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The Americanization of the Finns

John Wargelin, A.M.,

President of Suomi College and Theological Seminary

Preface.
Chapter I.  Introduction. Meaning of Americanization Discussed.
Chapter II.  Historical Background of the Finnish Race.
Chapter III.  Causes of Immigration from Finland.
Chapter IV.  Finnish Immigration to America.
Chapter V.  Distribution and Occupations of the Finns.
Chapter VI.  Cultural Life of the Finns. a) School.
Chapter VII.  Cultural Life of the Finns (continued). b) Press.
Chapter VIII.  Cultural Life of the Finns (continued). c) Church.
Chapter IX.  Cultural Life of the Finns (continued). d) Societies.
Chapter X.  Naturalization and Political Life.
Conclusion.

Chapter IV.
Finnish Immigration To America.

We shall submit a few statistics to show the size and importance of immigration from Finland. In general it is to be noted that immigration from Finland started some thirty years later than from the Scandinavian countries. We have gathered our facts from various sources and have endeavored to arrive at real conclusions by comparing the data.

Not to speak of those Finns who came over in 1639 to colonize Delaware in company with Swedes, - although it would be very interesting because of the prominent part these colonists played in the early history of Delaware, Philadelphia and our early colonial period, and also because they have been Americanized so thoroughly that no racial trace of them is left - we turn to the first arrivals in modern immigration from Finland.

About 1850 the California gold fever drew over two hundred Finns who settled on that coast. Some five years later during the Crimean War we find many Finnish sailors, who sailed under the Russian flag, remaining in America because they did not wish to risk being captured by English boats on the high seas. It has been estimated that at least 150 sailors settled, about that time, in New Orleans, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and New York. Again we find certain causes at work a little later that resulted in the immigration of small numbers of Finns. The United States needed sailors to man her boats during the trying years of the Civil War, and over 100 Finns entered the service of the United States in 1861. After the war they settled in the large cities on the Atlantic coast, viz. Boston, New York, and Philadelphia. They were joined by other sailors about the same time, but we have no definite figures to show their number.

Immigration proper commenced, however, in 1864. That year we find Finns migrating from Hammarfest, Vesisaari, Wadso (Vartsjo) and Kaafjord, Norway, to the Copper Country in Upper Michigan. They came in company with Norwegians who had been engaged by the Quincy Mining Company of Hancock to work in the copper mines. Among this group we find names like Lintulahti, Noppa, Parkkanen etc. The first immigrants therefore came from Norway where several thousand Finns are found mostly engaged in fishing on the Norwegian coast. In 1870, '71, '72, and '73 we find several groups of immigrants from Finland (from Osterbotten, Torneo River, and Liuksiniemi) traveling by the way of the Great Lakes to Hancock, Michigan, and Duluth, Minnesota. One boat carried 100 immigrants. We find an interesting account in one of the daily papers of Chicago at this time, stating that "the Russian Finns have begun to come to America". Some of the early comers seem to have left work in the mines at Hancock, Michigan, and have gone to Minnesota where they settled in Franklin, Holmes City, and Cokato between 1864 and 1865. These places are still inhabited by a large number of Finns and we find some of the finest farms of the Northwest in their possession. For the sake of historical interest we may point out that some score of the first would-be-miners never entered upon their expected work, but found service in the United States' army during the last years of the Civil War.

We may pass over rapidly the other arrivals up to the year 1873. Between the years 1871-73 Finns were pushing their way to the farthest western coast of the country, to Astoria, Oregon, where they have ever since held an important place as fishermen, and to Washington. A few Finns also came to Marquette County, Michigan, about this time. They found work in the mines or the small iron furnaces then in use, but the operations were very limited until the railroads were built to Marquette from the mining towns. Some Finns were further found working on the Pacific railroads that were being built to the Pacific coast soon after the Civil War. Many of these early railroad workers later became prominent citizens in their respective communities. Their children have become thoroughly Americanized and some of them may be found, for example, as teachers in our public schools, teaching Americanism to citizens of tomorrow. Ohio, which boasts of some ten thousand Finns at present, received her first Finnish members in the year 1870. The men found work on the docks of the Lake Erie towns, but their number remained rather small until about 1880 when the ore-carrying industry began to reach greater proportions.

Certain laws of reciprocity relating to economic conditions have always existed between America and the countries from where immigrants arrive. In times of financial prosperity in America immigration will swell, when it is dull, immigration will decrease and many will leave the country to return to their native lands. Sush an economic phenomenon took place in America in 1873 when the boom of railroad building to the Pacific coast was followed by a panic. Immigration in general dropped from about 400,000 to a few thousand. This also checked immigration from Finland, and we do not find newcomers in large numbers until the year 1880.1

Having covered the early beginning of modern Finnish immigration we are now ready to study the statistics of the great wave of Finnish immigration to America.

