Danish immigration

2011-02-10 12:34:15

Though Viking Danes were probably among the first Europeans to settle North America, the first Danish settlement of lasting importance came in the 1640s, when about 500 Danes composed half the population of the Dutch New Netherlands colony. In the U.S. census of 2000 and the Canadian census of 2001, 1,430,897 Americans and 170,780 Canadians claimed Danish descent. Because of their rapid assimilation, Danes are spread fairly evenly throughout the U.S. and Canadian populations. Most Danes during the 19th century originally settled in the upper Midwest in the United States, with particular concentration in Iowa. The largest early Danish settlements in Canada, between 1903 and 1917, were in Alberta.
Denmark occupies 16,300 square miles of northern Europe between the North Sea and the Baltic Sea from 54 to 58 degrees north latitude. Sweden lies to the northeast and Germany to the south. Denmark is made up of the Jutland Peninsula and 500 islands, 100 of which are inhabited. Greenland and the Faeroe Islands govern themselves, but fall under Danish jurisdiction. The land is mostly flat and highly developed. In 2002, the population was estimated at 5,352,815. Ethnic groups include Scandinavian, Eskimo, Faeroese, and German. Evangelical Lutheranism is the religious preference of more than 90 percent of the people. From ancient times, Denmark was a center of fishing and trade. Viking raiders during the Middle Ages were mostly Danes. Denmark reached the peak of its power between 1397 and 1523, when Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and parts of northern Germany were united under Danish control. Sweden withdrew in 1523, initiating a long period of international decline. Norway was lost in 1815, and Schleswig-Holstein in 1864. Iceland remained part of Denmark until 1944. Denmark joined the European Union in 1993.
Although a small number of Danes had immigrated to the United States annually from colonial times, it was only after the American Civil War (1861–65) that they came in large numbers. Denmark’s population rose dramatically during the 19th century, from 900,000 to almost 2.5 million. This combined with Prussian expansion and a rapidly mechanizing economy threw Denmark’s old agricultural system into chaos, with many Danes losing land and being forced into urban industrial jobs, when they could find them. It has been estimated that during the late 19th century, one in 10 Danes emigrated, most to the United States. In line with most other western European countries, they came in waves between 1866 and 1873, 1880 and 1893, 1900 and 1914, and 1920 and 1929. Between 1865 and 1930, about 325,000 Danes entered the country, with almost 12,000 entering in the peak year of 1882. In addition to those immigrating to the United States for economic reasons, some 17,000 Danes came between 1849 and 1904 after converting to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), most settling near Salt Lake City, Utah. Another group of some 50,000 Danes from Schleswig arrived after German occupation of their region in 1864, especially objecting to German military service and the use of the German language in education. After 1930, Danish immigration averaged a few hundred per year, including 6,389 between 1992 and 2002.
The Dane Jens Munk visited Canada in 1619 searching for the Northwest Passage but established no colony. The oldest Danish settlement in Canada was established in New Brunswick in 1872, though it included only seven families and 10 single men. The number of Danes in Canada remained small until the first decade of the 20th century. In 1903, a group of Danish immigrants from Nebraska began to settle a township near Innisfail, Alberta. A number of additional colonies were established in Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatschewan between 1903 and 1917. As these Danes were usually classified as Americans, it is difficult to determine their numbers. When the United States limited immigration with the Johnson-Reed Act of 1924, Danish agriculturalists increasingly looked to the Canadian West, a trend that continued through the 1950s. During the 1920s, the Canadian Pacific Railway and the Danish Department of Colonization and Development cooperated in promoting Danish settlement on the Canadian prairies. Furthermore, after spending six months in Canada in 1925, Olaf Linck recommended in Canada, the Great Land of the Future that young and healthy Danes consider emigration there in order to increase their opportunities and to relieve population pressures at home. Although almost 19,000 Danes immigrated to Canada between 1919 and 1931, Canada virtually halted immigration during the Great Depression. After World War II, Canada once again encouraged Danish immigration, highly regarding the training and skill of the artisans. Whereas only 10,984 Danes immigrated to the United States during the 1950s, 27,750 entered Canada. As the Danish economy improved in the 1960s, few chose to emigrate. Of 17,805 Danish immigrants in Canada in 2001, only 3,625 came after 1970.