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Features of Finnish-American Publishing

Auvo Kostiainen

University of Turku

Finnish-American cultural and educational activity is to an important extent characterized by the publishing of a large variety of newspapers and periodicals, yearbooks and other literature. Up to the present, however, very few studies have been done on Finnish publishing activities in America. Among these works, mention should be made first of all of the academic thesis produced by Taisto John Niemi, himself a Finnish-American, on the Finnish Lutheran Book Concern of Hancock, Michigan,1 which, as its name indicates, concerned itself primarily with the publication of religious literature. Another scholarly work is John I. Kolehmainen's history of the Raivaaja publishing company in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. Although Kolehmainen concentrates attention on the ideological evolution of the newspaper Raivaaja (Pioneer), he does devote a good deal of space to the rest of the company's publishing operations as well. Thus, for instance, he lists the books and periodicals brought out by the firm each year.2

Scarcely any specialized research on Finnish-American publishing has been done in Finland - apparently the only study in this field is an article by Esko Häkli on Finnish-American literature and publishing. The article represents a commendable effort to shed light on the publishing conditions of earlier days, in particular, as well as on Finnish-American bookstores, besides which space is given to a number of Finnish American writers.3

The vicissitudes of the Finnish-American press have received no little attention; but the studies that have appeared concentrate rather one-sidedly on the newspapers as such with only passing notice being given to the other publishing sectors, which might have been regarded as quite important parts of the companies' operations. For example: no comprehensive study has yet been made of the publishing activities of that other major Finnish-American labor organ, Työmies (Worker), although these activities are referred to in a general way to some extent in historical surveys. The same observation holds as regards historical works dealing with the Finnish-American emigrant community in general and the Finns living in different states in particular.4

John I. Kolehmainen's "The Finns in America - A Bibliographical Guide to Their History" should be cited as an indispensible source book. It is the only bibliographical work in its field so far to appear in the United States. In it are listed, by the different categories, the literary works, newspapers, periodicals and other publications produced by Finnish-Americans. The publishers are in some instances cited, but in the compilation of the work the name of the publisher was not always marked down alongside the title of the publication.5 In Finland, the Helsinki University Library has issued a collective catalogue of Finnish-American literature contained in scientific libraries in this country.6

Considering the publishing operations carried on by Finnish-Americans in a broader frame of reference than newspapers alone, it becomes clear, therefore, that the publishers have for the present been accorded relatively scant attention. Since the press has so far been studied most, in the following the aim will be to inquire into the matter of who in general engaged in publishing activity - that is, the publication of periodicals and incidental journals as well as books. The idea is to ascertain where and when publishing activity was carried on as well as, above all, who was in charge of operations. The work is based on a sampling method, the data having been stored in two collections: the archives of the Emigration History Research Center of the University of Turku and the Immigration History Research Center of the University of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota. The publishing activities of Finns in Canada are not dealt with in detail in the following, but on account of the scanty material available only general observations can be made.

Upon arriving in the New World, Finnish emigrants were on the whole fairly literate and in this sense well equipped intellectually compared with many other groups of emigrants. Thus when Finns began to land on American shores in ever greater numbers after the middle of the 19th century, the need for literature in the Finnish language began to grow and, along with it, Finnish publishing activity on the other side of the Atlantic. The first works published in Finnish in the United States appeared, so far as is known, as early as 1858-1859 - but not as a result of enterprise on the part of the Finns themselves, for it was the American Tract Society that came out with six slight tracts dealing with religion and temperance in the Finnish language.7

As a general feature of Finnish-American publishing activity in the early days, it can be observed that energy was concentrated mainly on the production of newspapers. The newspapers were on the whole business ventures belonging to one or more persons.8 According to Häkli, it is true, literature imported from Finland played the biggest role commercially in the Finnish-American book market,9 and in terms of cash the value of the books shipped to America from Finland rose at the beginning of the century to tens of thousands of Finnish markkas and after the attainment of Finnish national independence even to as much as hundreds of thousands of markkas annually.10

The first publications for which the Finnish-Americans themselves were responsible are generally thought to be a Finnish language sermon by P. O. Grape and the newspaper Amerikan Suomalainen Lehti (American Finnish Journal.), edited by J. A. Muikku, dating back to 1876. The first actual belletristic work was evidently a comedy titled Kappale Kapakkaelämää (A Piece of Saloon Life), which, written by K. A. Jurva, appeared in 1889. It is not impossible that equivalent literary efforts had been made even earlier, but nothing to show for them has been preserved for posterity.11

Table 1. Finnish publishers in the United States, classifield according to type of literature published.12

 

No.

%
of total

Works13
published

%
of total

Average
output

Publishers of religious lit.

