Scandinavian Settlement in Seattle
Skrivet av Patsy Adams Hegstad   
2005-09-04 09:52

Scandinavian Settlement in Seattle,
"Queen City of the Puget Sound"*
    by Patsy Adams Hegstad

FOUNDED IN 1851 on the wooded southeastern shore of Puget Sound, Seattle was acquiring by the turn of the century the Scandinavian flavor which still remains a feature of the city. Until the latter 1880s Scandinavians had comprised a relatively insignificant proportion of the city's population, but by 1890 they constituted fully one-fourth of Seattle's foreign-born. After that, the number of Seattle residents native to the Nordic countries increased steadily, exceeding 5,000 in 1900 and expanding to nearly four times that by 1910. In the latter year no less than eight percent of the city's inhabitants, or one person in twelve, had been born in Denmark, Finland, Norway, or Sweden. The actual number of first-generation Scandinavians in Seattle reached its zenith in 1990, peaking at 23,856. Through-out the entire period 1890-1960, however, as Table 1 shows, Nordic immigrants comprised a sizeable fraction of Seattle's population and between one-fourth and [56] one-third of its foreign-born. The "queen city of the Puget Sound" had become one of the important places of settlement for Scandinavians in the Pacific Northwest and had earned the reputation of being a center of Scan-dinavian culture in the Far West. {1}

That the Nordic population moved from relative nu-merical unimportance among the foreign-born of Seattle before 1890 to such numbers as to become one of the city's distinctive features involves a variety of factors. In addition to geographical and physical characteristics of the Puget Sound area, economic opportunities, and the general movement west, there was also active recruit-ment of Scandinavian immigrants by the state, by busi-ness, and by private individuals. Although the precise relationships among these and other factors have not been documented and perhaps cannot be, their impor-tance is suggested by specific cases and studies. {2}

Descriptions of Puget Sound written by Scandina-vians repeatedly emphasized its similarities to regions in Norway, Sweden, or Finland. Thos. Ostenson Stine's glowing descriptions of Puget Sound and Seattle included the observation that "When you throw your eye upon Puget Sound, and behold the fleet of fish barges, rolling upon her briny breast, a reminiscence of the coast of Norway steals into your soul." Ernst Skarstedt likened the climate and landscape of Washington gen-erally to that of Norrland, noting that they shared "mountains, dark evergreen forests, and rushing rivers." Ingrid Semmingsen quotes an early immi-grant's description of Puget Sound as being "as like Hardanger as any place can be." Semmingsen herself continues in a similar vein, describing the landscape with its "sounds and islands, fjords and mountains" as reminiscent of Vestlandet. The cartographer G. E. Kastengren, who settled in Seattle, went so far as to compare [57]

Table 1: Seattle's Nordic population, 1870-1970

Date Total Population Total Foreign- born Foreign- born as percent of total Population Danish- born Finnish- born Iceland-dic- born Norw- gian- born Swedish- Born Combined Nordics Nordic as percent of Total Population Nordic as percent of Foreign- born
1870 1605b 515 32.1 NA NA NA
51 3.2 9.9
1880 6910b 1981 28.7 NA NA NA
190 2.7 9.6
1890 42837 13656 31.9 457 NA NA 1353 1525 3335 7.8 24.4
1900 80671 22003 27.3 641 424 NA 1642 2379 5086 6.3 23.1
1910d 237194 60835 25.6 1879 1298 NA 7191 8678 19046 8.0 31.3
1920 315312 80976 25.7 2228 2256 NA 9119 10253 23856 7.6 29.4
1930 365583 73029 20.0 1987 1950 NA 9745 9634 23316 6.4 31.9
1940 368302 59612 16.2 1514 1740 NA 8436 7670 19360 5.3 32.4
1950 467591 77445 16.6 1970 2199 NA 10447 8559 23175 5.0 29.9
1960 557087 89967 16.1 1651 1981 124 11065 6938 21759 3.9 24.2
1970 530860 48423 9.1 670 520 97 4721 2430 8438 1.6 17.4

a Figures are taken from United States Census reports: 1870-1970.
b These figures are for King county rather than for Seattle. Prior to 1890, because of the community's small population, the census compendia
did not tabulate separately the foreign-born inhabitants of Seattle. Seattle had 250 residents in 1860, 1,107 in 1870, and 3,533 in 1880.
c The census tabulations combined Norwegians and Swedes in these years.
d Only the figures for 1910 and later include Ballard, which was first settled in 1855, incorporated in 1888, and annexed to Seattle in 1907. [58]

the maps of Scandinavia and the Seattle area in detail, finding remarkable similarities between the Baltic Sea and Lake Washington and between Swed-ish, Norwegian, and Finnish towns and bays and those of southeastern Puget Sound. In addition to topograph-ical similarities, Kastengren noted physical and cli-matic ones as well. "The summer also is reminiscent of summer in Scandinavia and the Baltic area, although the winters are milder on Puget Sound. Swedes and Nor-wegians find here majestic mountains, which remind them of their own magnificent mountain chains, clad in the same dark green and covered with the same glisten-ing snow. Settlers from Finland can likewise find here scenery to satisfy their longing for the land of the thou-sand lakes." {3}

