Swedish Emigration

Swedish emigration got underway in the early 1840s, and had the third-highest rate in all of Europe. Phelps County Nebraska, similar to many counties across Nebraska, was settled by a tight-knit Swedish population. Many of the population were farmers who found themselves without means, spurned by the modernization of agriculture. In 1844 the first stages of the Industrial Revolution affected Sweden. With the modernization of manufacturing, Sweden would quickly change from an agrarian society to an industrial one. Farmers who previously relied on large amounts of physical labor could now plant, weed, and harvest their crops with only a few workers. This caused millions to move to cities that quickly became overcrowded. For many, this hardship was elevated by high competition for work in underpaid and dangerous factories. By the 1860’s the effects of the revolution had reached its full effect. Thus in the years between 1860 and 1915, 1.2 million Swedish immigrants would migrate to the United States looking for means to support their families. The main allure for many was the availability of cheap but high quality land that they could farm on, as well as, availability for higher paying jobs in factories in Chicago, Minneapolis, and Worcester. Migration was also spurred by the “chain form,” where some migrants would trickle into the country and give reports, recommendations for friends and families to migrate as well. After 1870, transatlantic fares were cheap. By the 1880s, American railroads had agents in Sweden who offered package deals on one-way tickets for entire families. The railroad would ship the family, their house furnishings, farm tools, and provide a financial deal to spread out payments for the farm over a period of years. These Swedish immigrants first settled in Illinois, Minnesota, and the Dakotas. A little later they became a driving force in pioneering in Iowa, Kansas, and Nebraska building homesteads and cultivating the wild prairie.

Post written by Micah Huyser

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