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Delaware as a Symbol of Finnish Immigration

Auvo Kostiainen

The New Sweden Colony (Uusi Ruotsi, Nya Sverige) that came into being in the Delaware River valley in the 1600s has played a notable role in Finnish American life from the standpoint of the group's self-perception and self-esteem. In addition, so-called "official" America from the 1930s onward reevaluated the place of the early immigrant Finns in United States history as a result of Finnish presence in the Delaware Colony. (See Melvin Holli's article.)

The purpose of this study is to clarify differences in the central issues of discussion at the two large Delaware celebrations of 1938 and 1988. These festivals focused attention on the Finnish contribution to the Delaware period of colonial history, and in a larger sense, to United States history itself. The objects of analysis in this essay are the various elements, in which a possible Finnish presence can be detected, which formed the historical composite of the Delaware story. Of particular interest, of course, are how these elements were put to use in 1938 and 1988, and in what manner the Delaware period has been situated into United States and Finnish history.

The point of departure for this study is an examination of the value of symbols. A symbol often indicates something which expresses unity for a given group and which represents a common reality that the group shares. In this study, the questions focus on Finnish Americans who were unified by a historic past. Delaware is part of the early history of the United States, but it also forms part of Finnish American and Finnish history. For Finland and its Finns, Delaware became an important symbol, which was sanctioned in the public mind, for example, by the official representatives sent to the Delaware Tercentenary celebration of 1938 by the Finnish government as well as by such things as postage stamps and official government participation in the Delaware events.

The Rise of Delaware in Finnish and Finnish American Consciousness

When Sweden began to pursue the status of a world power in Europe, like the other world powers of the day, it also aspired after foreign colonies and trading posts, according to the prevailing economic policies of mercantilism. This economic direction manifested itself in North America as the Dutch-Swedish New Sweden (Nya Sverige) trading company in 1637. Admiral Klaus Fleming, a nobleman born in Finland (who probably did not speak Finnish) became the head of the company. Sweden sent a total of 12 expeditions to Delaware between 1638 and 1656, by which time the region already belonged to Holland. Dutch rule in the area lasted for some ten years after which the English assumed control of the region. After the 12 expeditions, even more Finns arrived from Värmland.1 The population of the trading post itself never exceeded several hundred people.

Before the later large-scale immigration into Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York, the descendants of the Delaware colony's residents had grown into a considerable percentage of the area's white population, although they were still only a small part of all the inhabitants of the colonies. John Wuorinen estimates that at the end of the 1600s a tenth of Pennsylvania's 10,000 inhabitants were descendants of New Sweden. As independence for the North American colonies drew closer in the 1770s, spoken Swedish had become a rarity and Finnish had practically disappeared.2

In a way, the 1938 Delaware celebration came to Finnish Americans by accident and certainly much too soon. Professor Pentti J. Olli, the secretary of the Finnish American Delaware Committee, wrote in 1938 that Delaware immigration and the necessity of some kind of celebration had been long discussed within Finnish American circles, since the representatives of the other nationalities to arrive during the Delaware period had already memorialized in a noticeable way the arrival of their forbearers to America. Nevertheless, Finnish Americans had planned to celebrate the event in 1941, a year that marked the 300th anniversary of the first expedition that brought large numbers of Finns to America. However, the United States Senate decided in April 1937 to extend an official invitation to Finland, so that the Finns could participate in the 1938 Delaware celebration along with the Swedes, who had already been invited earlier. The matter was taken up in the United States House of Representatives, which after long deliberation, approved the invitation in August 1937. President Franklin Roosevelt then officially invited Finland and the Finns to the Tercentenary celebration. Consequently, there was no longer any time for theoretical deliberation about arrival dates. The Finns had to move into action. From the spring of 1937 onward, practical matters were handled by the Finnish American Historical Society's specially elected Executive Delaware Committee.3 The Committee asked John H. Wuorinen to write a "critical", academic study of the Finns in the Delaware. This work appeared after a year and was based largely on the extensive study by Swedish American Amandus Johnson, The Swedish Settlements on the Delaware (1911), taking the form of an analysis of this earlier work.

Finnish interest in the Delaware colony had already surfaced much earlier, for some writings on this topic had already appeared in the mid 1800s. Even during the earlier Swedish period numerous histories or depictions of the Delaware Colony had been published. Interest in Delaware began to grow in Sweden in the 1870s.4 In 1888 a 250th anniversary celebration was held in Minneapolis, Minnesota in which 15,000 people participated. There is no evidence of any Finnish American participation in this Swedish American celebration and apparently the event was not celebrated elsewhere in the United States or Sweden.5

Picture 1
Pastor Salomon Ilmonen (1871-1940) had a strong impact on the rising interest in the history of the Delaware Colony and on the general interest of the American Finns in their own history. (Photo: Institute of General History, University of Turku.)