It was Kastengren's avowed belief and the usual in-ference of others such as Stine and Semmingsen that the topographical, physical, and climatic similarities be-tween areas of the Nordic countries and the Puget Sound region were among the reasons that so many Scandinavians were drawn to the Seattle area. The Swedish geographer Helge Nelson likewise suggested a causative relationship between geographic similar-ities and settlement patterns, writing that "the migra-tion of the Swedes to different areas is . . . . determined in a high degree by the natural conditions of the country whence they hail . . . . Thus, it is not accidental that . . . . so many North Swedes from Varmland, Dalecarlia and Norrland are to be found in the forests and the saw-mills of the Pacific coast. {4} In linking natural physical conditions with occupations such as forest and sawmill work, Nelson also referred to a second factor related to settlement patterns -- economic opportunity.

Seattle, Puget Sound, and Washington as a whole in the 1890s offered economic incentives to those in more [59] established parts of the country as well as to foreigners arriving directly from abroad. The arrival of the Scan-dinavians in large numbers coincided with that of other peoples, largely of North European stock, who partici-pated in the American movement westward. While the attractions of the West served to pull migrants and the expanding railroad network offered an accessible means of transportation, conditions in the Midwest, such as the depletion of prime lands, drought, and economic de-pressions, pushed them toward the West. Augmenting the number of potential Scandinavian migrants to west-ern destinations like Seattle were those emigrating di-rectly from the Nordic countries during this era. Three-fourths of the total emigration from Scandinavia took place in the thirty-five-year span from 1881 through 1915, the Norwegian, Swedish, Icelandic, and Danish exodus being primarily before 1900 with only the Fin-nish occurring largely after the turn of the century. {5}

Springing from the general movement westward, the rapid growth of Seattle yielded a variety of opportuni-ties. A reputation for economic "good times" and full employment brought many Scandinavians to Seattle in the late 1880s, particularly following the fire of 1889. Attracted by high wages, people flocked to get work re-building the city; unskilled laborers earned a daily wage of $2.00 to $2.30, skilled workers $4.00 to $6.00, while some positions paid as much as $8.00 per day. These figures seem generous indeed when viewed against the national average earnings paid unskilled workers for a six-day week of $8.88 in 1892 and $8.94 in 1900, or even of $17.61 per week in 1892 and $18.06 in 1900 for skilled workers in the building trades. {6} Seat-tle's "good times," however, were interrupted by the depression of 1892-1893, which caused a decline in wages, an increase in unemployment, and a slowing of population growth. Oskari Tokoi, an immigrant who [60] later returned to Finland and became premier, left a poignant personal account of life in Seattle at this time in his memoirs, depicting the winter of 1894 as "this winter of terrible unemployment." {7}

Prosperity was not to return fully until the beginning of the Alaska-Yukon gold rush in 1897, and then it came in abundance. As the outfitting and transportation center supplying participants in the gold rush, Seattle was transformed from a frontier town into a bustling city. Outlying communities, as well as Seattle itself, were also affected. For example, in the mills and log-ging camps around Ballard, which was not annexed to Seattle until 1907, wages had been only 71/2¢ to 15¢ per hour for ten-hour days and the impact of Alaska gold brought welcome raises. People poured into Seattle, and by 1900 the city had grown to a population of 80,671 as compared to 56,842 in 1897. In addition to the brisk trade with Alaska, turn-of-the-century Seattle was greatly expanding its Asian trade. The city's commercial and banking importance was well established, laying the foundation for its dominance of the banking business in the state after 1900. Manufacturing played a lesser role at this time in Seattle's economy, which was dependent in 1900 on lumbering, fishing, and mining. Shipbuilding came to be of importance especially after 1897, both in Seattle and in Ballard. Ballard more than Seattle was the center for lumber and shingle mills, and in 1900 it boasted of producing more shingles than any other city in the world. {8}

That the economy was tied largely to trade, lumber-ing, fishing, and mining meant that the occupational structures of Seattle and Ballard offered Nordic immi-grants jobs with which they were familiar. Of course, many immigrants took different occupations in the United States than they had had in Scandinavia, in some [61] cases making relatively frequent changes. {9} Still, there seems to be a positive relationship between the occu-pational structure of the place of settlement and that of the place of emigration. The modern research of Hans Norman and Lars-Göran Tedebrand lends support to this principle, which has a long tradition in earlier liter-ature. {10} Thus, it is hardly surprising to find Nordic im-migrants attracted by the possibilities for employment which the Seattle area offered.