Table III.2

Between  

1871-75

  about  

225

  immigrants arrived from Finland.

1876-80

"

220

"

1881-85

"

3717

"

1886-90

"

21968

"

Official statistics were not made by the government of Finland until 1883 when the governor of Wasa, from where most of the immigrants left, and the governor of the province of Oulu in 1884, were directed by the State to keep definite records of all emigrants to whom passports were issued. Since 1893 official statistics have been kept of the whole country.

Arthur Hjelt estimates the total number of immigrants to America up to the year 1892 as 36,401 persons.3

Table IV.4

The number of immigrants since 1893:

Year

Men

Women

Total

% for every
10,000 of pop.

1893 

6,277 

2,840 

9,117 

37.3  

1894 

637 

743 

1,380 

5.6  

1895 

2,063 

1,957 

4,020 

16.0  

1896 

3,078 

2,107 

5,185 

20.4  

1897 

866 

1,050 

1,916 

7.4  

1898 

2,001 

1,466 

3,467 

13.2  

1899 

7,599 

4,476 

12,075 

45.2  

1900 

6,265 

4,132 

10,397 

38.6  

1901 

8,237 

4,324 

12561 

46.0  

1902 

16,075 

7,077 

23,152 

83.8  

Table V.5

The number of immigrants since 1903:

Year

Total

1903  

  16,964

1904  

  10,952

1905  

  17,427

1906  

  17,517

1907  

  16,296

1908  

  5,812

1909  

  19,144

1910  

  19,007

1911  

  9,372

1912  

  10,724

1913  

  20,057

1914  

  6,474

1915  

  4,041

1916  

  5,325

1917  

  2,773

1918  

  1,900

The total number of immigrants from Finland between the years 1893 and 1918 was, according to these official Finnish reports, 267,059. If we add the 36,401 that had come prior to 1893, we have the total number of Finnish immigrants to America up to the year 1918, as 303,460.

The official statistics of Finland do not, however, distinguish the immigrants who intend to sail for Canada from those that intend to sail to other American countries. They are all classed under immigrants to America. To the number going to South America, we do not need to pay much attention, because it is insignificantly small. The group going to Canada is much larger, in fact, it comprises nearly one-fifth of the total number, or about 60,000 up to 1918.6 This would leave 243,460 Finns of foreign birth in the United States in 1918.

But before leaving this question of the size of Finnish immigration to America, we must point out other important factors to be considered which affect the figures to some extent. Many immigrants return to their native land after a few year's stay here. Especially has this been true concerning those comers who have had to leave Finland in haste to avoid political torture. Have we any way of determining this proportion? The question seems rather difficult to answer definitely for no exact statistics can be found on this matter. Many of them who return to Finland have become naturalized American citizens-but in Finland they are still considered as subjects of Finland-so even if they should return to America the Finnish statistics do not show this, for they have returned on passports issued to American citizens. That large proportions of them do return is proved by the statement of the Finnish attaché in Washington, Akseli Rauanheimo (appointed later as Finnish consul in Canada), who writes that in 1922 2913 immigrants came to America from Finland, but during the same time 2753 persons returned to Finland, leaving the actual gain in favor of America 160. But he goes on to say that the majority of those returning to Finland were American citizens, and were not classed as emigrants when they came back to America later, which was true of most of them (Amerikan Suometar, March 7, 1922). (The question of the citizenship of the naturalized American citizens should be definitely agreed upon between America and the foreign countries concerned, because, for example, in time of war, such citizens are placed in a difficult position; they are claimed by their native country as well as by the country of their adoption.) The official Finnish Bulletin on immigration (Siirtolaisuustilasto v. 1918) states, on the basis of the facts reported by the Steamship companies carrying immigrants, that the total number of immigrants returning from America between the years 1899 and 1914, amounted to 90,672 persons. This means about 29 % of the total number of all emigrants from Finland. About 25 % of this number have certainly returned to America, or 22,660, so that the loss to America may be estimated at about 68,000 persons. - The other factor tending to diminish the number of the Finnish immigrants in America, is the natural phenomenon of death. Estimating that about 8 out of every thousand Finns have died here since their immigration began in 1864, or about 14,031, we finally arrive at the conclusion that the number of Finns of foreign birth to be accounted for in the United States today should be 161,417. It will be interesting to note next how well the official figures of the United States coincide with the facts which we have established through another source.

