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The Finland-Swedes and Their Cultural Organizations in America

Anders M. Myhrman

Out of a total population of about 4,500,000 in Finland there are about 330,000 persons who use Swedish as their family language. These are the Finland-Swedes. As immigrants in America they were earlier known as Swede-Finns.

It is not definitely known when people speaking the Swedish language first settled in Finland, but during the 12th and 13th centuries, the period of the Swedish crusades, settlements arose along the coasts in the south and southwest. The coastal areas of the province of Osterbotten were populated somewhat later by immigrants from Sweden.

Finland was a part of the Swedish kingdom from the time of the crusades to the war with Russia in 1808-09. During this period the language of the higher administration was largely Swedish. Swedish was, on the whole, also the language of the educated and of the burghers in the cities. This condition with respect to language prevailed well into the latter part of the 19th century, but with the rise of Finnish nationalism and the development of the Finnish language as a literary medium that language, being spoken by the great majority of the people, gradually gained status and became dominant in both education and administration. Swedish thus became a minority language. However, in the new constitution of 1906 Swedish retained its status as the second official language of the country, and Swedish districts were guaranteed certain rights with respect to the use of their our language in education and administration. Finland has in general become much more Finnish since the turn of the century. Due to the heavy migration of young people from, and the consequent low birth rate in, the Swedish districts, the number of Finland-Swedes has recently tended to decrease.

Emigration - Immigration

Emigration from Finland to America was insignificant before 1880. After that date the number of emigrants increased quite rapidly, but the real exodus occurred between 1890 and World War I. It has been calculated that about 36,000 persons emigrated prior to 1893. The number of persons to whom passports were issued during the period 1893-1920 was about 274,000, according to official statistics. These figures, however, do not allow for returnees and duplications, nor for those who left without passports.

It is impossible to arrive at an accurate number of Finland-Swedes who have migrated to the United States and Canada. The emigrants were not classified in the official statistics prior to 1924. It has been estimated that one-fifth of the emigrants from Finland have been Swedes. If that proportion is approximately correct, the total number of Finland-Swedes who had migrated to America by 1920 was roughly 60,000. Silfversten has estimated that, allowing for returnees and deaths, there were not more than 38,000 of these immigrants in America in 1920. But emigration increased after the war, and during the period 1924-1931 between six and seven thousand Swedes from Finland migrated to the United States and Canada.

The so-called "America-fever" was a continuous though fluctuating phenomenon in the Swedish parts of Finland, especially in Osterbotten and Aland, from the eighties up to World War I. It was stimulated by several factors; poverty or not enough land at home, dollar remittances by earlier emigrants, tales told in letters and by returnees of the opportunities to "make money" in America, advertisements by steamship companies, and at times also the desire of the young men to avoid military service.

The emigration from the Swedish parts of Finland, as well as from the country as a whole, tended to fluctuate with economic conditions in the receiving country. The Finlandic emigration statistics make it quite clear that emigration rose with prosperity in America and fell in times of depression.

After 1890 the percentage of women among the immigrants rose rapidly. As most of them were young, marriages became more frequent and families more common. The fact that so many of these women had worked as servants in upper class American families for some time prior to marriage was an important factor in the assimilation of the immigrants to American ways of life.

Geographic and Economic Distribution

The pattern of geographic and economic distribution of the Finland-Swedish immigrants had become discernible before the turn of the century. In the East one of their important centers of early location was the city of New York and its environs. Smaller numbers were found in Philadelphia, Pa., Branford, Conn., and other cities along the coast. The majority of the men were engaged in the building trades, others in factory work. Massachusetts was another important area of early settlements in the East. There the largest settlements were found in Worcester and Gardner, with smaller ones in Springfield, Fitchburg, Boston, Quincy, Norwood, and in Woonsocket, R.I. The building trades claimed many in these cities also but metal manufacturing was the dominant occupation in Worcester and furniture manufacturing in Gardner.

In the Middle West, in a broad area including lower and upper Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and northern Illinois, Finland Swedes settled in many towns and cities. In the early period, most of the newcomers found their economic opportunities in the lumber and mining industries, with smaller numbers in manufacturing and the building trades. In a few places farming and fishing early became the chief occupation. Chicago and Waukegan, Ill., Duluth and the mining towns on the Mesabi Range in Minn., Ashland, Wis., Ironwood, Crystal Falls, Dollar Bay, Negaunee, Escanaba, Gladstone, Metropolitan, Ludington and Muskegon, Mich. - all these communities, and many others, harbored considerable numbers of Swedish immigrants from Finland at the turn of the century.