At the turn of the century most Scandinavian men in Seattle and Ballard found employment in the industrial and crafts sector, with trade and commerce increasing in importance for them by 1900. Especially in 1892, as Table 2 indicates, an extremely large number of the Nordic immigrants were common laborers. Fully 86.9 percent of the sizeable Icelandic colony resident in Seattle's fourth ward in that year worked as laborers. By 1900 most of the Icelanders had left Seattle, possibly victims of the depression of 1892-1893. While their case is the extreme, nonetheless substantial numbers of all the Scandinavians occupied this low socioeconomic niche: 49.3 percent of the Finns in 1892, though just 6.6 percent of them in 1900; 37.8 percent of the Swedes, compared to 23.3 percent of them in 1900; 33.9 percent of the Norwegians, and 20.7 percent of them in 1900; and 30.2 percent of the Danes, and 20.6 percent of them in 1900. Building and construction were another major source of jobs for Scandinavian men, as well as one which was traditional for them; 17.5 percent of the Swedes in 1892 and 13.7 percent of them in 1900, 17.3 percent of the Danes in 1892 and 13.7 percent in 1900, and 14.9 percent of the Norwegians in 1892 and 15.4 percent in 1900 worked in these occupations. Wood and mill work provided some employment for Scandina-vians, particularly for Swedes and Norwegians, al-though this was not really a major factor in their [62]

Table 2. Occupations of Nordic-born men living in Seattle and Ballard in 1892 and 1900

Occupations Danes Finns Icelanders Norwegians Swedes
  1892 1900 1892 1900 1892 1900 1892 1900 1892 1900
Agriculture 7 (2.1%) 21 (4.5%) 3 (4.5%) 7 (1.7%) 0 (0.0%) 0 (0.0%) 25 (2.4%) 31 (2.4%) 31 ((2.9%) 55 (3.1%)
  Farming 4 6 0 0

15 6 18 11
  Dairying 2 5 1 0

0 9 4 6
  Agricultural Labor 0 0 0 0

2 1 3 1
  Horticulture 1 5 0 0

1 3 4 5
  Forest Work 0 5 0 7

7 11 2 32
  Other 0 0 2 0

0 1 0 0
Public Service & Liberal Professions 6 (1.8%)

18 (3.9%)

0 (0.0%) 2 (0.5%) 0 (0.0%) 0 (0.0%) 30 (2.9%) 44 (3.4%) 28 (2.6%) 34 (1.9%)
  Administration 1 7

6 7 2 4
  Education & Church 1 1

6 8 5 12
  Medicine 2 0

4 8 2 4
  Artistic Activities 2 1

2 1 1 3
0 6

6 13 12 9
  Law. Journalism 0 3

6 7 6 2
Industry & Crafts 202 (60.5%) 258 (55.4%) 47 (70.1%) 230 (56.5%) 298 (89.0%) 37 (78.7%) 652 (63.4%) 811 (62.3%) 733 (68.0%) 1034 (57.3%)
  Metal 7 18 0 4 0 0 18 33 24 52
  Various Technical 1 5 0 0 0 0 3 5 0 8
  Wood & Millwork 11 10 0 11 1 4 46 70 33 84
  Paper & Printing 5 1 0 0 0 0 18 9 5 5
  Food & Tobacco 8 9 0 0 1 1 4 15 8 11
  Textile 5 15 2 4 0 0 21 35 41 36
  Leather 2 6 0 0 1 0 8 7 6 10
  Building &
58 64 9 26 3 8 153 201 189 247
  Mining 0 24 2 147 0 0 4 53 6 113
  Fishing 0 3 1 10 1 10 12 99 1 21
  Unskilled Labor 101 96 33 27 291 14 348 270 408 420
  Unspecified 4 7 0 1 0 0 17 14 12 27
Trade & Commerce 77 (23.1%) 152 (32.6%) 13 (19.4%) 162 (39.8%) 7 (2.1%) 7 (14.9%) 186 (18.1%) 355 (27.3%) 214 (19.9%) 606 (33.6%)
  Commerce 22 35 1 5 3 4 83 73 71 84
  Hotel & Restaurant 23 23 4 9 3 1 32 41 62 86
  Transportation 32 94 8 148 1 2 71 241 81 438
Domestic Work 3 (0.9%) 3 (0.6%) 0 (0.0%) 0 (0.0%) 0 (0.0%) 0 (0.0%) 5 (0.5%) 8 (0.6%) 8 (0.7%) 20 (1.1%)
  Servants 1 1

1 0 2 7
  Laundry 2 2

4 8 6 13
Unemployed 23 (6.9%) 5 (1.1%) 3 (4.5%) 4 (1.0%) 4 (1.2%) 1 (2.1%) 93 (9.0%) 28 (2.2%) 37 (0.4%) 25 (1.4%)
Unknown 16 (6.9%) 8 (1.9%) 1 (1.5%) 2 (0.5%) 26 (7.8%) 2 (4.3%) 37 (3.6%) 25 (1.9%) 27 (2.5%) 29 (1.6%)
Totals 334 (100.0%)

466 (100.0%)

67 (100.0%) 407 (100.0%) 305 (100.0%) 44 (100.0%) 1028 (100.0%) 1302 (100.0%) 1086 (100.0%) 1803 (100.0%)

[63] employment, at least at this early period. Mining likewise provided jobs for Nordic immigrants, becoming by 1900 an important employer of Finns (36.1 percent of whom were miners) and bearing witness to the pull of the coal mines in King county. Fishing was of little importance to Seattle and Ballard Nordics in 1892, but by 1900 it came to employ 7.6 percent of the Norwegians.
In this decade, however, the real growth of Scandi-navian employment was in trade and commerce. Al-though hotels, restaurants, saloons, and general com-merce employed a fair number of the Nordic immi-grants, the most significant increase resulted from the arrival by 1900 of many Scandinavian seamen. Like the mines of King county, the port of Seattle and its devel-oping network of trade lines exerted an increasing pull. Whereas relatively few Scandinavians had worked there in 1892, in 1900 35.9 percent of the Finns, 19.9 percent of the Swedes, 16.0 percent of the Norwegians, and 15.7 percent of the Danes were seamen.