96

33.2

174

18.5

1.8

Publishers in the temperance movement

23

7.9

37

3.9

1.7

Publishers in the labor movement

60

20.8

429

45.6

7.2

Other publishers

110

38.2

300

32.0

2.7

Total

289

100.0

940

100.0

3.3

The Finnish-American publishers dealt with in this sampling might in the light of the material published by them be divided into four main groups, those publishing religious, temperance, labor and other literature. Accordingly, Table 1 represents the material serving as the basis of the present study as divided among the publishers in different fields. Häkli, in his study, has submitted a cautious estimate of the numberof Finnish-American publishers of belles lettres and arrived at the figure of "over 50".14 In the foregoing table, the estimate runs conspicuously higher with the figure of 289, although, admittedly, the basis on which the reckoning was made is broader than in the afore-mentioned work. This reckoning is also based only on a sampling, which suggests that the true number of Finnish-American publishers in the United States is probably even somewhat larger. The large number of these publishers is further indicated by Kolehmainen's bibliography, in which the number of titles of newspapers and periodicals rises to as high as 338.15 In this connection, it should be kept in mind, naturally, that many of the journals published by Finnish-Americans, periodicals in particular, have had the same publisher.

One factor to be considered in Table 1 as raising the count is that the concept of "publisher" reflected in it is a fairly broad one. Those engaged in publishing have in general been understood to be different publishers whenever the names under which they have conducted their business differ (though not in the cases where the name is clearly an English translation of the Finnish original or where the publisher has remained the same to all intents and purposes in spite of a change of name). For example, publishers active within the fold of the Finnish-American working-class movement have operated as a team under various titles, as when the newspapers Työmies (Worker), Toveri (Comrade) and Raivaaja have published literary works jointly. Eventually, such joint action took on established forms: it led to the formation of an association of Finnish-American socialist publishers called Amerikansuomalaisten sosialististen kustannusliikkeiden liitto, the membership of which has varied from time to time, depending on the developments within the Finnish-American labor movement.16 Similarly, the executive committee of some large organization, like Yhdysvaltain Suomalainen Sosialistijärjestö (Finnish Socialist Federation of the United States), or that organization's theatrical association (in this instance, Näyttämöliitto, or Theater Alliance) might appear as a publisher - though, in the cases cited, both bodies belong to the same parent organization. This was true also of the various organs and subsidiary bodies of the Suomi Synod, which to some extent engaged in independent publishing activity. An additional factor augmenting the number of publishers is the inclusion in the count of special anniversary publications and publications issued to commemorate some festive occasion; they represent sixty-three different organizations (religious congregations, labor organizations, temperance associations, etc.) that otherwise never took part in publishing ventures. Similarly, the count includes the printed bylaws of thirty-seven corresponding organizations.

The feature mentioned by Häkli in his study that in the ranks of publishers of Finnish-American literature there are only around ten that have engaged in publishing operations on any regular basis or sizable scale17 can be seen plainly also in the foregoing table. It gives the average number of published works as only 3.3. The highest average by a clear margin, 7.2., is credited to the publishers representing the Finnish-American labor movement. The corresponding figure registered for publishers of religious material is 1.8, for publishers championing the cause of temperance 1.7 and for the rest 2.7. This shows that the operations of the publishers representing the labor movement were considerably more concentrated than those of other Finnish-American publishers; and, as a matter of fact, the publishing activity of the labor movement as a whole was concentrated around their newspaper enterprises. This means, in the United States around the Raivaaja, Työmies, Toveri, Eteenpäin (Forward) and Industrialisti (Industrialist), and in Canada, around the Työkansa (Working People), in the beginning, and, at a later date, Vapaus (Freedom).

In his article, Esko Häkli lists a few of the bigger Finnish-American publishers: New Yorkin Lehti (New York Journal), Amerikan Sanomat (American Tidings), Päivälehti (Daily Journal), Työkansa (Working People), Työmies, Suomalais-amerikkalainen kustannausyhtiö (Finnish-American Publishing Company), "Suomalais-sosialistinen kustannusyhtiö" (Finnish Socialist Publishing Company) and Suomalainen luterilainen kustannusliike (Finnish Lutheran Book Concern).18

The oldest Finnish-American publishing business included in the sampling material is the Suomalais-amerikkalainen kustannusyhtiö, which was apparently established in 1894 in Brooklyn, New York. It has been one of the most productive of the Finnish-American publishing enterprises, having brought out more than seventy small volumes, mainly booklets in translation of rather slight significance but also cookbooks and historical works. Among its publications was also the literary periodical Edistys (Progress), which appeared in the years 1898 and 1899.

The publisher calling itself New Yorkin Lehti does not seem in the light of the material at hand to have been a major Finnish-American enterprise, for such a name does not appear except as a publisher of calendars. According to Kohlemainen's bibliography, a newspaper by that name came out only for the short period of 1892-1894.19 Häkli perhaps means New Yorkin Uutiset (New York News), which began to appear in Brooklyn, New York, in 1906 and still exists. This newspaper company has in the course of years published a fairly large quantity of other material, mostly novels and magazines.