Among the Finns, Akseli Järnefelt-Rauanheimo was a writer who promoted interest in the Delaware period. Around the turn of the century he wrote several newspaper articles about the subject as well as several novels and an overview of Finnish American immigration, which included a short section on the Delaware Finns.6 However, it was the Finnish American clergyman, Salomon Ilmonen, already known for his works on Finns in America, who also sparked a widespread interest in the subject.

In 1916 he published a work called America's First Finns which greatly influenced the public perception of the history and significance of the Finns on the Delaware. In 1936 he prepared a small booklet on the life of John Morton and his descendants. Ilmonen noted in its foreword that his intention was to kindle and fan the "flames of enthusiasm" among Finnish Americans for organizing the 1938 celebration. Finally, in 1938 Ilmonen issued in Finland in Finnish language the book called Delawaren Suomalaiset (The Delaware Finns, by Karisto Co.). This volume repeats a lot of his earlier findings. In addition, he presents new data discovered from American church records, and a lot of more exact genealogical information.

A general problem with Ilmonen's works is that he does not always specify his source materials. Amandus Johnson's studies are clearly one of his sources, but in addition he has also used data from church registers and other materials. For his part, Amandus Johnson gathered a wide wealth of materials from the United States and Europe for his two volume book. After the appearance of the 1911 history of the Delaware settlement, subsequent writers came to rely largely on Johnson's work, so that really new data has not been uncovered until quite recently.

Walking in Ilmonen's footsteps was E. A. Louhi, a writer who in 1925 published in New York a work dealing with the Delaware Finns. Louhi's introduction, in particular, reminds the reader of old style Swedish or Finnish chauvinistic historical writing, for in it he depicts in a grandiose manner the Finns as being the forefathers of all civilized nations.7 The portions of the work that deal with Delaware and its background are largely accurate, probably because they were based on Amandus Johnson's work. However, from time to time, the text is characterized by a strong Finnish nationalism.

At the same time that Pastor Ilmonen and others were devoting themselves to Delaware's history, the Swedes were already clearly ahead with their preparations for the celebration. In Sweden and among Swedish Americans at the turn of the century books about New Sweden were published from time to time, but now in anticipation of the Delaware celebration a large number of articles and books suddenly appeared.8 Crown Prince Gustav Adolph himself headed the official Swedish delegation to the event. For years, Swedish Americans had prepared for the event with fund-raising and other activities. In 1938 an article was published in the Suomen Silta (Suomi Bridge) which noted that the Finnish desire to take part had at first raised mixed feelings among the Swedes, but they had eventually approved of the participation of their "former companions in arms".9 One indicator of mutual understanding and good-will was the joint voyage that the official Swedish and Finnish delegations made by passenger ship to the July 1938 festivities.

The Finnish Government appointed an official Tercentenary celebration committee chaired by Uuno Hannula, a member of parliament, whose responsibility it was to oversee Finland's official participation. Finnish activities included the designing a commemorative pin; sending a delegation to Delaware headed by Minister for Foreign Affairs, Rudolf Holsti; organizing a Finnish celebration in Helsinki and another one in Rautalampi; and issuing a postage stamp and commemorative medal. The same procedures were largely followed in 1988.

Picture 2
The front cover of the Official Program of Events, Dedication of Finnish Monument in Chester, Pennsylvania, June 29, 1939. (Original in the Institute of General History, University of Turku.)

Wilderness Pioneers and Settlers

Proceeding from the view that the Finns were America's original pioneer land clearers, Finnish Americans and Finns in Finland set out to analyze the significance of the Delaware colony. One important problem thus became the question of settlement in the wilderness. It does not appear that the Finnish technique of burnbeating or its significance were emphasized to any degree during the 1938 celebration, at least not to the extent that they achieved prominence at the 1988 Delaware festival. Fifty years ago speakers like Pentti Olli spoke in generalities about how "Finnish men and women have been clearing American soil since the country's beginnings and creating the political and social institutions of the United States of America".10 The theme of the Finns as settlers and clearers of America's backwoods forests appeared in many speeches and writings.

In his book on the Delaware Colony, Salomon Ilmonen touched on the spread of farming but did not go into extensive detail. In fact, he only mentions the use of the Finnish slashing and burning method of land clearing on the American continent in one sentence: "The Finns, who in their first years did little burnbeating, knew they would get their best yield from rye".11 On the other hand, in describing the arrival of the Värmland Finns and their reasons for coming to Delaware, he makes a central theme of burnbeating.12 However, it appears as though his information again is based largely on Johnson's studies and works.13 Johnson wrote extensively about conditions in the colony and pictured, among other things, the use of the burnbeating technique in New Sweden.14

Only shortly before the 1988 Delaware celebration did the subject of burnbeating in the Delaware region begin to receive a great deal of attention. In recent years scholars have begun to examine its larger significance to farming and to the expansion of settlements. The burnbeating theme is taken to its farthest extreme in an article by a folklorist Juha Pentikäinen, who sets the views of Matti E. Kaups (mentioned below) in an exuberant interpretation. Pentikäinen writes of how the slashing and burning method was carried ever farther into the western wilderness. "The slogan became: 'Go westward, Finn!' Some burnbeat their way all the way to the Rocky Mountains."15 It must be pointed out that as the crow flies, the distance from the Delaware to the Rocky Mountains is about 3000 kilometers. The Appalachian Mountain Range, only several hundred kilometers distant, would make a more realistic burnbeating area for Pentikäinen's assertion.