Sectors outside industry and crafts, on the one hand, and trade and commerce, on the other, were not impor-tant numerically as employers of Nordics in Seattle and Ballard. Agricultural occupations, including lumbering, accounted for a small percentage of the Scandinavian immigrants, as might be expected in a generally urban area. While a good many of the influential persons within the Scandinavian communities were in public service and the liberal professions (as well as in trade and commerce as businessmen), their numbers were nevertheless small. Very few of the Nordic men worked as domestic laborers, a province in which their female counterparts were well represented.

Scandinavian immigrant women were largely house-wives and servants, as Table 3 shows. Approaching at least 50 percent for each of the nationalities in 1892, housewifery by 1900 had become the occupation of well [64] over half of the Scandinavian women. The largest pro-portion was among the Danes, no less than 70.3 percent of whom were housewives in the later year. In 1892 servants accounted for about one-third of the Icelandic and Swedish women, one-fourth of the Finns and Nor-wegians, and one-fifth of the Danes. While the propor-tion of servants in 1900 declined to 18.3 percent of the Swedes, 18 percent of the Norwegians, 13.9 percent of the Icelanders, and only 7.2 percent of the Danes, the number of Finnish maids rose to 35.9 percent. These women usually lived in the homes of their employers, often prominent citizens in the city's fourth or fifth wards. Laundry work employed other Nordic women, especially Norwegians and Swedes.

The women represented in industry and crafts were concentrated in textiles as seamstresses and milliners, although by 1900 a few Norwegian and Swedish women were employed in paper and printing, food and tobacco, and general labor. The slightly fewer women in trade and commercial occupations than in industrial and craft jobs were mostly boardinghouse and hotel proprietors, waitresses, and clerks. There was an occasional mer-chant among the Norwegians and Swedes. Scandina-vian women were even less involved in public service and the liberal professions than were the men; no Fin-nish or Icelandic women were found in this category. While the men were distributed throughout this sector, the women were virtually all teachers or nurses. One Swedish woman, however, was a "doctress," Agricul-ture employed few Scandinavians of either sex in Seat-tle and Ballard, and only one woman was thus employed. She was a Norwegian-born farmer residing in Ballard in 1900.

The means by which immigrants learned of the phys-ical and occupational attractions of Washington and [65]

Table 3: Occupations of Nordic-born women living in Seattle and Ballard in 1892 and 1900

1892 1900 1892 1900 1892 1900 1892 1900 1892 1900
0 (0.0%) 0 (0.0%) 0 (0.0%) 0 (0.0%) 0 (0.0%) 0 (0.0%) 0 (0.0%) 0 (0.0%) 0 (0.0%) 0 (0.0%)
Public Service & Liberal Professions 3 (1.7%) 2 (1.0%) 0 (0.0%) 0 (0.0%) 0 (0.0%) 0 (0.0%) 6 (0.9%) 7 (1.0%) 4 (0.5%) 3 (0.4%)

Education & church 0 0

0 4 0 0

Medicine 3 2

5 3 4 3

Artistic Activities 0 0

1 0 0 0
Industry & Crafts 9 (5.1%) 8 (4.1%) 0 (0.0%) 1 (1.3%) 1 (1.1%) 4 (1.1%) 26 (3.8%) 31 (4.5%) 23 (3.0%) 24 (2.8%)

Paper & printing 0 1
0 0 0 1 2 0 1

Food & Tobacoo 0 0
0 0 0 0 1 0 0

Textile 9 5
1 1 4 25 23 23 21

Unskilled Labor 0 2
0 0 0 0 5 0 2
Trade & Commerce 7 (4.0%) 4 (2.1%) 0 (0.0%) 1 (1.3%) 0 (0.0%) 1 (2.8%) 15 (2.2%) 20 (2.9%) 17 (2.2%) 28 (3.3%)

Commerce 3 1
1 1 10 4 4

Hotel & Restaurant 4 3
0 14 10 13 24
domestic Work 30 (17.0%) 14 (7.2%) 8 (25.8%) 28 (35.9%) 32 (34.0%) 5 (13.9%) 155 (22.8%) 125 (18.0%) 243 (31.4%) 157 (18.3%)

Servants 29 13 8 28 28 3 141 107 225 142

Laundry 1 1 0 0 4 2 14 18 18 15
Housewives 103 (58.5%) 137 (70.3%)

18 (58.1%)