The third area in which they settled in large numbers at a somewhat later date was the West Coast. Seattle was a center from the beginning. Other towns and cities with large contingents were Tacoma, Everett, Olympia, Mount Vernon, Rochester, Aberdeen and Hoquiam in Wash., Portland, Astoria and the Coos Bay region in Oregon, and Eureka and the San Francisco Bay area in California. Here, too, the early occupations were lumbering, farming, fishing, and the building trades.

Smaller numbers were located in the Mountain States, especially in Leadville and Telluride, Colo., Butte and Anaconda, Mont., Eureka and Bingham Canyon, Utah, and Kellogg and Wallace, Idaho. Here they were occupied in various capacities in connection with mining. Most of them later moved to the west coast. After the quota law went into effect the greater number of immigrants went to Vancouver and New Westminster, B.C., in Canada. Smaller numbers settled in Hamilton, Toronto, Port Arthur, Sault Ste. Marie and other places in Ontario.

In the history of these immigrants the period from about 1880 until about 1900 may properly be called a period of pioneering and establishment - a period during which they became established both geographically and economically. This pattern has, of course, changed greatly with the passing of time, especially economically and vocationally, due to changes in the American economy, the increasing adjustment in skills and ambitions of the immigrants, and in the different social orientation of the second generation.

A second period - beginning shortly before the turn of the century and lasting into the early twenties - may properly be called a period of organization, for it was during those decades that the organizations - sick benefit, temperance, fraternal, and religious - that have played such an important part in the lives of these immigrants, were founded and developed.

Interest in organizations of their own and for the benefit of their countrymen can in some places be traced back to the middle of the eighties. Such interests were related to problems faced in the new country and found expression almost simultaneously in sick-benefit societies, temperance societies, and religious organizations.

Sick Benefit Societies

One of the felt needs among these immigrants was for mutual aid in times of illness and death. Sick benefit societies came into existence to meet this need. The first was organized in Worcester, Mass., in 1889. It was named "Imatra" after the greatest waterfall in Finland. A second society of the same nature, "Stjarnan of Finland", was founded in San Francisco in 1893, and a third, "Brodraforeningen Vasa", in New York in 1894. Five other societies were organized before 1900; one in Branford, Conn., in 1897; a second in Bessemer, Mich., in 1898; and a third, fourth, and fifth, respectively, in Ironwood, Negaunee, and Crystal Falls, Mich., in 1899.

It was among the societies in Michigan that the idea of a national federation of the local societies came up for discussion. Such a step was taken in 1900 when the four societies in Michigan organized "Svensk-Finska Sjukhjalpsforbundet Finland av Amerika". As new societies with the same purpose were founded, most of them joined the national organization. By the close of 1904 eleven local societies were members of the national. Under the influence and stimulation of the central organization new local societies arose in most communities where any considerable number of immigrants had settled. By 1920 there were about fifty active local sick benefit societies which were members of the national organization, and the total membership of these was about 3,500. There were, in addition, a few independent sick benefit societies.

Temperance Societies

The frequenting of saloons for both drinking and sociability was common practice among the male immigrants. Drunkenness therefore became a problem that early caught the attention of the more thoughtful members of the group. Temperance societies already existed among the Finns and the other Scandinavian immigrants. With such models to go by and after some years of discussion, the leaders among these immigrants in Worcester decided to take action. The first temperance society among the Finland-Swedish immigrants in America of which there is a record was organized in that city in 1892. It was named "Avasaksa" after a mountain in northern Finland and the southernmost point from which the midnight sun can be seen. This society became very active not only in direct temperance work but also in sponsoring other activities. Its members took the initiative in establishing a library, a sewing society, two choirs or singing societies, and at least two "mission societies" which later became the nuclei of churches.

Next on record is a short-lived Good Templar lodge in Escanaba, Mich., organized in 1893, but the temperance movement did not really get going before 1898. In that year societies were organized in Ironwood, Bessemer, and Negaunee, Mich.; Eveleth, Minn., and Telluride, Colo. From that time on new societies were founded in different parts of the country each year.