Table VI.7

Statistics of the United States Showing the Number of Finns in America.

Census of 1910.

State

Born in Finland

Born in America

Total in

1900

1910

1910

1910

New Hampshire

321  

1,198  

636   

1,834   

Massachusetts

5,104  

10,744  

5,426   

16,170   

New York

4,048  

8,760  

2,746   

11,506   

New Jersey

367  

1,640  

619   

2,259   

Pennsylwania

988  

2,413  

1,275   

3,688   

Ohio

2,814  

3,988  

3,313   

7,301   

Illinois

859  

2,390  

792   

3,182   

Michigan

18,910  

31,144  

24,404   

55,548   

Wisconsin

2,198  

5,705  

3,991   

9,696   

Minnesota

10,727  

26,637  

17,826   

44,463   

North Dakota

651  

1,186  

1,424   

2,610   

South Dakota

1,175  

1,381  

1,694   

3,075   

Montana

2,103  

4,111  

2,512   

6,623   

Wyoming

1,220  

1,380  

774   

2,154   

Colorado

844  

1,238  

618   

1,857   

Utah

734  

1,012  

523   

1,535   

Washington

2,723  

8,719  

4,539   

13,258   

Oregon

2,131  

4,734  

2,977   

7,711   

California

5,763  

6,159  

2,836   

8,996   

62,641  

129,669  

81,357   

211,926   

Table VII.8

Census of 1920

State

Born in Finland

State

Born in Finland

Arizona

407   

New Jersey.

2,109   

California

7,053   

New York

12,504   

Connecticut

1,226   

North Dakota

1,108   

Colorado

879   

Ohio

6,405   

Dist. of Columbia

104   

Oregon

6,050   

Idaho.

989   

Pennsylvania

2,818   

Illinois

3,080   

South Carolina

53   

Maine

1,393   

South Dakota

1,085   

Massachusetts

14,570   

Utah

779   

Michigan

30,096   

Vermont

476   

Minnesota

29,108   

Virginia

240   

Mississippi

62   

Washington

11,863   

Montana

3,577   

Wisconsin

6,757   

Nevada

182   

Wyoming

856   

New Hampshire

1,558   

Total

149,824   

The Total number born in Finland in 1920, according to United States statistics, was 149,824; our figure was 161,417 persons, as will be remembered. 81,357 were born in America up to 1910. We are sorry to say that we were unable to get the number born of Finnish parentage in America in 1920. Only those states are considered in the Census of 1910 where the number of Finns born in Finland was at least one thousand. In the Census of 1920 the Finnish population in all the states is supposed to be counted, but from our personal knowledge there are several hundred Finns of foreign birth in some states that have not been considered. There are at least 900 Finns in Texas although statistics failed to report any. Several have gone there, perhaps, after the last census, but the number found there prior to 1920 was sufficiently large to be recognized.9 We submit another table which presents facts from a different source.

Table VIII.10

Statistics of Finns in America in 1922.

Michigan

87,000   

   Utah

1,500

Minnesota

64,000   

   Florida

1,000

Massachusetts

26,000   

   Texas

900

New York

23,000   

   Delaware

800

Washington

18,000   

   Maryland

800

Ohio

17,000   

   Alabama

600

Wisconsin

14,000   

   Louisiana

600

Oregon

13,000   

   Mississippi

500

Montana

12,000   

   Rhode Island

500

California

10,000   

   Washington, D.C

400

North Dakota

8,000   

   Nevada

300

Pennsylvania

7,000   

   Iowa

250

Illinois

6,000   

   New Mexico

250

Maine

4,000   

   Kansas

200

New Hampshire

4,000   

   Virginia

200

New Jersey

3,500   

   North Carolina

200

Alaska

3,000   

   Nebraska

150

Connecticut

2,800   

   Arkansas

150

Idaho

2,000   

   Georgia

100

Colorado

2,000   

   Tennessee

100

Wyoming

2,000   

   Kentucky

100

Vermont

2,000   

   South Carolina

100

Arizona

1,500   

   Missouri

100

Indiana

1,500   

   Oklahoma

50

West Virginia

1,500   

   Grand Total

352,550

The above figures have been estimated on the basis of very intimate knowledge of the life of the Finns in America. We admit that they are estimates to a large extent but they come close to the truth, in fact, closer in our opinion than any other figures published.