43 (55.1%) 44 (46.8%) 10 (55.6%) 388 (57.1%) 417 (60.0%) 377 (48.7%) 521 (60.8%)
Unemployed 19 (10.8%) 8 (4.1%) 4 (12.9%) 4 (12.9%) 16 (5.1%) 1 (17.0%) 63 (9.3%) 28 (4.0%) 52 (6.7%) 27 (3.2%)
Unknown 5 (2.8%) 22 (1.3%) 1 (3.2%) 1 (1.3%) 1 (1.1%) 5 (13.9%) 27 (4.0%) 66 (9.5%) 58 (7.4%) 97 (11.3%)
Totals 176 (100%) 195 (100%) 31 (100%) 78 (100%) 94 (100%) 26 (100%) 680 (100%) 695 (100%) 774 (100%) 857 (100%)

Sources: Tabulated individually from King county assessor, census manuscripts for Seattle and King county. Washington, 1892, in Archives and Manuscripts Divi-sion, Suzzallo Library. University of Washington, Seattle and U.S. census Office, manuscript federal population census schedules, 1900.

[66] more specifically of Seattle were varied, ranging from recruitment activities of state and local officials or busi-ness interests to informal contacts with friends and rel-atives living or traveling in the area. While officials and businessmen did not direct their activities specifically toward any one group, though at times they opposed the settlement of given nationalities, the established Amer-ican community in general seems to have seen Scan-dinavians as desirable. Thus, in May, 1891, The Seattle Press-Times chose to reprint an article from the New York Sun entitled "Scandinavian Emigrants; Healthy and Spirited Emigrants Bound for the West," which lavishly praised the qualities of these people. By way of contrast it derided those from Eastern Europe, saying that "if all other immigrants from Europe, including those from Poland, Hungary, and Russia, were as spir-ited as these Scandinavians, and would follow their ex-ample, how much better it would be for them." {11} Simi-larly, an editorial appearing on November 8, 1892, endorsed a plan to restrict immigration by requiring that immigrants pay a sizeable deposit at entry, which the writer said would not prevent "tens of thousands of thrifty Swedes, Norwegians, Germans and men of other nationalities coming hither at their own expense" while stopping "the wholesale manufacture of European emi-gration." {12} The Swedish-American journalist Ernst Skarstedt wrote of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's re-ceptiveness to immigrants, especially to Scandinavians, and observed that Scandinavians had won "a certain prestige" in Washington state. {13}

That the efforts of state officials in fact reached Scan-dinavians is exemplified through the writings of both Skarstedt and the Norwegian O. B. Iverson. By the time of Skarstedt's arrival on Puget Sound, state officials as well as private citizens had a well-established role in immigrant recruitment. The territorial governors took [67] an active part in attracting settlers, with Watson Squire, who was governor from 1884 to 1887, being particularly noted for his efforts. Skarstedt termed his annual report of 1884 "a real masterpiece," and one suspects that it was a factor in Skarstedt's own decision to travel to Washington in 1885. Intertwined with the promotional work of the governors and local officials, and later the state immigration agent, were the activities of private citizens. Indeed, it was a group of volunteer women who in the 1870s formed the Emigration Society, which became a quasi-official board of immigration complete with legislative funding. O. B. Iverson, reminiscing of his arrival in Washington in 1874 as a potential settler, describes his contacts with Governor Elisha P. Ferry and his subsequent visit with Mrs. A. H. H. Stuart, then "acting immigration commissioner." With the work of the Emigration Society continuing into the 1880s, the Washington state constitution formally established under the secretary of state a bureau of statistics, agri-culture, and immigration. D. B. Ward, who became the state immigration agent and served from 1896 to 1901, was by occupation a real-estate agent, embodying the collaboration of official and business interests in at-tracting settlers to the state. His greatest activity was in sending pamphlets and circulars extolling the virtues of Washington to the Midwest and the East. {14}

At the local level, businessmen were of greater im-portance in promotional activities than officeholders. City directories, which in the case of Seattle first ap-peared in 1876, were one means by which business in-terests attempted to provide information to potential settlers. The Seattle Chamber of Commerce, organized in 1882, also published a number of laudatory tracts de-signed to attract immigrants. In this purpose it met ri-valry from the Tacoma Chamber of Commerce, and after 1890 pamphlet production by both bodies increased. [68] Newspaper editors cooperated in the recruitment ef-forts by printing "progress editions," which were sent anywhere in the United States without charge. Individ-ual businesses, as for example the real-estate firm of Eshelman, Llewellyn Co., also were important promot-ers of Seattle and published literature of their own. {15}

Nordic immigrants already resident in the Puget Sound area were also involved in organized efforts to recruit Scandinavian emigrants. As early as 1876 a Scandinavian Immigration and Aid Society had been founded in Seattle with Andrew Chilberg, later to be-come a prominent local figure, as president. The stated purpose of the society was to "encourage immigration," and to give potential emigrants "such information as shall be to their benefit, such as where good farming lands can be found. It is also the desire of the society when they become able to build an emmigrant [sic] house in Seattle, for the reception and temporary occu-pancy of their countrymen coming here, as immigrants. They also desire the establishment of a land office in Seattle, for the spread of information descriptive of the Territory. The society is also prepared to furnish tickets to parties wishing to make a trip to any part of Europe, and for those desiring to send for friends drafts are is-sued on the principal cities of Europe. The society de-sires to correspond with their countrymen in any part of the country." {16}

