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Studies and Records
Volume IV

Published by the Norwegian-American Historical Association, Northfield, Minnesota
Copyright © 1929 by the Norwegian-American Historical Association


In the years past the historians of the Great Republic have sought diligently for some reasonably correct answer to the question: what was it that induced the immigrant to leave the old haunts and to seek a new home amid the hardships of the New World? The replies have been various and all, no doubt, contain a varying element of truth.

Important as this question is, it is only the first of a series that will have to be asked and answered, if one wishes to understand the great migration of the nineteenth century. There is also the story how the immigrant found his way into the West and the Northwest; the account of how he reached and founded his new home; the record of his achievements in the new land and in the new citizenship; and the question whether he has exerted any appreciable influence on the development of American life.

The membership of the Norwegian-American Historical Association is interested in all these questions and the present volume of its publications deals with important phases of all of them. Professor Stephenson presents the results of a study of the sources which show what motives led to migration in the Northern lands and discusses the mentality and the outlook of the men and women who made up the bulk of the migrating hosts. Dr. Henrietta Larson contributes a contemporary account of a tragic occurrence on Lake Erie which brings vividly before us the hardships and the perils that beset the wandering alien on his long journey.

Miss Larson's contribution has a further interest in that it adds another document to the growing body of sources for American history in the wider sense. The same holds true of the letters edited by Professor Horde and of the narrative oŁ a journey overland to California in 1852 (translated by Einar Haugen), both of which contributions serve to illustrate important developments in the making of the Republic.

That the alien was not immediately lost in the new environment is shown convincingly in Dr. Schafer's paper; on the contrary he often stamped the new localities with his own ideas of what a beautiful and satisfying life ought to be. But this effort to adjust Old World conceptions to New World conditions was not always achieved with the same easy success, as is abundantly shown by Miss Karen Larsen's study of the effort to make such an adjustment in the case of President Laur. Larsen, who is still well known to our membership as one of the outstanding intellectual leaders of his people in pioneer times.

It may seem a far cry from Laur. Larsen to Elling Eielsen, but the distance may not be so great after all. They both sought, each in his own way, to transplant to the Western prairies what seemed to be the best and the most essential in the religious system of the North. The sources for the history of church and religion in the new Norwegian communities in the decades before the Civil War are not plentiful; it is therefore with a feeling of real satisfaction that the editors have included the Report of the annual meeting held by Eielsen's "Friends" in 1854. The story how this document was found is told by Professor Rohne in his editorial introduction. Inasmuch as this Report is unique as well as important, it has been thought wise to print it in the original as well as in translated form.

Mr. Swansen's paper, while dealing more directly with Old World affairs, is also concerned with our own history both as an immigrant group and as American citizens. The question whether our government should take early note of the political situation that suddenly appeared in the North in 1905 was of great interest to all Scandinavian-Americans and an objective study like the one contributed by Mr. Swansen will be a welcome addition to the literature of the subject.

Laurence M. Larson
University of Illinois

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