© 2024 WVIK
Listen at 90.3 FM and 98.3 FM in the Quad Cities, 95.9 FM in Dubuque, or on the WVIK app!
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

New Scandinavia

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

When the Swedish traveler, Fredricka Bremer, reached St. Paul on October 25th, 1849, she realized in a moment that she had been looking for Utopia in all the wrong places: Philadelphia, Chicago, Milwaukee. Looking across the landscape of the brand-new Territory of Minnesota, her idealism finally met its match.

"What a glorious new Scandinavia might not Minnesota become," she wrote in her journal." Here all the Scandinavians might live and seek nobler employments than the old Vikings. Of course, it would need a bit of work, first, to accommodate the Norwegians.

Fortunately, Miss Bremer was prepared to think big. She could see that the Swedes and the Danes would be content with Minnesota as it was. The Swedes would have their romantic lakes, and plains rich with corn. The Danes would find pastures for their flocks and herds. Minnesota could provide the Norwegians with a New Vinland: all the small islands in the Mississippi River full of wild grapes. But those Norwegians were a stubborn people. They wouldn't be satisfied without an assortment of rushing rivers and an ocean for their fisheries. And the Norse gods would not emigrate to America at all if there were no mountains in which to locate New Valhalla.

Miss Bremer had a plan. The western border of Minnesota would have to expand until it included the Rocky Mountains, Oregon, and the Pacific Coast. What a new Scandinavian kingdom it will be, the traveler wrote. The Rocky Mountains will fill with mythological monsters, giants, and witches and gods in combat. She imagined Balder in fresh warfare with Loki until his victory sends the serpent, Midgard, to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean—at least until Ragnarök, the end of the world.

When Miss Bremer had finished improving Minnesota in her imagination, she could brag that "no other American state had as beautiful a future before it as Minnesota."

And where would all the Germans, Irish, and English go who had already moved to St. Paul or Montana or Oregon? Fredricka Bremer didn't worry about that. There would be plenty of picturesque real estate lying empty just Northeast of England.

Rock Island Lines with Roald Tweet is underwritten by the Scott County Regional Authority, with additional funding from the Illinois Arts Council and Augustana College, Rock Island.

Beginning 1995, historian and folklorist Dr. Roald Tweet spun his stories of the Mississippi Valley to a devoted audience on WVIK. Dr. Tweet published three books as well as numerous literary articles and recorded segments of "Rock Island Lines." His inspiration was that "kidney-shaped limestone island plunked down in the middle of the Mississippi River," a logical site for a storyteller like Dr. Tweet.