During the 19th and early 20th century, Sweden’s population exploded, and many families could no longer eke out a living on the land. So began the years of migration to North America. Read more about the Swedish emigrants.
About 1.3 million Swedes left Sweden for the United States of America. The land of the U.S. frontier was a magnet for the rural poor all over Europe, but some factors encouraged Swedish emigration in particular since the Lutheran State Church practiced social conservation and class snobbery. Population growth and crop failures were other reasons.
Related: The Great Scandinavian Exodus
The trans-Atlantic mass exodus is one of the major events in Swedish history during the last two centuries, and the immense network of contacts that was established across the Atlantic has proven very important for the way in which Swedish society then and now has been oriented towards the United States.
Utvandrernes Hus (House of the Emigrants) in Växjö, 70 km (43 miles) west of Kalmar in Sweden, tells the story of the exodus.
Swedish migration to the United States peaked in the decades after the American Civil War (1861–65). Most immigrants became pioneers, clearing and cultivating the prairie, but some forces pushed the new immigrants towards the cities, particularly Chicago.
Related: Immigration Tensions in Scandinavia
A second generation of Swedish emigrants
As the decades of Swedish immigration to the United States progressed, a second generation of Swedish Americans entered the scene. This second generation was first recorded by the Census in 1890, when some 250,000 persons in the Unites States were classified as second-generation Swedish Americans. During the next decades, this figure increased quickly and by 1910 the second generation had passed the first and numbered 700,000. In 1920, the figure was 824,000.
End of the Swedish emigrants
This caused a national alarm in Sweden and a broad-based parliamentary emigration commission was instituted in 1907, recommending social and economic reform in order to reduce emigration by “bringing the best sides of America to Sweden”. From the mid-1920s, there was no longer a Swedish mass emigration.
Swedish language played an important role
Much of the Swedish American community was centered on the Swedish language. This was seen as a key factor for the culture’s creation and maintenance. The Swedish-language press played an important role in this respect, and it has been estimated that between 600 and 1,000 Swedish language newspapers were published in the United States. The Swedish American press was the second largest foreign-language press in the United States with a total circulation over 650,000 copies in 1910.
The Swedish Emigrants, written by Tor Kjolberg