Icelandic Americans

Americans of Icelandic birth or descent

Icelandic Americans are Americans of Icelandic descent or Iceland-born people who reside in the United States. Icelandic immigrants came to the United States primarily in the period 1873–1905 and after World War II. There are more than 40,000 Icelandic Americans according to the 2000 U.S. census, and most live in the Upper Midwest. The United States is home to the second largest Icelandic diaspora community in the world after Canada.

Contents

  • 1 History
    • 1.1 Post-Columbian settlement
    • 1.2 Significant immigration waves
    • 1.3 1900–1945
  • 2 Settlement patterns/demographics
  • 3 Acculturation and assimilation
  • 4 Notable people
  • 5 See also
  • 6 References
  • 7 Further reading

History

Further information: Norse colonization of the Americas

Norsemen from Greenland and Iceland were the first Europeans to reach North America in what is today Newfoundland, Canada, when the Icelander Leif Ericson reached North America via Norse settlements in Greenland around the year 1000, nearly five centuries before Columbus. It is generally accepted that the Norse settlers in Greenland founded the settlement of L'Anse aux Meadows in Vinland, their name for what is now Newfoundland, Canada.

Just how much they explored further past the Canadian Maritime Provinces in Canada has been a matter of debate for the past hundred years amongst romantic and ethnic nationalists as well as historians. In any case, the settlements were abandoned after a short time.

Post-Columbian settlement

After the Vikings, the first Icelanders to migrate to North America were three Mormons who left the Vestman Islands for Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1855 seeking religious freedom to follow Mormonism. Eleven Mormon converts left Iceland for North America between 1854 and 1857. A few years later nine Icelanders settled in the town of Spanish Fork, Utah, along with other Scandinavians. For the next 20 years, small groups of Icelanders joined the settlement from time to time. Thorarinn Haflidason Thorason and Gudmund Gudmundsson, Icelandic apprentices who had converted to Mormonism in Denmark and travelled to America in the 1850s, were typical of Icelandic emigrants coming to Utah. Skilled artisans, trades-persons, or farmers, the Icelandic emigrants brought with them useful skills for the frontier, although it was some time before they could use those skills in gainful employment.

The United States suffered an economic depression in the mid-1870s, and jobs were scarce. For newly arrived Icelanders who knew little, if any English, jobs were even more scarce. The secondary education most Icelanders had received in their homeland did little to help them find jobs in their new country.

Many Icelandic men took laboring jobs as unskilled factory workers and woodcutters, or as dockworkers in Milwaukee when they first arrived. Working to build capital and to learn farming techniques suitable for their new land so that they could start farms of their own, early Icelandic immigrant communities were largely agricultural. Drawing from their backgrounds in farming, the new immigrants maintained their ties to their Icelandic heritage.

Significant immigration waves

The last three decades of the 19th century saw the largest wave of Icelandic immigration. Between 1870 and 1900, about 15,000 of Iceland's population of 75,000 resettled in North America. Evidence suggests that around 17,000 emigrated but that roughly 2,000 returned to Iceland. The majority of these emigrants settled in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, in a colony called New Iceland. Those coming to the United States settled primarily in the upper Midwest, especially Wisconsin, Minnesota, and the Dakota Territories. A sizable Icelandic immigrant community was also established in Utah.

William Wickmann, a Danish... ...read more

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