We still need to look at the timber blocking technique which has been considered as the model for log cabin construction in the conquest of the West. Only in recent times has attention been devoted to this. The matter has been explored by geographers, in the forefront of them, Professor Matti E. Kaups, an Estonian who lives in the United States. His interpretation is that the Finns brought with them a Savo-Karelian cultural entity, which was extremely well-adapted for the spread of settlement into new areas, since it was based on the concept of scattered settlement. It should also be pointed out that the timber blocking of the Finns appears to have been strongly influenced by the Norwegian V-notching technique, which the Värmland Finns brought with them to America.16 According to Kaups, later immigrants borrowed the forest clearing technique of the Finns because it was more effective and productive than any competing system. Kaups feels that the Finnish cultural heritage made possible the rapid conquest of the West and he ends his work with a laudatory final comment: "The fact that the United States is not just a coastal power, but a country that extends from sea to sea is the special heritage of the inland forest dwellers and the Savo-Karelian teachers."17

Also connected with this was the question of relations with the Indians. Many immigrant groups in North America in the 1600s were involved in continuous difficulties with the Indians. In New Sweden, however, conflicts with them were quite rare, as many writers have pointed out. There were actually more problems with the Dutch, who attempted to secure their position in the region. The question of peaceful relations with the Indians is a theme that repeated itself at both the 1938 and 1988 Delaware celebrations.18

The Disseminators of Civilization and Representatives of "American Values"

It has often been pointed out how Americans typically emphasize values such as the freedom the individual, equality, the freedom of opinion and speech as well as unlimited economic possibilities. Forming the histocial background to the birth of the United States were the American colonies, to which Europeans had come to seek a new lives as a result of economic, religious, or ideological persecution. These social and political concepts came up in an interesting way in connection with the Delaware celebrations where the 1938 festival, in particular, highlighted these traditional American ideals. For example, at a place called Finns Point in Delaware, the New Jersey and Delaware festival committee erected a monument which had the following inscription:



Finns Point

Near here 300 years ago and later lived the first
colony of settlers of Finnish blood upon this continent.
To their memory and to the love of freedom and justice
that they handed down to their descendants this
tablet is erected June 30, 1938.
New Sweden Tercentenary Commission of New Jersey.
D. Stewart Craven, Chairman.19

In the same vein the Finnish American Pentti J. Olli called the Finns initiators of the work of civilization

who courageously left for the backwoods of Delaware to build a new home and at the same time to unknowingly create a miraculous new civilization in the world, which has been and will continue to be in the history of mankind an model for a new and better humanity... It is our responsibility to respectfully remember and to remind others that our kinsmen were here developing this country and its institutions along with other nationalities from the beginning of the 1600s to this very day.20

From the Finnish American standpoint, one of the key themes in 1938 was the achievement of recognition. They wanted equal status along with the Swedes and the other early colonial nationalities. Doctor of Theology Sigfried Sirenius, a member of Finland's official delegation in 1938 probably expressed Finnish sentiments best when he said, "no one needs to feel ashamed any longer of their Finnish ancestry. Rather, people today look upon it as being an honor". Finland rose to equality with other nationalities in 1938, when by means of the Delaware celebration Finnish Americans were elevated "to the ranks of acknowledged, true citizens" of the new homeland.21

Thus, the Finns represented Christian traditions of civilized culture which they had brought with them, particularly when contrasted with American "savages". In this vein Alvar Rautalahti wrote in the 1939 Kirkollinen Kalenteri (Religious Almanac) of the enormous significance in the fact that the Finns had built the first churches in the Delaware River valley.

Picture 3
Famous Finnish sculptor Wäinö Aaltonen (sitting in the Middle) and his assistants carving the Delaware monument in Helsinki. The monument was donated by the Government of Finland and erected in Chester, Pennsylvania. (Photo: the front cover of Suomen Silta, April June, 1938.)

