powell, A History of Delaware, Boston 1928, p. 51.

2 O. K. Kilpi, 'Statistics of Population', Finland, The Country, Its People and Institutions, Helsinki 1926, p. 96.

3 See John Wargelin on 'American Finns' in American Minorities, An Educational and National Problem, New York 1937.

4 The following information is based on several articles written by John Wargelin and others for The Daily Mining Gazette, Houghton and Calumet, September 5, 1936, in connexion with the founding of Suomi College.

5 John I. Kolehmainen, 'The Finnicisation of English in America', American Sociological Review, February 1937, pp. 62-66.

6 See Baltic and Scandinavian Countries, Vol. V., No. 1 (II), January 1939, p. 67.

7 The Architectural Record, December 1928, p. 394.

Joseph Slabey Roucek, Ph.D. Lecturer in Social Studies, New York University, New York. Corresponding member: Masaryk Sociological Society; American Institute, Bucharest.

Published in Baltic and Scandinavian Countries, Vol. V, 1939, p. 135-141, 191.

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