Amerikan Sanomat came out in Ashtabula, Ohio, as a weekly newspaper from 1897 to 1913. The company also seems to have published several dozen other literary works, mainly short stories or short novels as well as textbooks and guidebooks.

Several Finnish publishing enterprises have existed in the town of Duluth, Minnesota, which is one of the major centers of Finnish-American culture in North America. One of the most prominent of these ventures was the newspaper Päivälehti, which originally came out in Calumet, Michigan, after its founding in 1901, but was moved to Duluth in 1914. There the paper continued to appear up to 1948 - from 1940, to be sure, under the ownership of the Raivaaja company.20 The program of this publishing firm, which, especially during the early decades of the century, was regarded as far right in its political orientation, consisted mostly of periodicals and novels as well as of other literature in Finnish translation.

Työmies is one of the old Finnish-American publishing firms still in existence. Together with Suomalainen Luterilainen Kustannusliike, it ranks among the Finnish publishing businesses in America that have turned out the most literature. The fortunes of this firm have been marked by many ups and downs and reflect at the same time the vicissitudes of Finnish-American immigration as a whole. The basis of the operations of this publishing enterprise has been the newspaper of the same name, which originally came out in Worcester, Massachusetts, where it was founded in 1903. After only a year in existence, however, it was transplanted to Hancock, Michigan, and then, in 1914, to Superior, Wisconsin, where conditions were considered to be most favorable to the operations of a publishing business connected with the labor movement. Contributing to the decision to shift headquarters was apparently the fact that Hancock was and still is one of the main strongholds of the Finnish-American church. Another factor bearing on the matter must have been the great copper strike in that area in 1913-1914, and a further factor the first major split in the Finnish-American labor movement, which occurred around the same time and caused the syndicalists to break loose and form their own separate organization.21 The "golden age" of the Työmies publishing operations as well as of the newspaper itself fell into the decades of the 1910s and 1920s. The retreat of the old immigrant generation began to show up first in the paper's merger with the Toveri in 1931 and later, in 1950, also with the Eteenpäin, after which the masthead of the journal began to carry the name Työmies-Eteenpäin.22 The publishing house known as Työmies Society has been responsible for the appearance, it seems, of over a hundred different periodicals and incidental publications, novels, historical works, guidebooks and other handbooks as well as an abundance of translated socialistic literature and a countless number of various political leaflets and pamphlets.

The Työkansan kustannusliike mentioned by Häkli in his list operated in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada, in the period between 1907 and 1915, concentrating on the publication of a newspaper. The newspaper Vapaus, which started to come out in 191723, is to be regarded as almost a direct heir to the earlier one. The publication program of both ventures included to a very large extent the same type of material as that of the Finnish working-class newspapers on the American side of the border - namely, short stories, novels and poetry written by Finnish-Americans, various periodicals and socialistic literature in translation. It would also seem that Työkansa and Vapaus have published relatively more books and periodicals by a wide margin than any other publishing firm established by Finns in Canada.

The Raivaaja publishing company, which is still doing business in the town of Fitchburg, Massachusetts, was founded in 1905 to serve the membership of the Finnish-American labor movement in the northeastern section of the United States. The heyday of this enterprise dates back to the second decade of the century. In the period between 1905 and 1954, the company, originally called Suomalainen Sosialistinen Kustannusliike (Finnish Socialist Publishing Company) and later renamed the Raivaaja Publishing Company, after the newspaper that was its main product, brought out eight different periodicals and a total of seventy-six different books or booklets. In addition, as Kolehmainen points out, the firm published a considerable number of plays and pamphlets, which for lack of sufficient information it is no longer possible to enumerate.24

Perhaps the most Finnish-American publishing activity has taken place in Hancock, Michigan, seat of Suomi College and the religious center of the Finnish-American community since the closing years of the last century. It was back in 1890 that the Suomi Synod was founded in Hancock. The Suomi (= Finland) Synod was a kind of counterpart of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland in the New World. Its sphere of activity expanded gradually and the Suomi Opisto (Suomi College) was established under its wing. The clergymen belonging to the synod engaged in newspaper publishing, producing Paimen Sanomat (Shepherd's Tidings) and Amerikan Suometar (American Finn) and even established a bookstore in Hancock. The convention of Suomi Synod held in 1900 voted to purchase the two newspapers and the bookstore, and these enterprises were all combined to operate under the Suomalainen Luterilainen Kustannusliike (Finnish Lutheran Book Concern).25 In addition to bringing out Paimen Sanomat and Amerikan Suometar, this company engaged vigorously in other publishing activity as well, its list of publications including 111 different books and booklets, such as hymnbooks, religious poetry, textbooks and guidebooks as well as novels with a religious content.26 Moreover, the company has issued three other religious periodicals and church calendars (Kirkollinen Kalenteri) as well as, ever since 1920, Suomi Synodin Vuosikirja (Yearbook of Suomi Synod).

