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Dictionary of Wisconsin History

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Term: Norwegians in Wisconsin


Between 1836 and 1935, Wisconsin was a principle destination for Norwegian immigrants and an important center of Norwegian-American life. Until the 1840s, fewer than 1,000 Norwegians lived in Wisconsin, but by 1850, 8,600 lived in the state--nearly two-thirds of the total Norwegian population in the whole United States. By 1860, this figure had grown to 44,000 and the high concentration of communities in the Rock River Basin formed the core of Norwegian settlement in the U.S. until the 1860s. Norwegian settlers moved further west in the 1860s, encouraged by the passage of the Homestead Act of 1862 and the movement of wheat farming. While immigration slowed briefly following the Panic of 1873, heavy streams of Norwegians continued to arrive and by 1900, 25 percent of Norwegians in the U.S. lived in Wisconsin.

View related articles at Wisconsin Magazine of History Archives.

[Source: Wisconsin's Cultural Resources Study Units, Wisconsin Historical Society]
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