Like their American counterparts, Scandinavian businessmen participated in immigrant recruitment. For example, H. C. Wahlberg, a Norwegian-born attor-ney and real-estate agent, wrote an article in the Wash-ington Magazine of November, 1889, aimed at both de-claring the worth of Scandinavian settlers to the United States and attracting them to Puget Sound, which he described as "preeminently calculated to delight the heart of every Scandinavian." {17} The previously [69] mentioned Andrew Chilberg, who in 1879 became the first Swedish-Norwegian consul in Seattle, promoted Scan-dinavian settlement not only in that capacity but also as the Northern Pacific Railroad's agent in Seattle and later through his own Chilberg Agency. {18} Another who sought to attract his countrymen to Seattle was the Nor-wegian attorney and businessman Frank Oleson, who used the newspaper Washington Posten as one vehi-cle. {19} Businessmen in the Midwest also had a role in attracting Scandinavians to Puget Sound. Kenneth Bjork cites the firm of A. E. Johnson and Company, headquar-tered in Chicago and St. Paul, as important land and ticket agents for immigrants. By the 1880s the firm had a network on both sides of the Atlantic, including branch offices in both Seattle and Tacoma. {20}

The Norwegian and Swedish newspapers of Seattle and Tacoma were additional agents of recruitment, pro-viding much practical information about the Puget Sound area. This ranged from physical descriptions to explanations of Washington's constitution. News of in-dividual Scandinavians and of ethnic institutions such as the churches and societies was regularly featured. Rosters of prominent Nordic immigrants and their ac-complishments were also published from time to time, suggesting that the community was a place where Scan-dinavians could prosper. {21} In the press as well as among private businessmen, midwestern sources also played a part in the westward movement of the Scan-dinavians. Travel accounts, letters, and news articles from Puget Sound appeared in midwestern Scandina-vian newspapers as early as the 1870s, becoming in-creasingly frequent by the late 1880s. {22}

Guidebooks addressed to Nordic immigrants offered yet another source of information to potential settlers. The earliest of these was Skarstedt's Oregon och Wash-ington in 1890. It was published in response to the [70] many inquiries received daily from Scandinavians by the immigration bureau in Portland as well as by news-papers and individual. {23} Skarstedt went on to write a separate guidebook about Washington, published in 1908 under the title Washington och dess svenska befolkning. Living for more than twenty-five years on Puget Sound and writing prolifically, Skarstedt was a factor in attracting Scandinavians, particularly Swedes, to the area. Thos. Ostenson Stine, a Norwegian Ameri-can who was editor of the Seattle Daily Times's Scandi-navian department, wrote a somewhat less influential guidebook in English in 1900 entitled Scandinavians on the Pacific Puget Sound. Although overly laudatory in its evaluations, it like the Skarstedt volumes con-tained much descriptive information on the area and its Scandinavian settlers. {24}

Scores of more general guidebooks and travel ac-counts by Nordic writers also included descriptions of Seattle and the Puget Sound country, as well as obser-vations about the numbers and conditions of Scandi-navians resident there. For example, Carl Sundbeck in 1900 wrote of the rapid growth of Seattle and its large number of Scandinavians and expressed the view that western Washington would become an even more im-portant center of Swedish and Norwegian population. {25} A few years later he described Seattle as "one of America's most interesting and fastest growing cities," a place of natural beauty where "Scandinavians are strongly represented, almost dominant." {26} Thoralv Klaveness likewise saw the attractiveness of Seattle's setting and spoke of the large Norwegian-born popula-tion, while K. Zilliacus in 1893 predicted that Seattle had a great future and noted that "lots of Nordics" (hopar afnordbor) had settled there. {27}

The very presence of "lots of Nordics" in Seattle sug-gests a motivation for further Scandinavian settlement [71] as people came to join friends and relatives. {28} It seems hardly a coincidence that so many sources of informa-tion not only described the topographical and climatic conditions of Seattle and its economic opportunities but also mentioned something of the circumstances and in-stitutions of the many Scandinavians already settled there.


*This article is based upon the writer's doctoral dissertation, "Naturalization Propensity and Voter Registration of Nordic Immigrants in Seattle, 1892-1900," at the University of Washington.

