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Norwegian Immigration

The long way over

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Between 1900 and 1929, when the immigration ended, half of all Norwegians immigrants came from cities as well as from the farm land. This was due to the lack of modern industry. There was a change on the profile of the average immigrant. Earlier, rural families were most likely to leave, but as the new century was born, the majority of immigrant was now single, often very young men (16-20 years old), from various Norwegian cities. However, there were still many farmers with a hope for success in the Midwest. They left home in hope of a better life on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. Into the 20th century, it became hard to start a farm in the Midwest. Most immigrants ended up working in factories. Although leaving home almost became a modern trend, the immigration the US wasn’t a venture that a person embarked on lightly. As more and more people decided to move to the West into the 20th century, tickets were often expensive and the ocean voyage could be very difficult and unpleasant. It took some planning, both economically and in other ways, to leave. Many immigrants auctioned off almost all of their goods and farmland in order to raise enough money for the journey to America.

 

It’s hard to describe how it must have been to fulfill the dream and move to America at that time. In order to understand how it must have been like, here is a “letter from America”, according to Wilhelm Bergh, a Norwegian immigrant.

 

“I was only 16 years old when I decided to move to America. Many people in my town had already left, including my brother. He also mailed me the ticket, because it was less expensive to purchase tickets in America than in Norway. The only expens I had was my food and $20 I needed to arrive in New York. I said goodbye to my family, friends and other relatives, and went on board on the ship “United States” on May 17th in 1907. I remember I had a unique feeling when I left. I was going “over there” to live the American Dream. However, the trip over was both fun and terrible. There was some bad weather. People vomited and there was a terrible smell on the boat that we had to live with those eleven days the trip took us. I remember very well when we first arrived in New York City, and I can still remember seeing the Statue of Liberty for the first time. However, we all arrived on Ellis Island. I think I was standing there for a whole day, and there were some complications since I didn’t know a word of English. But, I finally found my way through it, and I was sitting on the train to Chicago the next day. When I eventually arrived in Chicago, and I met my brother, everything seemed to be perfect; I was in America         

                                                                 -Wilhelm Bergh, 1952

 

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                                                                            HHS
                                                                 AP US History 2005