It will be seen from the above statistical tables that there is a great discrepancy between the grand totals given by each. How are we to harmonize these differences? In the first place we notice that the figures given by the 14th Census of the United States make the number of Finns born in Finland about 12,000 less than the number we had established mainly on the basis of the official reports of Finland. One reason is that the census reporters of our country may have been somewhat negligent in determining accurately the facts pertaining to the racial information, especially in case of groups not well known in a given territory, inability of the foreigners to speak English adding to the difficulty of their work. But how account for the large number estimated by the Rev. S. Ilmonen? We shall try to establish the truth of his statements in the light of certain facts to be noticed in this connection, and thus add a further reason for the apparent discrepancy.

The number of Finns in America has always been put at a somewhat smaller figure than facts would warrant, and this for two reasons. The first Finns came from Norway, but they have been numbered among the Norwegians. Several thousand have followed them, but they have fallen in the same class. Then, again, several thousand have come from Sweden - there are large towns in the northern part of Sweden where Finns compose the majority of the population - but these immigrants have been grouped as Swedes. I believe that we can add some 40,000 Finns to the total number found in America for this reason. In large Finnish centers in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and farming communities of Minnesota, this class of Finns composes about one-fourth of the total number. Thus the total number of foreign-born Finns in America in 1920 would be brought up to 201,357. Since 1918 immigration from Finland has been comparatively small. We may estimate it on facts well established to have yielded us a gain of about 2,000 per year, or 8,000 since 1918. The balance remaining, or 142,643, is to be accounted for under the group classified as American born.

In 1910 there were already 81,357 Finns born in America according to the government census, this subtracted from 142,643, leaves a balance of 61,286, which is to be counted as representing the number of Finns born in America between the years of 1910-1920. Figuring on the basis of the total Finnish population in America in 1910, this would mean a birthrate of about 28 per 1000 for the ten year period; but this percentage need not actually be so large, for. during this time the number of foreign-born Finns was increased by some 20,000 and among them there were naturally many births to be counted in the census of 1920. It is a known fact that the Finns have a large birthrate, standing among the first races in Europe in this respect.11 (The writer is acquainted with a Finnish family in Detroit that has 21 children, and all are living. Of course this is an exceptional case, but it is very illustrative of our statement). A further fact which lends weight to this belief is that the majority of the immigrants coming to America are between the ages of 20-30 years, among whom the rate of increase is high. And this increase, further, need not be counted as actually taking place between the years 1910-1920, for the addition of Finns from Norway and Sweden must be placed mostly in the earlier period of Finnish immigration. Thus the number of American born Finns was actually larger in 1910 than the United States government statistics would show.

On the basis of the facts which we have studied - perhaps at even too great a length, but considering the wide variance of opinion concerning this question, we felt it worth while to go into it more thoroughly-we are inclined to believe with the Rev. Ilmonen that the figure 352,000 represents more exactly the total number of Finns in America today.12


1 Most of these facts have been received from the unpublished manuscripts of my colleague, Rev. S. Ilmonen, Detroit. Mich.

2 O. H. Kilpi, Finnish Immigration and National Economics during the 19th Century.

3 Social-Economic Magazine, Finnish 1905.

4 Social-Economic Magazine, 1905.

5 From Immigration Records, Official Finland Bulletin XXVIII, 1920.

6 S. Ilmonen, Statistics of Finnish Immigration, 1921, and other authorities.

7 Statistical Abstract of the United States Government, 1910.

8 Official United States census reports for 1920.

9 The World Almanac for 1924 includes many of these states under the 14th Census.

10 "Kirkollinen Kalenteri" v. 1922, S. Ilmonen. These figures include both immigrants and those born in America.

11 See Enc. Brit„ Volume XXII, D. 100.

12 Since the above paragraphs were written, I was able to get later figures from the Congressional Library through the kindness of my friend Congressman W. Frank James, and these figures corroborate in general the conclusion reached above. The total number of Finns In America in 1920, according to the later government compilations, is 296,276. In this number are not included the Finns who have come from Norway and Sweden. Of this number 150,770 (previously reported 149,824) are foreign born, and 145,506 are native born In 1910 the number of native born Finns was 81,357 and in 1920 145,506, the increase within the ten-year period being 64,149. I had established the number of native born Finnish population in 1920 as 142,643, and the number of increase as 61,286. My estimates were, therefore, somewhat too small. If we add to the total number of Finns, as given by the U. S. Census reports of 1920, those who have come from Norway and Sweden and those who have arrived since the last census was taken, we can conclude that the figure 352,000 can be accepted as substantially correct. (See The Bulletin of the Department of Commerce, "Fourteenth Census of the United States, Population: 1920, Country of Origin of the Foreign White Stock".)

Publication: John Wargelin, The Americanization of the Finns. The Finnish Lutheran Book Concern. Hancock, Michigan 1924, 185 pages.

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