Data from the 1920 U.S. Census shows that Scandinavian immigrants to Alexandria fit two trends. First, census data shows that Scandinavian migration was one largely of single men working in shipbuilding and related industries. Furthermore, because they came without families, these men tended to live in boarding houses with those of similar ethnic background or occupation.
The majority of Scandinavian immigrants were single men in 1920 Alexandria. Out of the 91 Scandinavian immigrants recorded as living in Alexandria in 1920, only 36% of these immigrants were married. Furthermore, only 21% of those recorded were women. There were few families listed, and only 6 families were recorded as living in their own homes. As shown by the table below, these Scandinavian men generally lived in boarding houses with other employees of the Virginia Shipbuilding Company.
Large numbers of Scandinavian immigrants, especially Norwegians, came to the United States and gained employment in the shipbuilding industry. As David C. Mauk states in The Colony that Rose from the Sea: Norwegian Maritime Migration and Community in Brooklyn (1850-1910), there was a “great expansion of commercial shipping” along the Eastern Seaboard between 1850 to the early 1920s, which played a critical role in drawing immigrants to the U.S.1 Scandinavian immigrants recorded in this census were entirely employed by only one shipyard. The Virginia Shipyard contributed to the war effort by building naval ships during World War I and commercial ships after the war.2 For example, the Virginia Shipyard employed all of those living at 121 South Pitt Street and 409 Prince Street. Boarding houses proved to be useful to Scandinavian immigrants in the early twentieth century, who needed someone to care for their domestic needs, but wanted to live with those of similar cultural background and go to work together.
Boarding Home Tenants
|531 South Royal||Pallender, Allen||Finland||bolter|
|Christensen, Peter B||Denmark||bolter|
|120 Wolf Street||Ambrose, William||Sweden||rigger|
|114 Prince Street||Olsen, John||Sweden||bolter|
|121 South Pitt Street||Underdunk, Michael||Norway||reamer|
|409 Prince Street||Randa, Bennie||Finland||rigger|
|427 North St. Asaph Street||Elkland, Alfred||Sweden||carpenter|
|1010 Prince Street||Knutson, Knut||Norway||boilmaker|
1 David Mauk, The Colony that Rose from the Sea: Norwegian Maritime Migration and Community in Brooklyn, 1850-1910 (Northfield: The Norwegian-American Historical Association, 1997), 4.
2 http://alexandriava.gov/HeritageTrail#Shipyard Trail (accessed October 9, 2014).