In this part of our blog series 'Finns in the United States', the Honorary Consul of Pennsylvania Kristina Mattila shares information of the Finnish-American community in her area.
Finns and Swedes were among the very first immigrants to America. They arrived on year 1638 to the Delaware Valley on theKalmar Nyckel colonial ship. At that time, an independent country of Finland did not exist, Finland was part of the Swedish Empire. One historical assumption is that majority of the newcomers were in reality Finnish subjects, who were among the poorest subjects in then-Sweden and who were tired of the wars taking place in their land.
At their arrival the native inhabitants in Delaware Valley were Lenape Indians. Based on historical research, the Finnish people got along with them due to similar interests, such as going to sauna and burning the forests for farming (a practice in Finnish called “kaskeaminen”).
Estimated number of Finns / Finnish-Americans living in the area:
There are no official statistics on the number of Finnish people living in the area. One estimate could be as high as 400, based on the number of members of the Finnish American Society in Delaware Valley (FASDV) and visitors coming to the area as exchanged students to study, do research or teach in one of the 102 universities in the area. Also, there are several Finnish people working in Philadelphia area mainly for the pharmaceutical and financial companies.
Local Finnish/ Finnish-American organizations/clubs/associations/societies in the area:
Local Finnish themed activities/festivals/celebrations:
Finnish American Society in Delaware Valley organizes the annual Christmas Party, Mid-Summer Celebration, Fall Picnic, and the 1638 Monument Ceremony commemorating the first Finnish settlers in the Delaware Valley.
In connection with the organization, there is Suomi-Koulu (“Finland School”) for children currently aged between three and 13-years old. In addition to teaching the language, the school helps to keep Finnish culture and heritage alive by teaching facts about Finland, national songs, folk dances and games.
Finns have cooperation with several non-profit organizations such as American Swedish Historical Museum providing facilities for Finnish activities. In addition to the local Chamber of Commerce, Finns are also members of Swedish and Norwegian Chamber of Commerces and other non-profit organizations.
Local Finnish/Finnish American Companies in the area:
Both Philadelphia and Pennsylvania are very actively involved in providing assistance for the international companies.
In accordance with the information provided by the Pennsylvania Office of International Business Development, there are several smaller Finnish companies but the biggest ones are Metso Minerals Industries, Alcatel-Lucent USA, and American Hydro Corporation.
The State of Pennsylvania imports 27 times more than it exports to Finland. The products are pharmaceutical, paper, optic, photo medical and surgical devices, industrial machinery, including computers and electric and sound equipments.
Famous Finns/Finnish-Americans in the area:
The most famous pre-Revolutionary Finn in the Delaware Valley is also a Founding Father of the United States. John Morton, a Finnish immigrant from Rautalampi, provided the swing vote for the Pennsylvania delegation to sign the the Declaration of Independence in 1776.
Text by: Kristina Mattila, Honorary Consul of Finland, Pennsylvania