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Letters from the Promised Land

Letters from the Promised Land: Swedes in America, 1840-1914

Edited by H. Arnold Barton
Copyright Date: 1975
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 356
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  • Book Info
    Letters from the Promised Land
    Book Description:

    Swedish immigrants tell their own stories in this collection of letters, diaries, and memoirs—a perfect book for those interested in history, immigration, or just the daily lives of early Swedish-American settlers.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9308-5
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-2)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 3-6)

    We are, as President John F. Kennedy and others have reminded us, a nation of immigrants.¹ In 1800 the United States had a population of only 5.3 million, approximately the same as that of Sweden a century later. During the next century and a half more than 35 million immigrants came to these shores. Of these, some 1.2 million were Swedes, the overwhelming majority of whom arrived between 1840 and 1914, the period covered by this book. In absolute numbers Sweden ranks seventh among the countries of origin for immigrants to the United States and first among the Scandinavian lands....

  4. PART ONE: The Pioneers, 1840-1864

    • Background
      (pp. 9-21)

      In the sixth century A.D. the Gothic-Roman historian Jordanes called the Scandinavian North the “workshop or womb of nations.” By his time the pressures of population growth had already driven forth a great wave of Nordic migrants in search of land elsewhere in Europe. The same phenomenon recurred some centuries later during the Viking age, when large colonies of Scandinavians settled in the East Baltic region, England, Ireland, and France, while others, via Iceland and Greenland, explored as far as North America.

      To understand the great Swedish migration to the New World in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, one...

    • Letters and Documents
      (pp. 22-104)

      Salem, January 18, 1841

      Our Dear Father:

      Your welcome and long awaited letter of July 26 was received today, and I will not delay a minute to answer it. God be praised, we are all well. Adolf has not had a single minute of indisposition since he arrived in the free world; Otto has grown perceptibly; Janne is almost as heavy as I am, and in language he and I are regular Yankees; Adolf and Otto have not yet reached that stage. I give lessons in English reading and writing to my three brothers as often as I have time....

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
  5. PART TWO: The Great Farmer-Land in the West, 1865-1889

    • Background
      (pp. 107-116)

      The end of the Civil War in the spring of 1865 opened the flood-gates of European immigration to America, which now reached unprecedented levels. There can hardly have been more than 25,000 Swedes in America at the beginning of 1865, yet in the years that followed annual immigration from Sweden frequently exceeded that figure.¹ The American census of 1890 showed a Swedish-American population of 776,093.

      In accounting for this phenomenal increase, both “push” and “pull” factors must again be considered. The first great impetus from the Swedish side came from the three successive crop failures in 1867, 1868, and 1869,...

    • Letters and Documents
      (pp. 117-200)

      . . . Every day since Brother Esbjörn left I have had to work among the immigrants. A great many are lying ill on Ward’s Island; some have died and two women have given birth to children. One of them is reported dead, but I have been unable to visit her, as I live six miles away. The father is out west, and on Ward’s Island there is said to be deserted boy, who runs about dirty and full of vermin. At Castle Garden there are between twenty and thirty persons without a cent, who tug at my coat and...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
  6. PART THREE: Farm, Forest, and Factory, 1890-1914

    • Background
      (pp. 203-211)

      Although set in its main outlines by 1890, the great migration from Sweden became more varied and complex during its final phase, down to the outbreak of World War I, in response to changing circumstances on both sides of the Atlantic.

      Industrialization in Sweden now entered into a period of dynamic growth, accelerating internal migration into towns and industrial areas. From 1870 to 1910 the agricultural part of the population sank from 72.4 per cent to 48.8 per cent of the total, and has since continued to decline. Although there was an overall rise in real wages, especially after 1896,...

    • Letters and Documents
      (pp. 212-302)

      Wednesday. In the morning we were woken up early to have time to get ourselves ready. We now got breakfast like before, then started off for the station, the things were again brought by horse and wagon. When we got there we were again stuffed onto a train, to ride about five miles said those who had traveled before. We got off at some place. I don’t know if there was any station, I didn’t see any. We had to find our way down to theMajesticourselves. We got lost though. Now some began to swear at the agent...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
  7. Epilogue
    (pp. 305-310)

    The coming of World War I in 1914 did not stop Swedish emigration to America but it marked the end of its dynamic phase. The war effectively closed the Atlantic to regular emigrant traffic for nearly five years, reducing it to a trickle. Postwar economic adjustments, in particular the American slump of 1921, thereafter kept Swedish immigration at low levels until 1923 when it sharply rose to 24,984 persons, evidently largely from a backlog of emigrants held up by the war and its aftermath. The following year the number was less than one-third as large and during the remainder of...

  8. APPENDIX: Swedish Terms and Swedish Regions
    (pp. 313-314)
  9. Notes
    (pp. 317-324)
  10. Select Bibliography (Revised and augmented 1989)
    (pp. 325-330)
  11. Sources and Credits
    (pp. 331-334)
  12. Index
    (pp. 337-348)