A number of these early temperance societies had affiliated with the Finnish National Temperance Brotherhood organization, but the language difference made any real cooperation difficult. Many of the leaders in the Swedish societies therefore began to feel that temperance work within their own language group could be done more effectively by a separate national organization. "Svensk-Finska Nykterhetsforbundet of Amerika" was accordingly organized at a meeting of delegates from local societies at Crystal Falls, Mich., in November 1902. Sixteen local societies with approximately 500 members joined immediately and seven new societies were added within a year.

From the beginning the executive board and the officials of the national organization carried on a campaign for the founding of new locals. At times a travelling representative was sent out to arouse interest and to help in establishing new societies. The result of these endeavors is indicated by the fact that by the month of March, 1908, fifty-nine local societies had been founded and had joined the national organization. Some of these locals, however, were relatively shortlived, so that the number of existing societies at any given moment was somewhat less. By the end of 1916 there were sixty locals with about 2,600 members, including nearly 300 children. Twenty-three locals had ceased to exist by then, but new and more viable societies had taken their place.

Between 1902 and 1915 the following persons served as presidents of the national organization: Chas. Carlson, Herman Holm, John Wickstrom, C. W. Silverberg, C. O. Smith, Victor Jacobson, John Udell, Andrew Ostrand and John E. Smith. Of the thirteen annual meetings two had been held in the East, eight in the Central States, and three in the West. According to the reports for 1916 eight societies were located in the East, thirty-one in the Central States, seven in the Mountain States, and fourteen on the West Coast.

Order of Runeberg

The membership of the sick benefit and the temperance societies overlapped considerably and in some cases the same persons served as officers in both organizations. Under these circumstances the idea of amalgamating the two national societies naturally arose. After much discussion the matter was brought to a head at the annual meetings of delegates from both organizations in Waukegan, Ill., in August 1920. It was then and there decided to unite into a new fraternal order. The name "Order of Runeberg" was chosen in honor of Finland's greatest Swedish poet, Johan Ludvig Runeberg. The new fraternal order combined the aims of the two previous societies, with the beneficial provisions left intact but with the temperance requirement considerably modified. John Forsman of Duluth became the first president.

The new organization started with about 4,500 members. Some formerly independent societies joined the order, some new lodges were organized, and older lodges recruited new members. As a result the membership of the Order of Runeberg passed the 8,000 mark before the end of the twenties. It was during the decades of the twenties and thirties that the activities of the order flourished and its influence became most extensive. The local lodges were grouped in three district organizations - East, Central, and West - each with its officers and annual meetings, well attended "cultural festivals", and large scale picnics. The supreme lodge conventions were held every four years, rotating among the districts. These conventions became grand affairs with hundreds of delegates and visiting members from all parts of the country. The business proper, as well as the sociability and the opportunity to visit with old friends, gave meaning and cohesion to the organization. Prominent persons - in a few cases even governors of states - were secured as speakers for the final banquets of the conventions.

The local Runeberg lodges have usually met not only for routine business relating to sick benefits but also for programs of a social and cultural nature. Such programs have often been arranged in connection with national and religious holidays. A "Runebergfest" has become a traditional celebration of the poet's birthday early in February. The traditional Scandinavian "kaffe med dopp" tops off every program.

In 1957-58, Carl L. Helgren, general secretary of the order and editor of its paper, pointed out in a number of editorials the unfavorable financial and membership trends of the order and called for revitalization in terms of new goals and methods. This led to some discussion but no action. Then, in the summer of 1960, the Finland-Swedish Singers made their tour of America under the auspices of the Order, and were everywhere received with great enthusiasm. A new interest in contacts with Finland arose. At the national convention in Eureka, Calif., in 1962 the name was changed to International Order of Runeberg and a committee was appointed to work out plans for a revitalization of the Order. On the resignation from the presidency by Hannes Sutherland in August 1963, U. S. A. Heggblom became president of the order.

Singing and music have been such an important part of the activities of the local societies and lodges that they deserve special mention. The temperance work seems to have inspired the forming of choirs, and almost every local society had experimented with singing and musical organizations prior to World War I. It was, however, in connection with the Runeberg lodges on the West Coast that choir singing developed most extensively after the First World War. Beginning with a mixed choir in Tacoma in 1913 and a male chorus in Seattle in 1914, mixed choirs were in succession formed in Olympia. 1922: in Aberdeen and Hoquiam, 1924; in Portland, 1926; in Seattle, 1927; and in Vancouver, B.C., in 1929. All of these carry the name "Runeberg Choir", except the one in Tacoma which is named Finlandia.

