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Sunday, September 01, 2013


Emigrants from Småland


by Ken Sawyer, Halifax, England. 
These are my collected notes about emigration from Sweden to the USA. I first became interested in this subject when I discovered that some of the Swedish 
emigrants travelled by train through my home area in West Yorkshire (England), en route from Hull to Liverpool. I had previously known a little about this great emigration and then I was further stimulated when we visited the Emigrants Museum in Växjö, Småland; this was a main province from which the emigrants departed and is the reason for emphasising Småland as representative of Sweden as a whole.With the start of steam powered ships their voyage to the USA took 2-3 weeks and often included a crossing from Gothenburg to Hull on board the ships of the Wilson Line. This was followed by a train journey from Hull, through the Huddersfield-Halifax area, to Liverpool and then a crossing by the Inman Line or another company’s ship to New York. 


Vilhelm Moberg, story writer about the emigrants. 2. 
Småland. 2. 
Early 19th Century Sweden. 2. 
The emigrants’ motives: 2. 
Population pressure – Peace, Vaccination, Potatoes. 2-4. 
Bad economic conditions and famine. 4. 
Intolerance of religious beliefs. 5. 
Intolerance of political beliefs. 5. 
Industries. 5. 
Where did the idea of emigration come from? 6. 
Typical “Amerika Brev” – letters from America. 7. 
The main emigration periods. 8. 
Jönköpings län figures. 9. 
Who organised the movements? 9. 
Swedish emigration history. 9. 
Arrival at New York. 9. 
Where did the emigrants spread out to? 10. 
Swedes in American towns and cities. 12. 
Only men at first. 12. 
Making good or? 12. 
“Emigrant Country” in Småland. 13. 
Barkeryd. 13. 
Värmland as an emigrant area. 14. 
Emigrants who returned. 14. 
Emigrant statistics, 1851-1920. 14. 
Some statistics from Kalmar län (county). 14. 
Moberg’s books. 14. 
• Did you know that in 1638, through a Government inspired emigration, the colony called New Sweden was established in Delaware, on America’s East Coast? 
It was in Sweden’s possession for almost twenty years, but was then lost to the Dutch. 
• Did you know that in the second half of the 19th Century and the early years of the 20th, more than a million Swedes, around ¼ of the population, emigrated from Sweden and mainly to the USA? 
• Did you know that this was called the “American fever”? Even today, at least five million USA citizens are of Swedish extraction? 
Vilhelm Moberg, story writer about the emigrants. The 20th Century Swedish writer from Småland, best sums up the story of these emigrants. He wrote the powerful epic novels, “The Emigrants”, “Unto a New Land”, “The Settlers” and “The Last Letter Home”. The first of these moving novels relates a fictional journey of the main characters, Karl Oskar and Kristina, from Ljuder a parish in Småland to the 
New World. It represents the real life exodus of hundreds of thousands of people. I quote its’ first words: 
“This is the story of a group of people who in 1850 left their homes in Ljuder parish in the province of Småland, Sweden and emigrated to North America. They came from a land of small cottages and large families. They were people of the soil, and they came of a stock, which for thousands of years had tilled the ground they were leaving.” 
These few words set the background for the story, which is also the story of the first period of group emigration. Småland forms most of the south eastern wedge of Sweden. It is an area of great 
natural beauty, with an unusual terrain; deep pine forests studded with glittering lakes. Even so, the thin, stony nature of the soil was a reason why a quarter of the region’s population emigrated to America in the period from 1850 to 1920, in order 
to escape rural poverty. Historically Småland has had it tough. The simple rustic charm of today’s pretty red painted cottages, “de röda stugorna”, belies the intense misery endured by generations of local, simple peasants in the 19th century. Even 
the walls and piles of stones in the fields have a story to tell. Sweden was predominantly agrarian in the early 19th century. Industry was largely limited to the unique, small forms of industrial settlement and organisation in the Swedish countryside called a bruk, often iron works. The owner was known as 
the Patron and he was a sort of local chieftain! Timber production was also a significant industry. So it was a static society with economic and social immobility and an isolated countryside but there were skilled workers in the land. Yet, by the middle of the 1800’s, all the explosive and revolutionary possibilities were gathering. The harmony of Sweden disrupted as truly radically as it did in the pages 
of Moberg’s novel. A long series of developments threatened to become a revolution. Even though an isolated and seemingly backward place like Ljuder in Kronoberg County seemed immovable as a community, it became part of Sweden’s most emigration-affected areas in the eventful second half of the 19th Century.

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