Conditions in Norway
Rift over bread In the years after 1815, the population of Norway grew stronger than ever before. Mortality dropped, and more children grew up. From 1810 to 1865, the country’s population doubled – from 882,000 to 1.7 million. In the 1820s, very many children were born, and when they grew up and had to find work in the 1840s, they stood in line to find work. There was a “rift about the bread”. In the 1850s, a new large group of children entered the labor market in the 1870s and 80s.
Norway was an agricultural country at this time, and the strong population growth required that the land was used to the maximum. Although production in the primary industries – agriculture, fishing and forestry – increased sharply, this could not prevent the situation from deteriorating for more and more people. That was the reason why as many as 78,000 people emigrated to America between 1825 and 1865, in search of a better life for themselves and their families. They came from all corners of the country, but most were from Western Norway and Eastern Norway.
American fever Sluppefolket and Cleng Peerson did not create much interest in emigration. It was not until 1836 that emigration became an annual phenomenon. That summer, 167 people traveled from Stavanger with the sailing ships Den norske Klippe and Norden. From 1843, more than 1,000 people went to America each year.
“America letter” with news from friends and acquaintances was the most important way people got information about America. Among the most famous letter writers is Gjert Gregoriussen Hovland, who emigrated in 1831 and settled in Kendall. The publication of travel guides and stories of people who returned home also brought the news of the Promised Land. Together, this helped create a kind of “America fever”.
The emigration started in Stavanger and spread further along the coast and inland. Most came from the fjord areas in Western Norway and the inner mountain villages in Eastern Norway, such as Telemark and Numedal. They were mainly farmers who had sold their farms to finance the trip. From the 1850s, more and more homesteaders and poor farmers left. It was families who intended to find a new home in America.