In this way they left a lasting imprint of their piety. The Finns had experienced overt oppression and jealousy in Sweden, as a result of which they had been jailed and forced to emigrate to America. Their participation in church life in Delaware indicated that although the journey had been a "prison voyage", the arrivals nevertheless had "a pious mind and soul".22

The theme of leaving Europe for the free world corresponded to traditional American ideals. This theme appears repeatedly in the written materials whose writers pictured the Värmland Finns fleeing the oppression directed against them. The Swedish Crown denied them the right to clear land by means of burnbeating. As a result, many suffered economic deprivation. According to Ilmonen's depiction, the Finns became the victims of veritable pogroms in Värmland, which resulted in many of them moving into centers of population to seek work. One of the ways in which the Swedish government solved the problem was to send the Forest Finns to the new colony on the Delaware. Many of the Finns were willing to leave voluntarily, while some were forced to emigrate. In time the group also included exiled convicts.23

Thus, for Värmland's Finns the Delaware colony was either a free-world haven from oppression or a place of exile. Both shared a common basis in the belief that the United States from the very beginning had as its foundation the pursuit of human freedom and the creation of a new world and future. The Delaware Colony's history was thus quite compatible with this idealistic, historical core belief from American history. Even today, the central element in the image that the United States projects to the world is a similar one, namely, that it is the home of freedom and freedom is the objective that it pursues throughout the world.

One sub-theme to these concepts of Americanism ties into the ideological fragmentation within the more modern Finnish American immigrant community. Traditionally the "battle lines" at the turn of the last century ran between the Church Finns and Labor Finns. These two main groupings were, in turn, fragmented into many smaller groups that bickered among themselves. Did all ideological factions "have a right" to the ideals of Americanism and to equal participation in the celebration?

A common objective during preparations for the Delaware Tercentenary celebration in 1938 was the laying aside of ideological differences. The organizers wanted to emphasize unity so that the status of the Finnish Americans and respect for them would rise in the United States. To this end, state committees were organized throughout the U.S., each of which organized the Delaware celebration in its own region through fund raising or participation in state festivities. Each of the most important "Finnish states" had its own committee and, in fact, many cities had their own.24

The majority of committee members were drawn from politically independent and often conservative ranks, rather than from the Left. The chairman of the National Committee was Oscar J. Larson, who had been prominent in the right-wing "loyalty issue" at the time of World War I. The Committee's secretary was professor John H. Wuorinen and the chairman of the Memorial Committee was Emil Hurja, a leader in the Democratic Party. Numerous important Finnish American clergymen such as John Wargelin and Salomon Ilmonen participated in various subcommittees.

The most interesting names are to be found among representatives from the East Coast. Elis Sulkanen (the corresponding secretary for the National Committee) and Frank Aaltonen (New Hampshire State Committee's chairman) both belonged to the so-called Raivaaja [The Pioneer] group, which was politically closest to the Social Democrats. The Communists do not seem to have participated in the committees in any part of the country. They apparently chose to stay to the side, although they published their own Delaware Album, which examined issues of social exploitation.

Sulkanen's and Aaltonen's active participation caused some rancor among the conservatives. After the celebration, the New Yorkin Uutiset [New York News], published numerous critical letters to the editor, which questioned Sulkanen's participation as a festival speaker. One letter writer criticized the celebration's organizers and wanted to know "who was the cousin of Stalin, Hitler, or Mussolini who imposed this kind of shameful act on our Finnish Grand Festival"?25 Another letter took the position that it was impossible to assimilate all of the Finnish American groups, although the idea was commendable. But Communists did not want to participate in the celebration, although Moscow had ordered them to. The writer concluded that the Finnish Communists in America were more Russian than Finnish.26 An editorial in the New Yorkin Uutiset regretted that the Speaker of the Finnish Parliament, Väinö Hakkila, in his official speech had criticized the Finnish (right wing) Lapua movement, thus giving Americans a "uncomplimentary picture of Finland".27

Before and during the 1988 festivities, Finnish American unity ran on an even higher level than 50 years earlier. During the celebration, the Raivaaja published a comprehensive article based on interviews with researchers of the Finnish American labor movement and its leaders. The article wanted to point out that the activities of the working class organizations in America had been every bit as valuable to Finnish American history as the activities of anyone else.28

While the official invitation to the Finns and Finnish Americans in 1938 celebration had presented certain problems, in 1988 it was a foregone conclusion that the Finns would attend. Before the 1938 event many Finnish Americans wrote about the celebration in the newspapers and the more active Finns made contacts with government agencies within the individual states. (See Holli article for individual details.)

In their efforts to have an official celebratory invitation extended to them, the Finns not only appealed to the fact that Finland had shared in the history of Delaware, but they also capitalized on the special status they enjoyed in American eyes since Finland had been the only country that had paid its World War I debts. At the peak of the celebration fever, the Raivaaja openly conjectured that, in actual fact, if it had not been for the famous war debt, the Finns would hardly have been noticed at all in the shadow of the Swedes. This issue was also carried to extremes in the press.29

The symbolic value of the war debt issue became apparent in the speeches that congressmen in the U.S. House of Representatives made on behalf of Finnish participation. The groundwork was laid by New Jersey Governor Harold G. Hoffman and Senator D. Stewart Craven. In the House it was handled by Congressmen Allen of Pennsylvania and Hook of Maryland.30 In the most recent literature, Michael Berry believes that it actually was the war debt issue which made Finland's participation possible in 1938.31 It seems more likely, however, that historical facts associated with the Delaware colony - i.e. the arrival of the Finns, their numbers and growth as well as the fact that the Finns formed the majority of the settlers - also influenced the invitation in a substantial way.