Hard by the Suomi Synod and Suomalainen Luterilainen Kustannusliike in Hancock, there appeared a remarkable number of various other publishers of religious literature, such as, for example, Suomi College, with its annuals, the student body of the college, different associations of clergymen belonging to the Suomi Synod, etc.

Speaking of the biggest publishing enterprises in the Finnish-American community, certain others besides the ones mentioned already deserve notice, all of them, it is true, being affiliated with the labor movement. First of all, in Duluth, there was the Workers' Socialist Publishing Company. The newspaper Industrialisti it published was preceded by the Sosialisti (Socialist), which was founded in 1914. Pressure from the federal government forced it soon to cease publication. Its successor for a short time was a journal called Teollisuustyöläinen (Industrial Worker), after which came the Industrialisti to compete with the Työmies under the boast of representing the "true working-class movernent". This publishing firm was in close cooperation with the Work People's College of Duluth, and they were both supporters of the syndicalist organization Industrial Workers of the World. It is only a few years ago that the Workers' Socialist Publishing Company ceased publication of its newspaper. Over the past few decades, it has brought out syndicalist books, novels and calendars by the dozen as well as various kinds of periodicals.

Among the biggest publishing houses connected with the Finnish labor movement in America should further be mentioned the Western Workmen's Co-operative Publishing Company and specifically the newspaper Toveri, brought out under its wing. The company was founded in 1907 for the purpose of satisfying the needs of the Finnish working people in the western section of the United States, and it is responsible for a number of periodicals designed for children and for other youthful readers as well as the women's journal Toveritar (Woman Comrade). As already mentioned, the Toveri was discontinued in 1931 by merging it with the Työmies.

An important role in the publishing activities of Finns in America has been played by the collaboration carried on among publishers connected with labor organizations; nothing like it appears to have taken place in other publishing circles. In a comparison with the situation prevailing in Finland, it can be noted that here in this country the publishing trade had become fairly solidly established, of course, by the latter half of the 19th century, as evidence of which the Suomen Kustannusyhdistys (Finnish Publishing Association) was formed as early as 1857, mainly to facilitate cooperation between publishers and book dealers and to promote the distribution of literature.27 The Työväen Kustannusliikkeiden Liitto (Association of Workers' Publishing Companies) was founded in Finland in 1917 and it was controlled for the most part by Social Democrats. Cooperation between companies had been going on, to be sure, since 1906.28 In this light, the collaboration observed in the sphere of publishing connected with the Finnish-American labor movement followed closely the pattern of development of the labor movement in the Old Country, for as early as the second decade of the present century the companies responsible for the newspapers Raivaaja, Työmies and Toveri issued jointly many periodicals, such as Kalenteri Amerikan Suomalaiselle Työväelle (Calendar for the Finnish-American Working People) an Vappu (May Day), works of literature, like Moses Hahl's Kehitysopin aakkoset (The ABC's of the Theory of Evolution), and a profusion of socialistic literature translated into Finnish from other languages.29 The need for collaboration among Finnish-American publishers in the labor camp - somewhat over 300,000 - besides which they lived scattered all over the country. It did not take long for the publishers turning out working-class literature to perceive that the Finnish-American market was very limited and that there was reason to rationalize their business operations and cut costs.

When the Finnish-American labor movement split up during the dissension over the course to take in 1919-1921, collaboration in the publishing field also suffered. The Raivaaja Publishing Company alone kept to the Social-Democratic line, while the Työmies and the Toveri followed the tougher line of Communism. In 1921 the latter founded in Worcester, Massachusetts, the newspaper called Eteenpäin (Forward) to compete for readers in the northeastern states with the Raivaaja. The Eteenpäin then proceeded to cooperate in the publishing field with other Finnish-American Communist journals. In 1923 also the Finnish radical leftist newspaper Vapaus,30 which was based on the Canadian side of the border, was accepted as a partner in the cooperative endeavors.

At the time the Raivaaja had belonged to the group, the cooperative association had been called Amerikansuomalaiset sosialistiset kustannusyhtiöt (Finnish-American Socialist Publishing Companies). After the group became restricted to Communist companies, it took the name of Amerikansuomalaisten Sosialististen Kustannusliikkeiden Liitto (Federation of Finnish-American Socialist Publishing Companies). This organization has issued a notable number of novels, poetic works and plays written by members of Finnish-American workers' associations, and its sphere of operations has included the publication of quite a few periodicals. Cooperative efforts along the same lines continue to this day, though on a reduced scale. The Toveri has given up the ghost and the Eteenpäin has been taken over by the Työmies. The Vapaus has merged with the literary journal Liekki (Flame) to produce the Viikosanomat (Weekly News). The cooperative bond now therefore persists between the companies responsible for Työmies-Eteenpäin and this cooperation appears to be vital condition of their survival.

