Early Chicago, 1833–1871
A Selection of Documents from the Illinois State Archives

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January 12, 1870

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In 1870, Chicago inhabitants included 6,374 residents born in Norway, 6,154 born in Sweden, and 1,243 born in Denmark. In total these Scandinavians were 9.53 percent of the foreign-born population and 4.61 percent of the whole population. Although most were employed in manufacturing and mechanical industries, substantial numbers were in domestic service, followed by the transportation industry, and then by various trades.

It was common for ethnic groups to form protection and assistance societies to help newly arrived immigrants find employment and housing. There were many unscrupulous agents available to cheat the unworldly and newly arrived immigrant. The first Scandinavian aid society was founded in 1854. By 1870, the Chicago Swedish community was the largest in the country. Most lived in the North Division in an area bounded by Chicago, Division, Larabee, and Franklin streets. An employment agency was referred to as an "intelligence office." The petition for a free license was not granted.

Points to Consider

What was the purpose of the Scandinavian Emigrant Association?

Why did the Danes, Norwegians, and Swedes band together?

What was an intelligence office?

Why would one have emigrated from Scandinavia to this country

See Related Document:

8, 17, 23, 27, and 48

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