<1> The queen city's growth as a place of Scandinavian settlement is evi-denced in its share of the Nordic immigrants living in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington: In 1890 just 4.2 percent of them were in Seattle, in 1900 the figure increased to 11.0 percent, by 1910 it was 17.8 percent, and by 1920 19.3 percent.
<2> For a not altogether successful attempt at developing a model to explain the settlement patterns of immigrants, see Richard K. Vedder and Lowell E. Galloway, "The Settlement Preferences of Scandinavian Emigrants to the United States, 1850-1960," in Scandinavian Economic History Review, 18 (1970), 159-176. Jorgen Dahlie and Arthur John Brown have made pioneering efforts toward describing immigrant recruitment into Washington. See Dahlie, "A Social History of Scandinavian Immigration, Washington State, 1895-1910" (Ph.D. dissertation, Washington State University, 1967), chapter 1, and Brown, "Means of Promoting Immigration to the Northwest and Washington to 1910" (M. A. thesis, University of Washington, 1942).
<3> Thos. Ostenson Stine, Scandinavians on the Pacific Puget Sound (Seattle, 1900), 33; Ernst Skarstedt, "Svenskt nybyggareliv i Amerika," in Karl Hildebrand and Axel Fredenholm, eds., Svenskarna i Amerika, populär his-torisk skildring i ord och bild ay svenskarnas liv och underbara öden i Förenta Staterna och Canada, 1 (Stockholm, 1924), 327; Ingrid Semming-sen, Utvandringen og det utflyttede Norge, vol. 1 of Nordmanns-Forbundets Småskriftserie (Oslo, 1952), 39-40; the information on Kastengren is found in Ernst Skarstedt, Svensk-Amerikanska folket i helg och söcken. Strödda blad ur svensk-amerikanernas historia, deras öden och bedrifter, nederlag och segrar, livsintressen och förstrdelser jämte biografiska uppgifter om ett antal märkesmän (Stockholm, 1917), 327-328.
<4> Helge Nelson, The Swedes and the Swedish Settlements' in North America, 1 (Lund, 1943), 54. At the same time it should be noted, as Skarstedt did, that Scandinavians settled also in areas quite unlike those to which they were accustomed. He used Swedish settlements in California to exemplify the point. See Skarstedt, "Svenskt nybyggareliv i Amerika," 327.
<5> Emigration figures for the Nordic countries are conveniently summarized in comparative fashion in Andres A. Svalestuen, "Nordisk emigrasjon. En komparativ oversikt," in Emigrationen fra Norden indtil I. ver-denskrig (Copenhagen, 1971), 12, along with Bjarni Vilhjalmsson, "Tillæg. Udvandringen fra Island. En oversigt," in the same volume, 161-163.
<6> See John Nordeen, Svenska klubbens historia 1892-1944 (Seattle, 1944), 28-29, or sample the classified advertising in the local press of the era, as, for example, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer of February 15, 1892, where a teamster [72] seeking "ten men to buck ties" offered $2.50 per day. The figures for wages paid nationally are found in Paul H. Donglas, Real Wages in the United States, 1890-1926, vol. 9 of Publications of the Pollack Foundation for Economic Research (Boston, 1930), 137, 175. Unfortunately, Douglas gives no regional comparisons of wages. Kenneth O. Bjork, however, observes in West of the Great Divide, Norwegian Migration to the Pacific Coast, 1847-1893 (Northfield, Minnesota, 1958), 12-13, that the westward movement of Norwegians was due in part to the expectation of higher wages in the West.
<7> 0skari Take, Sisu, "Even Through a Stone Wall," in Makers' of History Series (New York, 1957), 56-57.
<8> Standard histories of Seattle which cover this period are Clarence B. Bagley, History of Seattle from the Earliest Settlement to the Present Times, 3 vols. and supplement (Chicago, 1916); Frederic James Grant, ed., History!! of Seattle, Washington (New York, 1891); and C. H. Hanford, ed,, Seattle and Environs, 1852-1924, 3 vols. (Chicago, 1924), as well as Thomas W. Prosch, "A Chronological History of Seattle, 1850-1897," unpublished typescript, 1901, Northwest Collection, Suzzallo Library, University of Washington, Seattle. Nell Clifford Kimmons, "The Historical Development Of Seattle as a Metropolitan Area" (M. A. thesis, University of Washington, 1942); Alex-ander Norbet MacDonald, "Seattle's Economic Development, 1880-1910" (PhD. dissertation, University of Washington, 1959); and the city directories of Corbett and Co. and of Polk's Seattle Directory Co. also provide insights into the city's development. Margaret I. Wandrey lists mill and logging camp wages in Four Bridges to Seattle. Old Ballard, 18,5,3-1907 (Seattle, 1975).
<9> To date no documented study of the degree of occupational change has appeared, though references to the phenomenon are numerous, See, for ex-ample, Skarstedt, Svensk-amerikanska folket, 329; Agnes M, Larson, "The Editorial Policy of Skandinaven, 1900-1903," in Norwegian-American Stud-ies and Records, 8 (Northfield, Minnesota, 1934), 115-116; and Anders Myhrman, "Finlandssvenskarna i Amerika," in Emigrationen och dess bakgrund, vol. 5 of Svenska Kulturfondens skrifter (Ekenäs, Finland, 1971), 48-49.
<10> Hans Norman, Från Bergslagen till Nordamerika. Studier i migrationsmönster, social rörlighet och demografisk struktur med utgångspunkt från Örebro län 1851-1915, vol. 62 of Studia Historica Upsaliensia (Uppsala, 1974), 215-230; Lars-Göran Tedebrand, Västernorrland och Nordamerika 1875-1913. Utvandring och återinvandring, vol. 42 of Studia Historica saliensia (Uppsala, 1972), 207-213.
