Jared L. Schmidt is a PhD candidate in Folklore Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His research interests include heritage, museums, folk art, and foodways. Jared is currently writing his dissertation about working as a costumed interpreter at the living history farm, Old World Wisconsin.

By This Author:

Front side of Norwegian genealogical plaque

OBJECT HISTORY: Norwegian Genealogical Plaque

In 1879, Hans Gunther Magelssen approached a jeweler in Oslo, Norway to have him make a gift for his granddaughter-in-law, Sara Magelssen. Into the backside of a 9.5” diameter wooden plaque the jeweler inset a 5 Øre coin. While beautiful, what sets this object apart is what is inscribed on the back of the plaque around the coin – the Magelssen family genealogy.

People posing in front of the Norwegian Luthern Church in Juneau

Norwegian Communities in Wisconsin

When Norwegian immigrants like Kristian Magelssen came to Wisconsin in the 1860s, they found an incredibly active Norwegian Lutheran Church. Comprised of fourteen distinct synods often divided by theology, these institutions provided a foundational compass for constructing and maintaining a sense Norwegian American cultural identity.

A Norwegian girl in traditional dress

Norwegian Women Immigrants

Norwegian women played a vital role in the agricultural and social lives of rural communities. Spurred by a cultural acceptance of work, women on the farm took on both domestic chores and contributed to the family’s economy through production of food and material goods.

The facade of the Emigranten newspaper office in downtown Madison

The Emigranten and Other Norwegian-Language Papers

The Norwegian-language press published sixty different periodicals across Wisconsin throughout the 19th century. One of the earliest, and arguably most influential, of these Norwegian newspapers was Emigranten (The Emigrant), whose office is seen above at the corner of Webster St. and King St. in Madison.