The Ethnic Press in the United States: A Historical Analysis and Handbook

By Sally M. Miller | Go to book overview

26
The Swedish Press

ULF A. BEIJBOM

During the migration epoch, 1846-1930, 1.2 million Swedes immigrated to the United States. The Swedish immigration was part of the "old" Western European wave--44 percent of the Swedes are recorded as having immigrated in the period 1879-1893, and 65 percent of them arrived before 1900. The nineteenth-century immigration was concentrated in the American Midwest, with Illinois as the first important immigration goal: approximately one out of three Swedish immigrants lived in Illinois from 1850 to 1870, a ratio which decreased to 21 percent in 1881; during the 1880s Minnesota took over as the leading "Swede state" of the United States. 1

The rural majority of the Swedish immigrants settled on the prairies in Henry, Knox, Warren, Mercer, Rock Island, and Bureau counties in northwestern Illinois. In this agricultural region the utopian, hyperevangelical colony known as Bishop Hill was established in 1846 and the first Swedish-oriented Methodist, Lutheran, and Baptist congregations were founded. In 1860 the activities of the religious majority led to the founding of the Lutheran Augustana Synod, the most important Swedish organization in America. Meanwhile, the urbanized minority of the early Swedish immigrants concentrated in Chicago, where 10 percent of the Swedish-born Americans lived in 1890. Another urban stronghold was Rockford, Illinois, which received Swedish immigrants from the early 1850s and where 22 percent of the population in 1900 was born in Sweden. Accordingly, the prerequisites for a Swedish immigrant press presented themselves first in Illinois. 2


EARLY PAPERS IN RURAL AND URBAN ILLINOIS

Due to the Swedish Lutheran state church and, from 1842, an elementary school system, almost all adult Swedish immigrants could read uncomplicated texts. In the mid-nineteenth century daily newspapers became common outside of Stockholm, and most adult immigrants had been confronted with modern papers, even if it was rare for an individual of rural or urban working-class background to have read newspapers regularly. The "father" of the Augustana

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