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Scandinavian Immigrants

In 1876, the Scandinavian Immigration and Aid Society was formed in Seattle to encourage migration to Washington State from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland. Most early settlers were farmers, loggers, miners, fishermen or carpenters; the women found work as domestics or seamstresses. In the early 1900s, Scandinavians were the largest foreign-born ethnic group in the Pacific Northwest.

Norwegians congregated in Ballard, which became a magnet for all Scandinavians. Today the neighborhood retains its unique cultural roots. Scandinavians had a major hand in shaping Seattle and all of Washington State. A group of prominent Swedes founded Swedish Hospital in 1910, and Norwegian transplants Thea and Andrew Foss began their Foss Tugboat empire in the late 1800s. Other influential Scandinavian immigrants include retailer John Nordstrom, banker Andrew Chilberg, insurance company founder George Bruhn, and gardener Egon Molbak. The University of Washington’s Scandinavian Department, created in 1909, is the largest such university department in the U.S.

Floe Family portrait.jpg
Andrew Floe and famly, Norwegian Americans, Florence, Washington, 1923. By 1910, Scandinavian immigrants were the largest foreign-born group in our state. More than a third of them were from Norway.