In 1924 a decision was made to organize a "Sangarforbund" to include existing and prospective choirs. In the fall of the same year the first large-scale singing and music festival by Finland-Swedes was held in Aberdeen-Hoquiam. Attendance was large and enthusiasm high. The idea really caught on and such festivals became well attended annual events, rotating among the cities with participating choirs. It was reported that the high point of the supreme lodge convention of the Order of Runeberg held in San Francisco in 1935 was the concert by a united choir of about 150 voices. More recently some of the Runeberg choirs have also participated in the Scandinavian Singing and Music Festivals.

The Sangarforbund took another bold step in 1930 when it arranged for a trip to Finland by a Runeberg choir - the first visit of that kind. The choir and its performances were very well received and made a favorable impression. A second Runeberg choir from the West visited Finland in the summer of 1956. It gave a large number of concerts in the province of Osterbotten and participated in the Nordic Singing and Music Festival then held in the city of Abo. The choir and its singing were everywhere received with great enthusiasm, and the feeling was strong on both sides that new and significant contacts had been made between the people in the "home-land" and their sons, and daughters, and descendants in America.

In the East the first common effort in choral singing took place at the so-called "Kulturfests" in the early 1930s. At these festivities, in Gardner in 1930 and in Worcester in 1931, two choruses from lodges in New York and two from lodges in Massachusetts participated singly and as a combined festival chorus. But such choral activities declined during the following years.

A second significant common effort in choir singing took place in connection with the Finland Day program at the Worlds Fair in New York in the summer of 1939. Four years earlier a Runeberg choir had been organized in New York, and this choir together with the Sibelius choir from Worcester and the Runeberg Male Chorus from Gardner participated with their singing in both the afternoon and evening programs of Finland Day. The Runeberg Choir in New York continued for some years as a very active singing organization. During the 1939-1940 season it sang publicly on twenty-eight different occasions. A number of these performances were to aid the "Help Finland" organization in its efforts to collect funds for the relief of war victims in Finland.

The monthly paper Ledstjarnan (now Leading Star) must be mentioned in connection with the above organizations. It was started in 1906 by "Nykterhetsforbundet" to promote the work of that organization and of temperance work in general. Its contents consisted largely of articles dealing with various aspects of alcohol and temperance problems and of letters and communications from the local societies. It was published most of the time as a monthly, consisting of eight pages one-half the size of ordinary newspapers. John Udell, Andrew Ostrand, Thom. Stenius, and John Berg in turn served as editor.

When the Order of Runeberg came into existence in 1920 it took over Ledstjarnan as its promotional organ. In 1925 Victor Jacobson of Ironwood, Mich., became general secretary of the order and editor of the paper and continued in that capacity for twenty-five years. In 1950 Carl L. Helgren of Seattle was elected general secretary and editor. Mrs. Iline Atchison succeeded him in 1963.

There can be no doubt that Ledstjarnan has performed a vital function first for the Temperance Union and later for the Order of Runeberg. In its pages the problems that have been important to these organizations have been discussed. It has served as the means of communication within the organizations, and it is difficult to see how either could have functioned for any length of time without such a publication.

Religious Organizations

Churches and religious societies represent another kind of cultural and social organization among these immigrants, most of whom had at least a nominal Lutheran background, although many were entirely indifferent and a few definitely hostile to religion. Some had definite religious interests, having been influenced by either the pietistic or the evangelical movements within the Lutheran state church during the latter part of the 19th century. A small number of the immigrants had been members of, or influenced by, a few Baptist or Covenant congregations in Finland. These background factors determined at least in part the religious organization among the immigrants.

Lutheran Churches

Lutheran churches and congregations were the first to be founded. Places and dates of organization of early Lutheran churches follow: Gardner, Mass., 1894; Metropolitan and Thompson, Mich., 1895; Duluth, Minn., 1897; Dollar Bay, Mich., and Worcester, Mass., 1900. On the West Coast the first Lutheran church was organized in Rochester, Wash., in 1902, and the second in Seattle in 1906. Strangely enough, Lutheran churches were organized relatively late in the New York area in spite of the large number of immigrants present. One was founded in Brooklyn in 1913, a second in the Bronx in 1919, and a third in Jersey City, N.J. in 1923. An attempt was made in 1916 to organize a national conference of Finland-Swedish Lutheran churches but failed for various reasons. Most of these churches became members of the Lutheran Augustana Synod.