Picture 4
The big parade in Wilmington, Delaware on June 27, 1938 was held in rainy weather. (Photo: the front cover of Suomen Silta, July-September, 1938.)

John Morton - A Legend of the 1900s?

The central presence at the 1938 Tercentenary celebration (and still partly at the 1988 festival) was the 18th century signer of the Declaration of Independence, John Morton. Morton's possible Finnish background has been mentioned earlier. One of the first to write about Morton was the Finnish Statesman, Yrjö Koskinen in 1863, who seems to have been the first writer in Finland to awaken interest in Morton and to study his Finnishness.32

Salomon Ilmonen tells of how from 1918 onward, he began to examine more closely the roots of the Delaware Finns and their individual histories while he was a pastor in New York and had access to existing archival sources.33 In addition to the widespread interest in Delaware among the Finnish Americans, it apparently was Salomon Ilmonen, who particularly influenced on the rise of John Morton to a position of importance among the Finnish Americans. On the basis of his studies,34 he came to the conclusion that John Morton's ancestors were the Marttinen's from the parish of Rautalampi. It is interesting that Amandus Johnson, who thoroughly researched the history of Delaware and the Swedish contribution to the Independence periods, paid no attention whatever to Morton.35 Nevertheless, John Morton played a significant role in Pennsylvania's colonial history and in United States history from the revolutionary period. It has been shown that Morton was a well-known political figure and civil servant in Pennsylvania.36 In addition, John Adams', the important American revolutionary leader's, published diaries reveal Morton's activity as the Chairman of the Committee that wrote the articles of confederation.37

As Morton's name became well known among Finnish Americans, it became clear that the Finns had finally found a notable political figure from the period of the American Revolution. Ilmonen constructed around Morton a deliberate mystique based on his having been a notable government official, who was one of Pennsylvania's five representatives that voted for independence in July of 1776 in Philadelphia. However, Ilmonen went beyond this and dramatically pictured Morton casting the final and deciding vote. This the Pennsylvanian did after getting up from sick bed and arriving late at the meeting. And then, according to Ilmonen,

when the vote for freedom had been cast, the bell on the meeting house tower began to peal, the same bell, which would later be called the Liberty Bell. The representatives and people rejoiced, and their shouts echoed through the Congress hall, from where the rejoicing spread to Philadelphia, from there to the other colonies, and finally to the farthest corners of the world.38

We do not know where Ilmonen got his information, although it looks as though his description was based on popular depictions of the historical event. According to Ilmonen, this account of events is also written on John Morton's gravestone in Chester, Delaware. Perhaps similar depictions of Morton's role as they appear in Finnish literature are based on Ilmonen's texts.39 In any case, Morton's Finnishness was extremely important to Ilmonen. He wrote: "The signer of the American Declaration of Independence of Finnish background enables us to participate in the important events of American history and bestows a treasured seal of nobility on our nationality."40

Ever since the 1938 celebration it has been commonly accepted both in Finland and among Finnish Americans that Morton's background was actually Finnish. For example, Morton received a considerable share of space in the 1988 Delaware Anniversary publication, which, in a way, represents Finland's official stand on the issue.41

The Swedish perspective about John Morton differs slightly from the foregoing. Swedish literature on Delaware usually did not mention that a large part of the colony was made up of ethnic Finns. When it is mentioned, Finnish presence is used to picture the living conditions of the settlers. (See, for example, Reino Kero's essay.) In some writings, Morton's forefather is said to have been born "in Finland in Sweden." In a study which appeared in 1938, Nils Jacobson nevertheless calls Morton one of North America's most famous men.42

The Meaning of Finnishness in Delaware

A point of debate among researchers has been the question of what is the significance to the concept "a Finn in Sweden". What does it mean to say that Sweden was a Kingdom of which Finland was part? Over the years the Swedes have generally not examined in depth the composition of the population in the Delaware colony or looked at the residents that actually stayed there. In fact, this question has actually come up only recently in Swedish writings. Instead, their perspective has emphasized the Swedish Kingdom and its establishment of a trading company.

The combination of Swedishness and Finnishness was important in the preparations for the 1938 celebration. At the time, the key question was how the Finns could achieve the place they deserved alongside the Swedes. This becomes quite apparent, for example, in the columns of Finnish American newspapers, regardless of which ideological standpoint they represented. Thus, the left-wing Raivaaja published many articles before the 1938 event which called for equality with the Swedes. Writers complained in the papers about how Americans did not truly understand the significance of the Finns, who constituted such a small minority, and they did not distinguish Finns from Swedes, especially when the Delaware colony was named New Sweden. According to the Raivaaja the Swedes occasionally desired to monopolize the entire Delaware festival.43

The New Yorkin Uutiset, one of the leading right-wing newspapers, wanted a vigorous publicity campaign and a visible Finnish profile that underscored of the deeds of the Finnish "mid-Western field clearers" since the Finns deserved as much attention as the Swedes.44 Actually, Finnish and Swedish Americans did not argue among themselves. They even held festivals and memorial events in common in other parts of the United States just as they did in Delaware.45

Nevertheless, the general impression is that the 1988 celebrations were much more subdued than the 1938 festivities for most Finnish Americans. This perhaps is partly due to the aging of the older generation as well as the failure of the organizers to get as many of the younger, Americanized generation to participate as they had hoped. On the other hand, the 1988 celebration did not require the same kind of "fighting spirit" on behalf of Finnishness as the Delaware Tercentury celebration five decades earlier.

