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The Finnish Aspect of the Delaware Tercentenary

Not long after the Federal Congress passed an act in 1936 authorizing and requesting the President to extend to the Government of Sweden, and such individuals as the President may determine, "an invitation to unite with the government and the people of the United States in a fitting and appropriate observance" of the three hundredth anniversary of the founding of the first permanent white settlements in the Delaware River Valley, Finland was included in the invitation. In April, 1937, the Senate of the United States adopted an amending resolution which provided for the invitation to Finland, and the House of Representatives did likewise on August 21, 1937. Acting upon the authorization of the Congress, President Roosevelt accordingly extended an invitation of Finland also to participate in the Tercentenary celebrations.

The basic reason for the inclusion of Finland is suggest by an official document which was issued last summer, when the Congress was considering the problem of changing the original resolution relating to Sweden. The document in question is House Report No. 1391, prepared for the House Committee on Foreign Affairs by Representative Robert G. Allen of Pennsylvania. The substance of the document is that at a time when Sweden and Finland constituted a single, united Kingdom, and when Swedes and Finns were equally subjects of Queen Christina, Finns settled in New Sweden on the Delaware. In doing so, they contributed to those pioneering enterprises on the Delaware which proved to be the first permanent white settlements in what later became parts of three of the original thirteen states of the Union. Regarding the Finnish element in New Sweden, the document concludes that it was "important; it represented one-third and probably more of the total population of the colony".

These circumstances bring to the surface the fact that the history of New Sweden is such as to give Finland and Americans of Finnish antecendents an important and lasting interest in this phase of early American colonial history. They likewise suffice to explain the satisfaction with which President Roosevelt's invitation was received in Finland and hailed by Americans of Finnish stock.

Since August last year, preparations for the participation of Finland and of Americans of Finnish descent in the New Sweden Tercentenary have been mode. While some of the detail of the program remains to be worked out, the following outline of the preparations under way suffices to give an idea of how Finland, and Americans of Finnish background will participate in the official celebrations in Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.

Despite the shortness of time, the people of Finland and the government of the Finnish Republic have assumed responsibility for an extensive program. Several months ago an official delegation to represent Finland was appointed. The delegation will be headed by Dr. Rudolf Holsti, Minister of Foreign Affairs. Dr. Holsti is an authority on International Law, and he lectured in that subject at Stanford University in 1930. The other members of the delegation are: Väinö Fakkila, Speaker of the Finnish Parliament; Mauno Pekkala, Member of Parliament and former Minister of Agriculture, Arthur Leinonen, Member of Parliament novelist, editor of the newspaper Ilkka; Victor Vesterinen

Member of Parliament, leader of the Agrarian Party; Miss Kyllikki Pohjola, Member of Parliament, nurse, leader among Finnish women, and former Rockefeller Fellow at Columbia University; Amos Anderson, former Member of Parliament, editor and publisher; and the Reverend Sigfrid Sirenius, representing churches of Finland.

At the instance of the Swedish government, the delegation from Finland will arrive on the motorship Kungsholm on June 27, together with the Swedish delegation. The delegation from Finland will participate in all official events of the Tercentenary, beginning with the commemorative exercises at Wilmington on June 27, continuing at Philadelphia and various historic points on the Delaware River on June 28-30, and closing with the celebration arranged by the state of New Jersey on June 30.

Following the Tercentenary celebrations the scenes of the first Swedish and Finnish settlements in the New World, the members of the Swedish and Finnish delegations will visit Washington, as guests of the Federal Delaware Commission.

The sending of an official delegation to the Tercentenary is only one phase, however, of the program that Finland has adopted. A commemorative statue, sculptured by the leading Finnish sculptor, Väino Aaltonen, is a gift of the people of Finland to the people of the United States, and will serve as as permanent marker of this anniversary of the common history of the two countries.

The monument will be erected at Chester, Pennsylvania, in the proximity of which the seventeenth century settlement called Finland was located. The unveiling of the statue will take place in the presence of the official delegates, representative of the Government of the United States, the State of Pennsylvania, the City of Chester, and of the many organizations through which Americans of Finnish background have in recent months mobilized financial and other resources enabling them to take an appropriate part in the Tercentenary. At the time of writing, the exact time of the unveiling ceremony has not yet been fixed, but the indications are that it will take place immediately after the dedication ceremonies of Governor Printz Park on Tinicum Island on June 29. Finland is also issuing a special Delaware Tercentenary stamp, which no doubt will have been released by the time this article appears.

Finally, celebrations in Finland on Sunday June 26 constitute an important part of the program which Finland has drawn up. According to the latest information received, the details of the celebrations are still being worked out, and therefore cannot be fully reported in these pages. A huge festival is scheduled to take place in Helsinki, the Finnish capital, another in Rautalampi, the district in central Finland whence many of the Delaware Finns originally hailed, and a third in Vaasa, on the western coast.

Passing now to the participation of Americans of Finnish background in the Tercentenary preparations, we note the following. The preparations have been coordinated and led by the American Finnish Delaware Tercentenary Committee, which began fully to function about a year ago. The Committee, whose Chairman is the Honorable O. J. Larson of Duluth, contains representatives from a large number of states in the Union. Three of its members serve, in various capacities, on the Tercentenary Committees of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Its Honorary Patrons are: Governor Richard C. McMullen of Delaware, Governor George Earle of Pennsylvania, Governor A. Harry Moore of New Jersey, Governor Harry W. Nice of Maryland, the Honorable A. K. Cajander, Prime Minister of Finland, and the Honorable Eero Järnefelt, Minister of Finland to the United States.

Through the courtesy of Columbia University, the headquarters of the Committee are located in 611 Fayerweather Hall, Columbia University, New York.

Putting it briefly, the American Finnish Delaware Tercentenary Committee has assumed a three-fold responsibility. First, the mobilization of Finnish American interest and resources for the benefit of the Tercentenary, and the direction of the publicity work in connection with the Finnish American aspect of the celebration. Second, the selection of an appropriate site for and the actual erection of the monument which Finland and its people are presenting to the United States. Third, the publication of an historical survey which, while telling the story of the New Sweden experiment in colonization as a whole, will record more adequately than hitherto the part which Finns played in it. The Committee has furthermore assisted in the establishment of over one hundred local and state comittees throughout the United States, been in contact and has cooperated with the Delaware Tercentenary Commission of the State of Delaware, and the Tercentenary commissions of the Federal Government, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The Committee has in general carried on the effort designed not only to provide adequate participation in the Tercentenary by Americans of Finnish stock but likewise to help make the Tercentenary in general as successful as possible.

The generally accepted view of Americans of Finnish background as regards the meaning of the Delaware Tercentenary celebration is this. Three hundred years ago, at a time when Sweden and Finland constituted united kingdom and when Swedes and Finns were equally subjects of the same Crown, Finns as well as Swedes came to these shores and founded here the first permanent settlements in what later became parts of three of the original thirteen states of the Union. While these Delaware pioneers at no time were as important in the development of the people of America, as were their neighbors in, let us say, Virginia or New England, their history does constitute a chapter in the early story of this nation. Unpretentious though that chapter be, Americans of Finnish descent see in it a secure anchorage which makes then more intimately connected with three hundred years of American tradition and therefore association them more closely with the nation of today.

A typewritten document in the Turku University Library, Turku, Finland [Signum: s.(ö) Amer. 106].

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