<11> Seattle Press-Times, May 7, 1891, 4.
<12> Seattle Press-Times, November 8, 1892, 3.
<13> Ernst Skarstedt, Oregon och Washington. Dessa starers historia, natur, resurser, folklif m.m. samt deras skandinaviska inbyggare. En handbok Fr deem, Sam inks condom om nordvestkustens förhöllanden (Portland, Oregon, 1890), 187, 21 1-212.
<14> See Ernst Skarstedt, Washington och dess svenska befolkning (Seattle, 1908), 31, and O. B. Iverson, "From the Prairie to the Puget Sound," ed. by Sverre Arestad, in Norwegian-American Studies and Records, 16 (North-field, Minnesota, 1950), 94, 98-99. Iverson was an early settler in Stanwood and was the first Norwegian elected to the Washington legislature, serving in the territorial body in 1876-1877. D. B. Ward's work is represented in Wash-ington, State Immigration Agent. Report, 1899-1900 (Seattle, 1900). [73]
<15> For tidier discussions of these promotional activities, see Brown, "Means of Promoting Immigration," 34-84, and Dahlie, "A Social History of Scandinavian Immigration," 9-22. Also instructive are the individual Seattle city directories and publications of the Seattle Chamber of Commerce, ex-emplified by A. S. Allen, comp., The City of Seattle, 1900 (Seattle, 1900).
<16> "Scandinavian Immigration and Aid Society," The Northern Star, February 5, 1876, in Morse Eldridge Scrapbook, 3: 4, Northwest Collection Suzzallo Library, University of Washington, Seattle.
<17> H. C. Wahlberg, "Scandinavians as American Citizens," in Washington Magazine, 1 (November, 1889), 23-24.
<18> Chilberg advertised in Skarstedt's Oregon och Washington, 325, and in virtually every issue of Washington Posten and Westra Posten, as well as in the English-language press, he was president of the Scandinavian-American Bank, which he helped to found in 1892, and one of Seattle's leading financiers.
<19> Of Oleson's efforts, Clarence B. Bagley in his History of Seattle, 3: 540, wrote that "probably there is no citizen of the entire northwest who bas done more to encourage the immigration of the Norwegian people to this part of America than Mr. Oleson, nor is there any who had done more to advance their interests as American citizens."
<20> Bjork, West of the Great Divide, 392-401.
<21> A particularly glorying description is found in Tacoma Tribunen, Jan-uary 23, 1896. The attorney L. Hulsether wrote an explanation of the state constitution in the December 24, 1891, issue of Washington Posten. Westra Posten of November 1, 1895, contains a prime example of biographical treat-ment of prominent Nordic immigrants in Seattle. See also Dahlie, "A Social History of Scandinavian Immigration," 26-38, for the role of the ethnic press in immigrant recruitment. Like Dahlie, Brown, "Means of Promoting Immigration," 84, emphasized the importance of the ethnic press in making the area known among the foreign-born, specifically mentioning the role of Westra Posten among the Scandinavians.
<22> Carlton C. Qualey, Norwegian Settlement in the United States (North-field, Minnesota, 1938), 190-191, noted that Washington Posten and Tacoma Tidende enjoyed a "considerable circulation" in the Norwegian settlements east of the Rockies and in Norway; he along with Bjork, West of the Great Divide, 429-430, and Nora O. Solum, "Oregon and Washington Territory in the 1870's as Seen Through the Eyes of a Pioneer Pastor," in Norwegian-American Studies and Records, 16 (Northfield, Minnesota, 1950), 64-90, document the appearance of Puget Sound items in the midwestern ethnic press.
<23> In "Förord," iii-iv, Skarstedt explains that one of the reasons for writing the hook was to provide a source of information in a Scandinavian language for those who did not know English. For Skartstedt's role in recruiting Scan-dinavians, see Gilbert Brown, "Swedish Journalist and Author Aided in Northwest Movement," Seattle Star, October 8, 1937, in Du Buar Scrapbook, 79:26, Northwest Collection, Suzzallo Library, University of Washington, Seattle.
<24> See Carl Sundbeck, Svensk-amerikanerna, deras materiella och andliga sträfvanden. Anteckningar från en resa i Amerika (Rock Island, Illinois, 1904), 434-435.
<25> Carl Sundbeck, Svenskarna i Amerika, deras land, antal och kolonier. [74] En kort öfversikt till tjäinst för emigranter och for våra svensk-amerikanska kolonier intresserade (Stockholm, 1900), 37-39.
<26> Sundbeck, Svensk-amerikanerna, 432.
<27> Thoralv Klaveness, Det norske Amerika, blandt udvandrede nordmaend. Vote landsmænds liv og vilkaar i den nye verden (Kristiania, 1904), 94; K. Zilliacus, Amerika-Boken. Hjäilpreda för utvandrare (Stockholm, 1893),
<28> The pull of friends and relatives is exemplified in the memoirs of John W. Nordstrom, co-founder in 1900 of a little shoestore which has evolved into the sizeable Nordstrom software chain. He came to Seattle in 1889 because he had a sister and a cousin living in Tacoma. See John W. Nordstrom, The Immigrant in 1887 ([Seattle], 1950), especially 20, 22, 43.

From NAHA Publications


Senast uppdaterad 2005-09-20 10:51
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