In 1930 Silfversten listed twenty active Luthern churches which had been founded by, and/or whose membership consisted largely of people of Finland-Swedish background. It should be noted that Finland-Swedes at that time constituted about two-thirds of the membership of Swedish Lutheran churches in a number of places: Branford, Conn., Crystal Falls, Mich., Eveleth, Minn., and Marshfield, Oregon. Silfversten estimated that about 12,000 Finland-Swedes (probably two generations) were members of the Augustana Synod, but that only about one-third of these were members of the more distinctly Finland-Swedish churches. Two-thirds were accordingly members of churches in which the majority hailed from Sweden by birth or descent. Further, in his brief accounts of communities where the Finland-Swedes settled in any number, he notes that in the great majority of cases the settlers are connected with Swedish churches.

Only a few of the young immigrants - too few in proportion to the number of churches - secured a theological education (at the Augustana Theological Seminary) and entered the Lutheran ministry. Of those who did so John Gullans, Carl J. Silfversten and F. E. W. Kastman did a lifetime of outstanding religious work, organizing and pastoring churches among their countrymen. Johannes Nystrom and Gustav Oberg returned to Finland after years of ministry in America. As a consequence of the shortage of ministers of their own nationality, many of the Lutheran churches have been served by ministers who have hailed from Sweden by either birth or ancestry.

A religious monthly, first named "Svensk-Finska Sandebudet" and later simply "Sandebudet" (The Messenger) was published during the years 1909-1925 for the benefit of the members of these churches. Through its columns of news of activities in the different churches it served as a connecting link among them. Except for an interruption of about five years, during which Gustav Oberg was mainly responsible for the editing, Carl J. Silfversten was its editor.

Baptist Churches

The first Baptist church among the Finland-Swedes was organized in Worcester in 1900. The following year "Finska Baptist Missionsforeningen" (later the Baptist Mission Union) was organized in Chicago. The founders were a small group of young immigrants with a big vision. The organization was to be national in scope, including both Finns and Swedes. Affiliated locals were to be founded wherever converts could be made and interest aroused. Edward Fleming, a student at the Swedish Baptist Theological Seminary, was elected president, and Albert Wickstrom, a medical student, vice president.

Beginning some years later Fleming traveled widely as a missionary and organizer. In a number of places the few Baptists who had previously belonged to Swedish churches and new converts were organized into "mission societies" or churches affiliated with the Mission Union. The Northern Baptist Convention gave financial support to most of these churches in the early stages. In 1916, fifteen congregations with a total membership of about 700 were affiliated with the Mission Union: three in the East, six in the Central States, and four in the West. Two of the congregations were Finnish in membership. About twenty-five organized churches, most of them small in membership and financially weak, have at one time or other been affiliated with the Mission Union. Since 1920 a few have gone out of existence and some new ones have been founded. The directory for 1957 lists eighteen churches affiliated with the Mission Union; four of these are Finnish. Total membership was over 1,000.

Most of the men who have ministered to these churches have been trained in the Swedish Baptist Theological Seminary (now Bethel Seminary). Among the earlier ministers should be mentioned Matts Esselstrom, the nestor in this group, Edward Fleming, A. J. Stormans, Isak Roy, John A. Kallman, Isak Berg, and Axel Edwards. Others entered this ministry later. At present most of these churches are served by ministers of other than Finlandic background or ancestry.

Even a brief sketch of the history of the Mission Union must include a mention of "Finska Missionsposten" (now The Mission Post). This paper has been published monthly since January 1906 as the organ of the Mission Union. Matts Esselstrom edited this paper for twenty-six years first in Worcester, Mass., and then in Chicago. Later the editors were, in succession, Isak Berg, A. J. Stormans, Theodore Anderson, Dorothy Westerberg, and Alfred Holmgren. For many years an edition of 1,300 copies was printed and the paper had a considerable circulation outside the churches affiliated with the Mission Union. For that organization "Missionsposten" has been of the greatest value. It could hardly have survived without a paper of this kind as a connecting link and as a means of communication among the churches. The Mission Union was dissolved in 1961 and the Mission Post was then discontinued.