A newspaper and its publication have thus in one way or another been bound up with the operations of all the afore-mentioned major Finnish-American publishing enterprises. It would appear that publication of a newspaper has invariably been the point of departure from which advances have been made into other publishing activity - evidently for the reason that this was the way to lay a firmer fiscal basis for operations. The only exceptions are the Suomalais-amerikkalainen kustannusyhtiö (Finnish-American Publishing Company), which also soon began to bring out a periodical and which was formed by taking over the publication of the newspaper Siirtolainen (Immigrant),31 and Suomalainen Luterilainen Kustannusliike (Finnish Lutheran Book Concern), in the operations of which, to be sure, newspapers and periodicals played a fairly central role. The importance of the revenue gained from newspapers to the publishing companies is clearly indicated, for example, by the fact that the income of the Raivaaja company from the sale of books - both its own and those imported from Finland - amounted in 1905 to $1204, whereas income from subscriptions to the newspaper amounted to $2888. It was in 1913 that proceeds from book sales exceeded the revenue from newspaper subscriptions for the first time.32 As far as the Työmies was concerned, the revenue from newspaper subscriptions was somewhat more important, as in the fiscal year of 1911-1912, for example, it accounted for 32.9 % of the company's income, compared with the figure of 21.2 % representing the proceeds from book sales.33 In 1923 Työmies subscriptions brought in 31.4 % of the revenue and book sales 12.8 %.34 As regards the Finnish Lutheran Book Concern, the sale of literature was of central importance, whereas subscription payments for newspapers and periodicals were conspicuously less important.35

Besides the ones connected with producing newspapers, the most prominent Finnish-American enterprisers in the publishing field have been a few organizations and individual citizens. Among the organizations, the ones most to the fore have been the churches with the biggest membership, which means, of course, the Suomi Synod and, in addition, the Apostolis-luterilainen kirkko, of Apostolic Lutheran Church, otherwise known as Laestadians, the first congregation in the United States of which was founded, so far as is known, in 1872 in Calumet, Michigan.36 Not many traces have been left of the Apostolic Lutheran publishing activities. There were over 20,000 Finnish members of diverse Laestadian sects as late as 1946 in the United States; but in the light of available material, however, it appears as if their publishing operations have been fairly weak. Evidently, one reason for this is the rather loose organization of their church on the national level - they do not, for instance, have any central seat corresponding to that of the Evangelical Lutherans. The best preserved have been the Laestadians' accounts of "great assemblies" and their periodicals, reported by Kolehmainen to have numbered seven, as well as their newspaper Valvoja (Guardian).37 Two of the periodicals, Kristillinen Kuukausilehti - Christian Monthly and Rauhan Tervehdys - Greetings of Peace, continue to appear. Regarding the development of Apostolic-Lutheran publishing activity, it is noteworthy that the publishing company Rauha (Peace), which is responsible for the Greetings of Peace and the establishment of which dates back to 1922, has also brought out a number of hymn-books in the Finnish language compiled by Finnish-Americans; and in 1932 it published a collection of songs in English and Finnish for Sunday school and confirmation school children.38

It would appear as if two other good-sized Finnish-American church organizations, Kansalliskirkko (National Church) and Lähetyskirkko (Congregational Church), have been fairly active in the publishing trade. As evidence, Kolehmainen has catalogued fifteen periodicals put out by the Kansalliskirkko, and he states that the Lähetyskirkko has likewise been publisher of seventeen periodicals.39 In the light of the sampling material, these two churches have engaged in actual book publishing on only a very modest scale.

At the end of the 1800s and the beginning of the next century, the temperance movement attracted a large following among the immigrant Finnish population in America and in this respect it rivaled the church organizations, until it began to lose its hold to both religion and the rising labor movement. The source material does not, however, include temperance literature in any notable abundance. The available printed matter, aside from the Raittiuskalenteri (Temperance Calendar) has consisted mainly of rather short-lived periodicals or then various publications celebrating anniversaries or other festal occasions.40 It therefore seems as if the temperance movement has been outdistanced by a wide margin in the publishing field by both the church organizations and the labor movement.

Among the rest of the more prominent organizations, mention must be made of the Kalevaiset (Kalevians), the chief publication of which continues to be the annual Kalevainen (Kalevian), which has been appearing regularly ever since the year 1913. In addition, certain of the lodges of the Knights of Kaleva and Ladies of Kaleva have separately published sets of rules and other guidebooks. Reports of the proceedings of the national conventions of both organizations have also appeared in print. As organizations, the Kalevians have otherwise probably not very actively engaged in publishing.