The official observation of the both celebrations by Finnish, Swedish, and United States government was noticeable and visible. The participation of scholars at the 1988 festivals was conspicuous, indicating a change in the portion of the community that is really interested in Delaware celebrations and the colony's history.

In the literature published in Finland a central question has been the debate over how many Finns there actually were in Delaware, and what percentage of the colony's inhabitants were Finns or Swedes. The latest research appears to lean even more heavily than before to the view that the Finnish share of the colony's population became larger as time went on. (See also Kero's essay.) On the other hand, the Swedish language gained ground at the expense of the Finnish. It is important that Finnishness must be understood in its ethnic sense, in which case the cultural heritage plays an important part. For example, a central contention in the Delaware 350th anniversary publication emphasized the large number of Finns and the consequent "Finnishness" of the Delaware colony.46

We can argue that in 1938 the Finns sought to achieve a position of equality with the Swedes as early pioneers to the United States. The objective was reached, and acknowledgement came from the highest political levels. Prior to the 1988 celebration, this position was carried a step further - the Delaware period was now getting perhaps even more of a Finnish than Swedish character! The background to this is the already mentioned Jordan and Kaups type of perspective, namely, that the Delaware colony did not have much significance as far as its governance or trade were concerned and these are the functions that the Swedes were concerned with. Instead, its significance lies in its long range influence, which concerned the spread of settlement, the cultivating of farm lands, and the use of pioneering farming and building methods. These methods, of course, are the ones which the Forest Finns brought over from the backwoods of Sweden.

It may be asked if this is a one-sided perspective. Would it not make more sense to examine the question from the standpoint of the transmission of a broader Nordic cultural heritage to Delaware without distinguishing whether it was Finnish or Swedish? If we forget language differences for the moment, then the Nordic settlers who lived in the same kinds of conditions share many cultural similarities. For example, as far as the log cabin tradition is concerned, we should examine more thoroughly than we have up to now the Norwegian connection with "Värmland traditions", which would emphasize the common cultural heritage of the Nordic countries.

The Delaware Festivals and the Raising of Finnish and Finnish American Self Worth

Finally, from the Finnish American perspective we can note several differences of emphasis at the 1938 and 1988 Delaware celebrations, which indicate a change in the significance of Delaware as a symbol. In 1938 the main objective was the establishment of Finnish American status, above all, in relation to the Swedes. The question concerned the status of the Finns in American history and in American society. The Finns wanted to be considered qualified forerunners of democracy and American values. In the 1988 festivities the contest with the Swedes over the Finnishness or Swedishness of the Delaware colony continued. The arguments on the significance of the Finns in the colony took on a new dimension. There was no longer the need to get recognition for the general status of the Finns, nor did the John Morton question play as central a role as before. Instead, the questions of Finnish significance moved to a broader, national field of United States history. The peaceful nature of the colony was now seen as being important. The discussion moved to an analysis of what has been the actual long range influence of the Finns (and also the Swedes) on settlement culture, architecture, and the development of farming techniques in the United States.

For Finland the celebration of the Delaware colony with the interest shown by researchers, the public, and the United States government meant gaining wider recognition in the United States. This was also, of course, important to the Finnish government in the 1938 celebration, when as a young, independent nation, Finland was already active in its publicizing efforts in the United States. The 1937 tour of the United States by the Helsinki Men's Chorus belonged, in a way, to the Delaware preparations. After the Delaware event, Finland participated in the 1939-40 New York World's Fair.

In Finland both events, in 1938 and 1988, were viewed with great seriousness and their significance was seen as ranging far into the future. Thus, the editorial in the September 15, 1938 Suomen Silta noted the Delaware festivities had strengthened Finnish, Swedish, and United States friendship and fraternity in a remarkable way. Both Sweden and the United States had given great recognition to Finland:

It is as though Finland in this respect has received a new recognition of its independence, one that appears to have come from the heart, as was evident especially in President Roosevelt's greeting speech. This is of priceless value to our nation.47

The governments of Finland and the United States declared 1988 as the official Year of Friendship between the two countries, which actually served the interests of foreign affairs and trade. The preparation of the 1938 and 1988 have also brought the Finns and Finnish Americans closer together as a result of collaborative efforts.

