The Finnish Immigrant Experience in North America, 1880-2000: Studies in Cultural Geography

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Over twenty years of research and publication of articles dealing with the Finnish ethnic group of North America is compiled here for the first time in a collection of ten chapters dealing with various topics of interest. The chapters include reprints of articles that have appeared in refereed scholarly journals as well as popular magazines in Finland, Canada and the United States. The topics range from the Finnish immigrants of Atlantic Canada and runaway sailors, to prairie farmers, commercial fishermen of Lake Superior, the Finland-Swedish ethnolinguistic minority of Canada, the Finns of Virginia and Central Appalachia, and the popularization of the Finnish sauna in the American hospitality industry. This work complements and adds to our growing knowledge and appreciation of ethnic groups within North America.


“ ... What is important is that to understand the rural and urban cultural tapestries of Canada and the United States we need detailed scholarly inquiries on groups that are new and old, thriving and declining. In this anthology, we have an excellent example of a scholar who has dedicated his research career to investigating the Finnish populations, communities, and institutions in rural and urban areas of Canada and the United States. By using a variety of data sources, including archival records, census materials, mail surveys, and personal interviews to study Finns in the Atlantic Maritimes, Upper Great Lakes, Great Plains, British Columbia (especially Vancouver), Central Appalachia, and Virginia, he helps us understand how and why selected Finnish and Finn-Swede communities originated, thrived, and in some cases, declined ... We learn much from his detailed and careful analyses, including the linkages early Finns had with those settling later in North America’s interior and farther west, the importance of churches in the survival of Finnish communities, the retention or declining uses of the Finnish language, the peculiar problems some Finn-Swedes faced, and lack of a strong ethnic heritage among third generation Finns in the Washington, D.C. area ...” – (from the Foreword) Professor Stanley Brunn, University of Kentucky

“ ... This book will complement and synthesize existing Finnish immigrant studies which have focused mostly on the main immigrant concentrations: the Midwest states in the U.S., Ontario in Canada, and other old and highly concentrated immigrant communities. Dr. Roinila expands the area and envelops the regions, and the end result is a sense that the geographic and demographic accounts of Finnish immigrants and their descendants have been brought to a conclusion. This book adds to and complements significantly the existing scholarship in its field.” – Professor Börje Vähämäki, University of Toronto

“Relatively few individuals engage in the scholarly study of North America’s Finnish immigrants and their descendants. Much of this dearth is due to the difficult nature of the Finnish language, which clearly limits the number of individuals who are qualified to use primary research materials written in the original language. At the same time, however, there is considerable interest in the history of these immigrants, both among Finnish Americans and Finnish Canadians themselves, as well as among interested scholars and informed members of the general public who are aware of the Finns’ distinctiveness ... Perhaps the most important contribution that Dr. Roinila, as a scholar of the Finnish experience in North America, makes in this anthology is to display his willingness to delve into topics that no one else has pursued to date ...” – Professor Arnold R. Alanen, University of Wisconsin

"Mika Roinila's articles, now brought together The Finnish Immigrant Experience in North America, 1880-2000: Studies in Cultural Geography, offer those interested in Finnish studies a challenge to look differently at who Finns are, where they have settled, and how they made an impact on North American life. There is much more to explore and learn about the Finnish presence in Canada and the United States and Mika Roinila's latest work has provided a glimpse of some of these possibilities." - Journal of Finnish Studies

Table of Contents

Foreword by Stanley Brunn
1. Finns of Atlantic Canada
2. A Finnish Runaway Sailor in New Brunswick: The Experiences of George (Yrjö) Laakso
3. A Century of Change: The Rolla/Rock Lake Finnish Settlement of North Dakota
4. Finland-Swedes in Canada: Discovering Some Unknown Finnish Facts
5. Finland-Swedes of British Columbia
6. Finland-Swedish Immigrants in the Scandinavia Colony of Manitoba, Canada
7. Finnish Ethnicity in the State of Virginia
8. From Monessen to Clarksburg and Beyond: The Finnish Ethnicity in Central Appalachia
9. Finnish Commercial Fishermen on Lake Superior: The Rise and Fall of an Ethnic Fishery
10. Popularizing the Finnish Sauna: The Case of the American Hospitality Industry

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