Finnish Americans are a tiny portion of the American population, and yet they have made a big impact on American culture. Read on for fun facts about Finnish Americans that Finns probably don’t know.
Finns first arrived in the US in 1638 as part of a Swedish colony
New Sweden was founded along the Delaware River in the Mid-Atlantic states of Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. The colony was populated by Finns and other Nordic immigrants until the Dutch took over the colony in 1655. The Swedish South Company was founded in 1626 with a mandate to establish colonies between Florida and Newfoundland for the purposes of trade, particularly along the Delaware River.
John Morton, who signed the Declaration of Independence, was a descendant of a New Sweden colonist. His great, great grandfather Martti Marttinen, or as in Swedish style, know as Martin Martinsen was born in Rautalampi, Finland and arrived in Pennsylvania on the ship the Eagle in the 1650’s.
The Finns of New Sweden helped popularize the log cabin
Schorn log cabin, built by John Morton’s grandfather
The log cabin is one of the most well-known icons of the pioneer spirit, and it’s all thanks to Finns. Historians believe that the first log cabins built in North America were in the Swedish colony of Nya Sverige (New Sweden) in the Delaware River and Brandywine River valleys. Many of its colonists were actually Forest Finns, because Finland was part of Sweden at that time.
During the 1860s through to the 1930s, Finns flocked to the American Midwest
In the picture above Minnesota family poses in front of log cabin, 1890.
Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan had a massive influx of Finnish immigrants. Sometimes called the “Great Migration”, it was the largest wave of Finnish immigrants in American history. The Midwest’s healthy mining industry, crop failures in Finland, and Russification were all common factors behind immigration.
Today, most Americans with Finnish ancestry still live in the Midwest
Finnish Salvation army in Finntown of Brooklyn, New York. October 1942.
But that doesn’t mean that Finns only stuck to one place — Finnish immigrants put down roots all over the country. Many so-called “Finntowns” could be found in places like Brooklyn, New York, where 20,000 Finns lived and worked.
Stanton Township, Michigan has the highest percentage of Finnish Americans
Leading technology companies are discovering this area is a good place to locate and conduct business, and that there is a culture that is familiar and welcoming. Finnish ancestors who migrated there to the region decades ago brought a proud heritage, culture and sisu determination to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Many Finnish-American descendants in this region today retain roots to Finland.
In Hancock, Michigan, approximately 40 percent of the population claim Finnish ancestry in the most recent federal census, and the language is still spoken by some. The State of Michigan has the highest percentage and number of Finnish-Americans in the U.S., and most are located in the Upper Peninsula.
In the 2009 Us Census, there were 695,296 Finnish American or 0.23% of the US population, 18.990 Finns live in Florida
There are a surprising number of recognizable names included on the list. Architect and product designer Eero Saarinen emigrated to United States in 1923 when he was thirteen years of age and grew up in Michigan.
The TWA Flight Center, also known as the Trans World Flight Center, is an airport terminal at New York City‘s John F. Kennedy International Airport. The terminal, which opened in 1962, was designed for Trans World Airlines by Eero Saarinen.
Both sauna and the concept of sisu are popular with Finnish Americans
Naturally, certain parts of Finnish culture have been passed down through the generations. Sauna and sisu have not only survived, but thrived. Although most Finnish Americans don’t speak Finnish anymore in the Midwest counties, quite a few words have made it into common usage.
There’s even a Finlandia University
Founded as Suomi College in 1896 by Finnish immigrants, the university was created as a means to help preserve Finnish culture in the United States – which it still does today.
Finnish Americans invented St. Urho’s Day
Originating in the 1950s, St. Urho’s Day (March 16th) was created as a tongue-in-cheek counterpart to St. Patrick’s Day. According to legend, the fictional St. Urho (whose name was influenced by Finland’s president at the time Urho Kekkonen) drove the grasshoppers out of ancient Finland, saving the grape crops. The holiday has caught on in many Finnish-American communities, and there are even statues commemorating the brave St. Urho.
FLORIDA’S FINNISH COMMUNITY
The southern Florida area of Lake Worth, Lantana and their surrounding towns is home to the world’s second-largest Finnish expatriate community. In the year 2000, there were 25,700 people of Finnish descent in southern Florida. In addition there were about 5,000 winter residents or “snowbirds” from Finland, Canada and other parts of the US. Finnish is the fourth most widely-spoken minority language in the Lake Worth-Lantana area after Spanish, Creole and Russian.