However, the significance of Delaware had risen especially high among the Finnish Americans. Despite some differences of opinion, the preparations for the 1938 celebration brought together the highly fragmented Finnish American community. The Delaware Tercentenary celebration can be considered one of three significant events which influenced the American public's attitude toward the Finns and Finnish status in the United States. The other two were Finland's repayment of its war debt to the United States and the Winter War. Of these three, the Winter War continues to be the historical event by which Finland is best known in the United States.

The author wishes to express grateful thanks to Ms. Eija Suominen, who searched the newspaper and serials source material for this article.

1. See especially S. Ilmonen, Amerikan ensimmäiset suomalaiset eli Delawaren siirtokunnan historia. Hancock, Michigan 1916, pp. 30-57 and John H. Wuorinen, The Finns on the Delaware 1638-1655. An Essay in American Colonial History. New York 1938.

2. Compare ibid., pp. 110-118. Matti E. Kaups, who had kept abreast of the latest research, says that when the Swedish period ended there were 400 inhabitants, of whom a third were Finns. During the Dutch period the composition of the population changed so that by 1664 at least 400 inhabitants were totally Finnish. Matti E. Kaups, "Delawaren suomalaiset ja Amerikan uudisraivaajakulttuuri". In Suomen Silta 4/1988, pp. 28-19.

3. Pentti Olli, "Delawaren suomalaisten kunnioittaminen". In Kalevainen 1938, p. 7.

4. See for example Risto Pikkola, Uuden Ruotsin historia Thomas Campanius Holmin Israel Acreliuksen ja Pehr Kalmin kuvaamana. MA thesis in the Department of General History, University of Turku, 1988. K-G. Olin, Våra första amerikafarare. Historien om finlands-svenskarna i Nya Sverige. Jakobstad 1988, pp. 137-140 contains a listing of nearly all the most important studies and histories relating to the history of Delaware.

5. Algot Mattsson, Nya Sverige - drömmen om ett imperium. Göteborg 1987, pp. 128-132.

6. Akseli Järnefelt, Suomalaiset Amerikassa. Helsinki 1899.

7. See E.A. Louhi, The Delaware Finns. New York 1925.

8. For example, Nils Jacobson, Svenska öden vid Delaware 1638-1831. Med förord av riksbibliotekarien d:r Isak Collijn. Stockholm 1938. In Sweden as in Finland a sizable number of articles were published about the meaning of Delaware to the country's history both for the 1938 and the 1988 celebrations. Scholarly publication was particularly active in Sweden in connection with the 1988 celebration. In Sweden or in the United States, the Swedes published close to ten new major studies relating to the event. The Finnish contribution was limited to a few works: Olin's study concerning the Finland-Swedes, Koivukangas' "exhibition catalog" (see note 41), and a facsimile of Ilmonen's history of the Delaware Finns.

9. "Delaware-juhlien vietto. Lämminhenkisiä juhlia valtameren molemmin puolin". In Suomen Silta, July-September, 1938, pp. 143-149. The writer was apparently Rafael Engelberg.

10. Olli 1938, p. 7.

11. Ilmonen 1916, p. 68.

12. Compare ibid. especially pp. 41-46.

13. Ibid., introduction, p. 4.

14. See Amandus Johnson, The Swedish Settlements on the Delaware. Their History and Relation to the Indians, Dutch and English. Lancaster, PA 1911. Especially Vol. I, pp. 301-323, Vol. II, pp. 527-529.

15. Juha Pentikäinen, "Metsäsuomalaiset kaskenpolttajat Delawaren siirtokunnan pääasuttajia." In Siirtolaisuus-Migration 1/1988, p. 44.

16. See Terry G. Jordan, Matti Kaups & Richard M. Lieffert, "New Evidence on the European Origin of Pennsylvania V Notching." In Pennsylvania Folklife, Autumn 1986, vol. 36, No. 1, especially pp. 39-30.

17. Kaups 1988, pp. 28-29. Terry Jordan and Matti E. Kaups deal with the spread of settlement on a wide scale and with the Scandinavian part of it in their recently published book The American Backwoods Frontier (1989).

18. For example, Wuorinen 1938, pp. 87-88, 160; Johnson 1914, pp. 107-128; Stellan Dahlgren & Hans Norman, The Rise and Fall of New Sweden. Governor Johan Risingh's Journal 1654-1655 in Its Historical Context. Uppsala 1988, especially pp. 103-108

19. See the "official program" called Finnish Tercentenary Day. 300th Anniversary of First Finnish Settlement in America. Chester Pennsylvania June 29, 1938. Chester, PA 1938.

20. Olli 1938, p. 8.

21. S. Sirenius, "Nykyhetken saavutuksia ja tulevaisuuden tehtäviä." In Kirkollinen Kalenteri 1939, especially pp. 160-161.

22. Alvar Rautalahti, "Delawaren suomalaisten kirkollisista oloista." In Kirkollinen Kalenteri 1939, especially pp. 56-59.

