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Emigration from Finland to America

The Finnish race has also, among the many others, taken part in the colonization of America. And even to the extent that it took part in this colonization at the time when the first emigration from Europe to America was going on.

As is known the first actual colonization of the territory of the present United States started in 1620, when the "Mayflower" landed the English pilgrims at the present site of Plymouth. It was only 21 years later, in 1641, that the first group of Finns, about 100 strong, arrived at the Delaware River. Some individuals had arrived even before that time. In the following years more Finns came over so that there were about 500 of them in the New Sweden colony before the Dutch invasion. The majority of the members of the New Sweden colony were Finns.

The historian Bancroft states that about one-eighteenth of the American Yankees are descendants of the members of the colony of New Sweden. According to that about four Yankees in every hundred would be descented from Finns. There is more Finnish blood in the American people, in the very core of the people, than has generally been known.

The next more notable immigration of Finns appeared in America in an entirely different direction, that is in Alaska. When this distant, vast territory belonged to Russia it was used mainly for trading purposes. The Russian merchant marine of those days was rather insignificant, and what there was of it was dependent to a great extent on the help of the Finns, who were more experienced in navigation. Arvid Adolf Etholen, a Finn, who was Governor of Alaska, led the Finnish immigration to Alaska. Several hundred Finns arrived there, mainly between 1835 and 1865, and formed the majority among the Europeans who had moved there as free immigrants during the Russian rule.

In that great flood of immigration which flowed over the Atlantic to America about 1800, the Finns were at first present only in small numbers. It is true that a few Finns took part for instance in the California Gold Rush, but the real immigration of Finns began after 1865. This movement first drew Finns from among those living in Northern Norway and Sweden, and later Finns living in Finland also joined the flood.

During the period from 1893 to 1916 the emigration from Finland was 262,382 persons. With only a few exceptions these all came to the United States or Canada.

In late years immigration from Finland has been rather light; at present it has almost ceased. While emigration from Finland was 20,000 persons in 1913, it fell to 2,773 in 1917 and in 1918 there were only 1,900 emigrants. In 1919 only a few score Finnish immigrants arrived in America, and these were for the greater part close relatives of persons living here.

Published in Finland Review II, p. 49-50. New York 1920.

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