Covenant Churches

A few Covenant churches also arose among the Swedish immigrants from Finland. The first of these was organized in Brooklyn, N.Y., 1900. It grew out of "mission work" that had been started some years ealier. A second congregation was gradually built up in the Bronx and was formally organized as a church in 1902. A Covenant church was also organized in Worcester, Mass., in 1900, after a preliminary organization for two years as a "mission society." It should be recalled that the Baptist and the Lutheran churches in Worcester were also organized that same year; it is of interest to note that all three congregations met for some years in adjoining halls in the same building at 207 Main Street. One witness infers that rivalry was very keen. A Covenant church was also founded in Ironwood, Mich., but it lasted only a few years.

A central organization affiliating these churches was founded in Springfield, Mass., in 1907, in the home of a business man by the name of Gabriel Carlson. The organization was named "Svensk-Finska Evangeliska Missionssallskapet". Its main purpose, as stated, was to further the preaching of the gospel among the immigrants and to aid the Covenant (Mission) churches in Finland. For a short time it also supported a missionary in Africa and helped support another in China. The activities of this organization came to an end with the beginning of the depression in 1930.

A monthly named "Svensk-Finska Budbararen" was published in New York during the years 1908-1925 to further the work of these churches. It was edited most of the time by August Willandt. During its best years the paper had about 800 subscribers.

As early ministers in theses churches may be mentioned M. Josephson, August Willandt, Alex Hallis, and N. O. Lind.

Americanization

The Americanization of an immigrant nationally, if broadly conceived, is a process with many aspects. In terms of generations it obviously means that a native-born generation gradually takes the place of the foreign-born immigrants. Economically and vocationally it implies that immigrants, at least to some extent, and the native-born more completely, graduate from the early occupations of the immigrants and enter different vocations which usually are better paid and require more skill and knowledge. Such a change, in general, has taken place in the immigrant group here considered. But for present purposes the cultural and linguistic aspects of the process are even more important and require more attention.

In the program of the meetings of the sick benefit and temperance societies the material was largely Swedish and Finlandic and therefore decidedly "old country" in contents and ideas as well as in tone and feelings. This can probably also be said about the programs in most of the Runeberg lodges during the twenties. But with the progressive assimilation of the immigrants and the numerical increase of the native-born in many of the lodges, programs and activities tended to be modified in form and content. Sentimental speeches about their own nationality and the culture and history of Finland lost their appeal. Popular songs and music of the day tended to supplant the older Scandinavian songs and melodies. Such activities as beano parties and queen contests point in the same direction.

The Swedish language was, of course, used almost exclusively in the earlier periods. In the early thirties English began to supplant Swedish in lodge affairs, and in the forties the use of English became the rule in the meetings and programs of most of the lodges. The contents of Ledstjarnan and the language used in the official reports reflect this development. By this time most of the older people knew English passably well, while, on the other hand, many of the native-born knew little or no Swedish. A change in language was therefore natural even in lodges where the older generation resisted such a change. It was reported that only one delegate used Swedish in a business session of the supreme lodge convention in Duluth in 1939. Since that time English has been used almost exclusively as the language of such conventions. In 1950 Ledstjarnan was renamed Leading Star, with the old name in smaller letters within parentheses underneath. That arrangement is perhaps a good index of the present situation with respect to language in the Order of Runeberg.

The churches have been subject to similar influences and changes. Especially in their auxiliary organizations and activities have they tended to take over the patterns of older American churches. The shift in language has usually been gradual. Beginning with the Sunday School and the Young Peoples Society in the twenties, the Anglicization of the services was completed in most of the churches in the thirties or forties. Most of the churches had the term "Svensk-Finska" in their original name. This was dropped and some other term with a religious or local connotation substituted. Some of them have, however, held Swedish services once a month or on special occasions even during the last few years.