23. Compare for example ibid. and Ilmonen 1916, especially pp. 42-45.

24. At least the following states were represented: Arizona, Connecticut (together with Rhode Island), Delaware (together with Maryland), Illinois (a joint Tri State Committee with Indiana and Wisconsin), Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Michigan, Montana, New Jersey, New York, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oregon, Washington, Washington DC. The information is based on the official program of the Delaware Tercentury, which actually does include some contradictions. Official Program, mentioned in footnote 19, above. The important questions connected with the practical organization of the festival would lend themselves to an interesting study. Compare also the Official Program of Events. Dedication of Finnish Monument Crozer Park. 300th Anniversary Celebration Chester, Pennsylvania June 29, 1938.

25. "Vapaa sana". In New Yorkin Uutiset, July 12, 1938.

26. "Epäonnistunutta veljeilyä". In New Yorkin Uutiset, July 21, 1938.

27. "Totuus, oikeus". In New Yorkin Uutiset, July 28, 1988.

28. "A history not to be ashamed of". In Raivaaja, July 20, 1988.

29. "Ruotsalaiset juhlivat... " In Raivaaja, June 30, 1938.

30. Wuorinen has gathered the legislative discussion and resolutions as appendices in his 1938 book. See pp. 121-167

31. Michael Berry, "Ruotsalaisten rinnalle päästiin myöhään." In Turun Sanomat, July 30, 1988.

32. See Reino Kero, "The United States During Its First Century of Independence as It Appeared in Finnish Print (1776-1880)". In Old Friends - Strong Ties. Eds. Vilho Niitemaa et al. Vaasa 1976, p. 44. The article by Yrjö Koskinen was entitled "Suomalaiset Delawaren siirtokunnassa Pohjois-Amerikassa". In Opiksi ja huwiksi, Lukemisia perheille I. Helsinki 1863, pp. 59-72.

33. S. Ilmonen, John Morton American itsenäisyydenjulistuksen allekirjoittaja. Hancock, Mich. 1936, pp. 32-33.

34. He does not give specific sources, but speaks in generalities about the source material he has used. See ibid.

35. See for example, Amandus Johnson, Swedish Contributions to American Freedom 1776-1783. Including a Sketch of the Background of the Revolution Together with an Account of the Engagements in which Swedish Officers Participated and Biograhical Sketches of These Men. Vol. I. Philadelphia 1953.

36. Compare Robert G. Ferris & Richard E. Morris, The Signers of the Declaration of Independence. Arlington, VA 1982, pp. 109-110.

37. See Diary and Autobiography of John Adams. Ed. L. H. Butterfield, etc. Vol. 3, Diary 1782-1804, Autobiography Part One to October 1776. Cambridge, MA 1961, pp. 402-404.

38. Ilmonen 1936, p. 20.

39. Ibid., p. 29; The details mentioned also appear in the essay by the Finnish writer, Martti Kerkkonen, "Finland in Colonial America." In Old Friends - Strong Ties. Vaasa 1976, pp. 30, 32.

40. Ibid., p. 22.

41. Olavi Koivukangas, Delaware 350. Amerikansiirtolaisuuden alku. Näyttelyjulkaisu. Amerikaemigrationens början. Utställningskatalog. The Beginning of Finnish Migration to the New World. Exhibition Catalogue. Turku 1988, pp. 65-67. Michael Berry, an American historian living in Finland, has strongly criticized the publication for an incipient nationalism and overemphasis of the Finnish contribution, among other things. See Berry's and Koivukangas' dialogues in Turun Sanomat in July-August 1988.

42. Jacobson 1938, pp. 310-311. An example of the latest research is Sten Carlsson, Swedes in North America 1638-1988. Technical, Cultural and Political Achievements. Stockholm 1988, pp. 22-23 in which Morton's Forest Finnish background is accepted without question. Like some others, K-G. Olin believes that Morton may have been a Finland Swede from the Bothnian coast or perhaps from Isokyrö. Olin 1988, especially pp. 69-70. Differences of opinion appear over the origins of the Morton's wife's name, "Justis", which Carlsson interprets as Gustafson, while Ilmonen links it to the Savoan Juustinen. Compare Ilmonen 1936, pp. 26, 44-45.

43. "Make known the Part of Finns in Setting Delaware Valley." In Raivaaja, May 17, 1938.

44. See for example, Violet Sandholm's "Muistelmia Danielson-Brooklynin, CT vuosien 1938 ja 1988 juhlista." In Raivaaja, July 13, 1988.

45. "Terveisiä Delawaresta." In New Yorkin Uutiset, June 2, 1938. Compare also "Totuus, oikeus." June 21, 1938,

46. Koivukangas 1988, especially pp. 12-17.

47. Suomen Silta, July-September 1938, p. 137.

Published in Turun Historiallinen Arkisto, 46(1990), p. 49-70 = Institute of History, General History, Publication 11(1990).

© Auvo Kostiainen

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