Across the Deep Blue Sea: The Saga of Early Norwegian Immigrants

Across the Deep Blue Sea: The Saga of Early Norwegian Immigrants

Language: English

Pages: 224

ISBN: 0873519612

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Across the Deep Blue Sea investigates a chapter in Norwegian immigration history that has never been fully told before. Odd S. Lovoll relates how Quebec, Montreal, and other port cities in Canada became the gateway for Norwegian emigrants to North America, replacing New York as the main destination from 1850 until the late 1860s. During those years, 94 percent of Norwegian emigrants landed in Canada.
After the introduction of free trade, Norwegian sailing ships engaged in the lucrative timber trade between Canada and the British Isles. Ships carried timber one way across the Atlantic and emigrants on the way west. For the vast majority landing in Canadian port cities, Canada became a corridor to their final destinations in the Upper Midwest, primarily Wisconsin and Minnesota. Lovoll explains the establishment and failure of Norwegian colonies in Quebec Province and pays due attention to the tragic fate of the Gaspé settlement.
A personal story of the emigrant experience passed down as family lore is retold here, supported by extensive research. The journey south and settlement in the Upper Midwest completes a highly human narrative of the travails, endurance, failures, and successes of people who sought a better life in a new land.

Odd S. Lovoll, professor emeritus of history at St. Olaf College and recipient of the Fritt Ords Honnør for his work on Norwegian immigration, is the author of numerous books, including Norwegians on the Prairie and Norwegian Newspapers in America.


















Year after year, the Dominion distributed pamphlets in the United States that bore the title “The Last Best West,” suggesting that the Canadian prairie constituted a natural extension of the Dakotas and beyond. The frontier experience could for many be repeated farther north and west. The ascendancy of Canada’s western provinces was based on access to abundant free and inexpensive land and transportation. The coming of Nordic immigrants as well as migrants from the Midwest gave impetus to a growing prosperity.

S. ports and, as suggested earlier, 240 at Quebec. About 6,000 went via the more important European emigration ports outside Norway. 8 The rise of the St. Lawrence route beginning in 1850 meant that New York would to a large extent lose its standing as the main port of entry for Norwegian immigrants to North America for more than twenty years. The shift in destination came about during the years 1851 and 1852, when 7,500 immigrants went directly from Norway to Quebec. The two years represent a transitional period in which the direct shipping from Norway, as Blegen points out, “reduces emigration by way of other European countries and Quebec receives a larger proportion of the total Norwegian emigration than New York and other American ports.

A jovial boy from Valdres,” Jacobson tells, “amused himself by mimicking the dance of the city folks. He wore a red stocking cap which swung back and forth as he turned around in his solo dance. ” As soon as the passengers disembarked, the entire furnishing between deck was removed, and the loading of timber for England began. There was a single galley for the passengers where everyone prepared their own food. The emigrants had to provide their own rations and bedding. While cabin passengers frequently dined with the captain, firewood and water were supplied by the shipowner.

Blegen, “Minnesota’s Campaign for Immigrants,” Yearbook of Swedish Historical Society of America 11 (1926): 3–36; Lars Ljungmark, For Sale—Minnesota: Organized Promotion of Scandinavian Immigration, 1866– 1873 (Stockholm: Akademiförlaget, 1971), 17–18, 19–20, 42–43, 57–61, 65, 78, 121, 130; Qualey, Norwegian Settlement, 70, 97–98, 100–101, 109, 112, 128; Lovoll, Promise of America, 115; Blegen, Norwegian Migration (1931), 343–44; Odd S. Lovoll, Norwegians on the Prairie: Ethnicity and the Development of the Country Town (St.

Most letters were, of course, written by less-well-known men and women. They streamed back to Norway and had great effect on the genesis of emigration from individual parishes. Knowledge of America frequently became the final incentive to leave. Successful Norwegian Americans who visited the homeland were by their mere presence evidence of the opportunities that existed overseas. On their way back to America, they might serve as guides for groups of emigrants. The America guides, or “America books,” as they were dubbed, represented another major source of information.

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