In the process of adjustment to the needs and demands of American life the churches have followed different routes to different ends. Some have gone out of existence due to the exodus of their members from the community or to other unfavorable external or internal circumstances. Cases in point would be the Lutheran Church in Superior, Wis., and the Baptist Church in Eureka, Calif. Some have united with other churches. As instances one can point to Worcester, Mass., where the former Swedish-Finnish Lutheran Church united with two other Lutheran churches in 1948 to form the Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, or to Brooklyn, N.Y., where the Evangelical Bethel Church (Finland-Swedish) was absorbed by the Swedish Tabernacle Church, which in turn united with the Pilgrim Covenant Church in 1935. Still others grew and became the church of their denomination in the community. One may here mention what is now the First Baptist Church in Gladstone, Mich. An outstanding example is the present Gloria Dei Luthern Church in Olympia, Wash. This church was organized as "Svensk-Finska Lutherska Forsamlingen" by twenty-nine members in 1905. After more than two decades of gradual growth, some competition with other Lutheran groups, the adoption of an all-English program in 1931, and the erection of a modern church building, it is now the Lutheran church in Olympia. The membership is about 1,500 and represents many nationalities. Still other churches have grown in their own way with a membership which to this day consists largely of Finland-Swedes and their descendants. As such may be mentioned the Ebenezer Baptist Church and the Bethel Lutheran Church in Duluth, Minn.

No value judgment is implied in the above discussion of the process of Anglicization. The change should rather be regarded as inevitable. In both churches and lodges of the Order of Runeberg it became necessary to shift to English in order to interest the native-born generation and secure them as members of the organization and as active participants in its activities. Many of them could assume responsibilities only if the English language were used.

Finska Amerikanaren - Norden

Any presentation of the Finland-Swedes and their cultural organizations in America would be incomplete without some paragraphs about "Finska Amerikanaren". This paper began publication in January 1897, in the city of Worcester, Mass. After two years of considerable financial difficulties it was sold to Axel Hornborg in New York and moved to Brooklyn where it has been published ever since.

Edward J. Antell became editor of "Finska Amerikanaren" in the latter part of 1897 and continued in that capacity into 1924. He was unusually well qualified for this task both by education and experience, and the paper reached and remained on a high level under his editorship. The columns of the paper contained important American and world news, accounts of local events and political developments in Finland, and news and contributions of various kinds from correspondens in places where the immigrants had settled.

Though the paper was published as a private business from 1899 until 1922, it was aided financially on several occasions, especially in the early years, by an organization of interested friends. The period 1908-1915 was the high plateau in its history. It is reported to have had over 6,000 subscribers at that time and its economy seemed relatively secure. But World War I affected it adversely and the stand of the paper against the Red Revolt in Finland in 1918 lost it many subscribers, especially in the West. Its financial condition therefore became increasingly precarious. In 1922, when the members of the Antell family, who then owned the paper, decided to discontinue its publication, the following persons met in New York to consider its future: Victor W. Holmberg, John Gullans, J. A. Nygard, Wm. Sandstrom, John Carlson, Tristan Antell, and Emil Ekblad. They decided to form a new corporation to take over and continue the publication of the paper. Through personal financial sacrifice and the sale of stock in the new corporation they were able to secure the necessary funds.

In 1926 Otto A. Gullmes was appointed editor and manager, and for twenty-four years he piloted the paper successfully through economic and other conditions that were becoming increasingly difficult for immigrant newspapers in America. In 1952 Theodore Anderson, who had previously edited The Mission Post in Chicago, became editor and manager. Because of rising costs and a decreasing number of subscribers the subscription price has been doubled since 1950. In 1956, 2,900 copies were printed of each weekly issue.

The name "Finska Amerikanaren" had long been felt to be somewhat of a misnomer. After considearble discussion of the matter in the columns of the paper and a vote by the subscribers, the name was changed to "Norden" in 1935. The value of the paper to the immigrants was perhaps best stated by one of them when he said, "Without it we would have been lost".

Toward the end of 1959 a new crisis arose. To pay off a mortgage, loans, and accumulated debts, the board of directors sold the tangible assets of the corporation - building, typesetter and fixtures. Anderson resigned and Elise Mannberg was appointed editor. She kept the paper going, changed to offset printing, and received within a rather short time from appreciative readers enough gifts for necessary new typing and spacing machines.


Dr. Anders M. M yhrman, born in Purmo, Finland, came to America in 1910. After years of study at several universities, he became Professor of Sociology at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, in 1925. Since his retirment from teaching in 1960 he has been working on a history of the Finland-Swedes in America.

Published in American Swedish Historical Society Yearbook 1957. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1957, 18 p. Revised edition by Order of Runeberg 1964.

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