In Table 1, the Finnish-American cooperative societies have been included in the group of "other publishers". This was done notwithstanding the fact that on the whole they were fairly closely associated with the Finnish-American labor movement. It is obvious that in this sector as well the available material gives a rather poor showing for the activity of the cooperative movement in the publishing field. The largest number of publications obtainable for scrutiny has come from the Superiorin Keskusosuuskunta (Central Cooperative Exchange of Superior) - various manuals and annuals put out by the cooperative movement as well as pamphlets of a political nature.

Quite a motley crowd of private enterprisers has collected over the years in the publishing trade in the Finnish-American community. Among them, mention ought first to be made of Wilho Leikas & Co., a firm operating in Laurium, Michigan, at the beginning of the century. It concentrated mainly on issuing socialist literature in translation as well as various handbooks and works of so-called liberal thinking, such as, for example, pamphlets written by Robert Ingersol criticizing religion and the church. Another private publisher of prominence was Carl H. Salminen, of Duluth. The heyday of his company fell between the two world wars and the works published ranged from the Finnish national epic Kalevala, in the original language, and a Finnish grammar to novels and calendars.

A special feature to be observed in Finnish-American publishing activity was thus its wide dispersion, well indicated by Table 1, in which the average number of works credited to a single publisher is no more than 3.3. As mentioned in the foregoing, a factor contributing to this condition was the small market of literature in the Finnish language in America, which apparently very. soon eliminated all those in the business except the ones that had behind them either a newspaper or some organization. Another contributing factor was plainly enough the nature of Finnish-American literature. The works appearing in print have been exceedingly diverse in both character and quality. The publications have varied from magazines and textbooks to novels, poetry, plays and histories. Attention has been drawn, furthermore, to the marketing, especially in the early days, that is, the late 1800s and the beginning of the present century, of trivial literature. Thus Elis Sulkanen, in his history of the Finnish-American labor movement, appears to tell the truth in complaining that "the bourgeois societies and their newspapers" distributed "dream books and other curious stories"; and he stresses that the publishers turning out literature for the labor movement had screened out the trash from their output.41

The uneven level of the Finnish writers in America, whether on the political right or the left, often caused the publishers to hesitate before taking risks with manuscripts from this source. The result was frequently a falling back on translated works, and especially the beginners in the literary craft were obliged to publish their own writings.42 The uneven level of the writers is also to be seen in the material providing the basis for this study: the collection includes thirty-eight works published by private individuals, works written either by themselves or by close relatives. These works are mainly novels, historical accounts memoirs, poems and songs as well as prayer books.

When the geographical distribution of the Finnish publishers operating in America is considered, it will be noted that the state of Michigan is clearly the most heavily represented in the list (27.1 %). Next in line are Massachusetts (18.2 %), Minnesota (17.9 %) and New York (11.9 %).43 These are precisely the states with the heaviest concentrations of Finnish Americans - and also the states with the most vigorous Finnish-American cultural activities.

Considering the activity of Finnish-American publishers in a chronological light, one will note, first of all, that only fourteen, or about five per cent, of the publishers given attention were in the business before the turn of the century. Activity appears to have been liveliest in the period between 1920 and 1940, when 36.6 % of the publishers were in the picture. The figure for the period between 1901 and 1920 was 30.4 % an for the post-1941 period 22.4 %.

The peak period of publishing activity thus falls in the framework of the material at hand between the two world wars. Social life among the Finnish-American immigrants seems to have reached full bloom at the beginning of the 1920s; hence it should be a natural consequence for publishing operations also to peak around the same time. A decline followed, however, fairly rapidly along with the effective legal obstructions to immigration set up by the United States government in the early 1920s. Fresh blood ceased to flow into the immigrant community from Finland after the mid-1920s, with the result that Finnish cultural activity of every kind in America lost vigor.

In view of these developments, it is surprising to observe in the material at hand that quite an impressive number of Finnish-American publishers was still on the active list in the years following 1941. This is probably due mainly to the fact that the mortality figures in the Finnish-American press began to rise sharply only following World War II, which means that the newspaper publishing firms in question are included in the foregoing 22.4 % group. During the period under consideration, moreover, an exceptional quantity of material of a historical and autobiographical nature appeared in print through the efforts of both individual citizens and numerous Finnish-American associations, a circumstance that contributes to increase the percentage referred to.

