Nordic Immigrants in Alexandria, VA



Map of Nordic countries. Image from the Nordic Documentation on the Liberation Struggle in Southern Africa.

This project will concentrate on Nordic immigration to the city of Alexandria, Virginia from 1900 to 1930. The Nordic countries consist of Norway, Finland, Denmark, Iceland, and Sweden (NOTE: no immigrants from Iceland will be part of this project). Nordic  immigration to the United States largely occurred between the years 1850 to 1920. In Alexandria, Nordics largely came to work in the ship building industry. To this end, the practice of “ship jumping” among young men led to the development of Nordic populations on the Eastern Seaboard of the United States. In Alexandria, the Virginia Shipbuilding Corporation was a significant “pull” factor” and provided economic opportunity for many, skilled Nordic workers.

Nordic people for several reasons did not migrate to the U.S. South. First, the major Eastern port cities in the nineteenth century were largely located in the Northeast. Baltimore, Boston, New York City, and other similar locations were common ports of arrival for Nordic immigrants. Second, Nordic immigrants did not settle in the South because of the climate.  The Nordic countries are fairly close to the Arctic Circle (with the possible exception of Denmark).  The American Midwest, by contrast, was very similar in climate, particularly Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.  Third was the concern about the number of Catholics in southern port cities, especially New Orleans.  The Midwest was seen as a more suitable location because of the large number of Protestants, especially German Lutherans. Finally, Nordic immigrants were largely farmers who hoped to own land and start restart their own farms in the U.S. Many descendants of Norwegian, Danish, Swedish and Finnish immigrant farmers can still be found today in these Midwestern farming communities.


The thesis for this research is as follows: economic decline across the Nordic region drove individuals and families to immigrate to the United States. Young Nordic men settled in Alexandria, Virginia because of the ample work opportunities provided by the Virginia Shipbuilding Corporation during World War I. However, these immigrants left Alexandria after the Virginia Shipbuilding Corporation closed in 1922.


1. Introduction 2. Why the Swedes Left 3. Why the Danes Left 4. Why the Finns Left 5. Why the Norwegians Left 6. The Virginia Shipbuilding Corporation 7. Work in Alexandria 8. Living in Alexandria 9. Conclusion 10. Bibliography

About Us

This project was composed by David Hommer and Jasmine Garner. David concentrated his research on the context for Nordic immigration before they left their homelands. Jasmine focused on Nordic immigrants while they resided in Alexandria.

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