It is a fair assumption, however, that the chief reason for the high ratio of publishers active after the year 1941 lies in the distorted character of the available material. Evidently, the 289 publishers included in the investigation are not completely representative from the standpoint of Finnish-American publishing taken as a whole, since the information on the early days of publishing activity is patently deficient. This is indicated by, for example, the fact that in his article Esko Häkli has listed over seventy publications issued by the Suomalaisamerikkalainen kustannusyhtiö (Finnish-American Publishing Company),44 whereas in the material at hand only a dozen works are credited to this company. Inasmuch as the sampling has brought to light only a small proportion of this publisher's output, the inference must be drawn that there exist quite a large number of works for lack of knowledge abouth which it has not, of course, been possible to know about the existence of the publishers, either.

The information about Finnish publishers in the American West also appears to have sizable gaps. The source material at hand places no more than 7.3 % of all the Finnish-American publishers in the three Pacific coast states, Washington, Oregon and California, whereas according to the 1920 census 16.7 % of the total Finnish-American population lived in that region.45 Although the ratios in question need not be equivalent, a comparison points at any rate in the direction that the sampling material has skipped over quite a few Finnish-American publishers that have existed at one time or another on the West Coast.

In the foregoing, references have already been made to Finnish-American history and in that connection to a factor inexorably influencing publishing activity, too, to wit, the cessation of immigration from Finland, which at the same time signified a downward trend in the Finnish-born population and the Americanization of the progeny of immigrants. The overall trend can be observed mainly in the fact that the number of publishers and the quantity of books, periodicals and other literature brought out by them have gradually decreased as well as in the circumstance that a gradual, increasing shift has taken place toward the publication of literature in the English language. The decrease in the number of publishers has led to a situation where operations are carried on mainly by old newspaper firms still in business. Publishing work is therefore done for the most part by the companies responsible for the newspapers Raivaaja, New Yorkin Uutiset and Työmies as well as the Parta Printers of New York Mills, Minnesota, a still vigorous enterprise that puts out the newspaper Amerikan Uutiset (American News). In addition, attention is merited by the Finnish Lutheran Book Concern, which, still based in Hancock and operating in close collaboration with the Suomi Conference and Suomi College, turns out annually quite an impressive volume of literature dealing with Finnish-American activities. Further, a number of still active Finnish-American organizations naturally continue to issue literature, among them, for instance, the churches, labor associations, the Knights and the Ladies of Kaleva and the several Finnish-American historical societies located in different states. On the Canadian side, noteworthy are the newspapers Canadan Uutiset (Canadian News), Vapaa Sana (Free Press) and Viikkosanomat and their publishing firms.

Although the source material used in this study is in a certain way deficient, it nevertheless can probably serve as a basis for drawing a few general conclusions concerning Finnish-American publishing. First of all, the impression is inescapable that the publishing activities were widely scattered, with a large number of enterprisers bidding for readers in a relatively small market. In size, the publishing enterprises have been fairly small, however, and on the whole rather short-lived. Clearly in a dominant position in the publishing trade have been a few newspaper companies, which have also brought out quite a notable quantity of books and periodical literature. The same observation can be made of the publishing operations of the Finnish-American Evangelical Lutheran church, the Suomi Synod (Suomi Conference), and the religious organizations closely associated with it. In the light of the total volume of operations, however, it would appear as if the publishers connected with the labor movement have been the most conspicuously active in the Finnish-American community since the beginning of the current century. Clearly in evidence, further, is a diminution in the publishers' ranks parallel with the steady disappearance of the immigrant generation proper and a shift to an increasing extent of the Finnish-American publishers still in business to the English-language sector.

1. Taisto John Niemi, The Finnish Lutheran Book Concern 1900-1950: A Historical and Developmental Study. University of Michigan 1960.

2. John I. Kolehmainen, Sow the Golden Seed. History of the Fitchburg (Massachusetts) Finnish-American Newspaper Raivaaja (Pioneer) 1905-1955. Fitchburg, Mass. 1955, pp. 143-150.

3. Esko Häkli, Amerikansuomalaisten kirjallisuudesta ja kustannusoloista. Bibliophilos 2/1962, pp. 41-54 and 3/1962, pp. 62-71.

4. See, e.g., S. Ilmonen, Amerikansuomalaisten sivistyshistoria. Johtavia aatteita, harrastuksia, yhteispyrintöjä ja tapahtumia siirtokansan keskuudessa. Jälkimmäinen osa. Hancock, Mich. 1931, pp. 114-126; Reino Kero, Suuren lännen suomalaiset. Keuruu 1976, esp. pp. 153-164; Armas K. E. Holmio, Michiganin suomalaisten historia. Hancock Mich. 1967, pp. 503-521; and Hans R. Wasastjerna, History of the Finns in Minnesota. Translation by Toivo Rosvall. New York Mills Minn. 1957, esp. pp. 127-129, 149-153, and 309-320.

5. Hancock, Mich. 1947.

6. Kaarina Kotiranta. Amerikansuomalaisen kirjallisuuden yhteisluettelo. Helsingin yliopiston kirjaston monistesarja 3. Helsinki 1970.

7. Häkli, pp. 42-43.

8. Kero, pp. 153-155.

9. Häkli, p. 44.

10. See, Rafael Engelberg, Suomi ja Amerikan suomalaiset. Keskinäinen yhteys ja sen rakentaminen. Helsinki 1944 pp. 290-291. The tendency is obvious in spite of the growing inflation during the period in question.

11. Häkli, pp. 41-42.

12. The sample materials include several works which do not tell the publisher (ninety-seven pieces). A conclusion of the publishers can, however, be presented: most of these works were published by the labor movement, and on the other hand by the religious circles.

13. As one published work has been understood a periodical or occasional publication notwithstanding how frequently it has been given.

14. Häkli, p. 52.

15. Kolehmainen 1947, pp. 79-97.

16. See later in this work, pp. 62-64.

17. Häkli, p. 52.

18. Loc. cit.

19. Kolehmainen 1947, p. 82.

20. Wasastjerna, pp. 310-313.

21. See, Elis Sulkanen, Amerikansuomalaisen työväenliikkeen historia. Fitchburg, Mass. 1951, p. 317.

22. See, P. George Hummasti, "The Working Man's Daily Bread," Finnish-American Working Class Newspapers, 1900-1921. For the Common Good. Finnish Immigrants and the Radical Response to Industrial America. Eds. Michael G. Karni and Douglas J. Ollila Jr. Superior, Wis. 1977 p. 192.

23. On the connection between Työkansa and Vapaus see J. W. Ahlqvist, Muistelmia sosialistilehtien julkaisemisesta. Vapaus 1917-1934. Sudbury, Ont. 1934, esp. pp. 5-12.

24. Kolehmainen 1955, pp. 143-150.

25. See, Kirkkokuntamme Lehdistö ja Kustannustoimi. Julkaistu kirkkokansamme huomion kiinnittämiseksi asiaan. Hancock, Mich.. s.a., pp. 31-33. Compare Niemi, pp. 75-94.

26. Niemi, pp. 306-318.

27. See, Artturi Virtanen, Suomen kirjakaupan ja kustannustoiminnan vaiheita. Helsinki 1958, esp. pp. 105-116.

28. Työväen Kustannusliikkeiden Liiton perustavan kokouksen Pöytäkirja. Kokous pidetty Helsingissä syyskuun 29 p: nä 1917. Helsinki 1917, esp. pp. 6-12.

29. About, e.g, the cooperation in regard to the publishing activities in 1917, see, Pöytäkirja Työmies Kustannusyhtiön Vuosikokouksesta Helmik. 2, 3 ja 4 P. 1913 Superior, Wis. Superior Wis. 1918, p. 10.

30. See, Työmies Societyn Helmikuun 2 päivänä, 1924 pidetyn Vuosikokouksen Pöytäkirja ja Liikkeen Sivusäännöt. Superior, Wis. s.a., p. 7.

31. Häkli, p. 53.

32. Ibid., p. 46.

33. Pöytäkirja tehty Työmies Kustannusyhtiön osakkeenomistajien vuosikokouksessa Kansankodilla, Hancockissa, Mich., elokuun 17 päivänä 1912. Hancock, Mich. 1913, p. 58.

34. Työmies Societyn Vuosikokouksen Pöytäkirja 1924, op. cit, p. 5.

35. See, Niemi, pp. 250-253, and esp. table 14, pp. 258-259.

36. See, Uuras Saarnivaara, Amerikan Laestadiolaisuuden eli Apostolisluterilaisuuden historia. Ironwood, Mich. 1947, p. 33.

37. Kolehmainen 1947, pp. 85-86.

38. Saarnivaara, pp. 211-212.

39. Kolehmainen 1947, pp. 86 and 88.

40. Ibid., pp. 90-91.

41. Sulkanen, p. 337.

42. Häkli, p. 52.

43. Taisto John Niemi has studied the locations of Finnish-American newspapers and periodicals, basing his statistics on the Kolehmainen bibliography. According to Niemi, 33.7 % of the papers came out in Michigan, 16.3 % in Minnesota, 14.8 % in New York and 13.0 % in the state of Massachusetts. Niemi, p. 58.

44. Häkli, pp. 53-54. He bases the number of publications in the lists of the publications given out by the publisher in question in the periodical called Edistys, numbers 1-3 in 1898.

45. Fourteenth Census of the United States Taken in the Year 1920. Vol. II. Population 1920. General Report and Analytical Tables. Washington, D. C. 1922, p. 698. In the table in question the term Finnish-American implies the persons born in Finland.

Published in Publications of the Institute of General History, University of Turku, 9(1977), p. 54-70.

© Auvo Kostiainen

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