Danish Ohioans

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Danish Brotherhood in America twentieth national convention.jpg
Danish Brotherhood in America twentieth national convention, September 18-22, 1939, in Hotel Sherman, Chicago, Illinois : [Souvenir program]

Numerous Ohioans are descended from Danish ancestors. Today, Danish Ohioans continue to enhance Ohio's cultural and social landscape.

During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, millions of immigrants migrated to the United States of America, hoping to live the American Dream. Before the American Civil War, most immigrants arrived in the United States from Great Britain, Germany, and Ireland. By the 1880s, the home countries of immigrants began to change. Many of the new immigrants to arrive in the United States came from Eastern or Northern European countries, like Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Poland, Hungary, Lithuania, and Czechoslovakia, rather than from Western European countries.

In 1860, 328,249 immigrants lived in Ohio. These people accounted for fourteen percent of the state's population. By 1900, the number of immigrants in Ohio rose to 458,734, but the percentage of the population that was foreign-born declined to eleven percent. Most of these immigrants in 1900 came from Germany, Great Britain, and Ireland, yet a growing number of Eastern and Northern Europeans were also migrating to the state.

In 1900, approximately two thousand Danish immigrants resided in Ohio. Most of these Danes settled along Lake Erie, especially in Cleveland and Ashtabula, where they found low-paying jobs in factories or worked as day laborers. Many Danes also worked as sailors or fishermen. Immigrants who were more successful established businesses that supplied their fellow migrants with traditional Danish products. In 1930, approximately seven hundred Danes lived in Cleveland alone. At first, the Danish immigrants tended to settle in their own communities, preferring to live among people who shared similar cultural beliefs and spoke the same language as they did.

Most Danish immigrants arrived in the United States prior to World War II. Over the succeeding decades, Ohio's traditional Danish communities began to lose their cohesiveness and many Danish communities began to disintegrate. Many Danes moved into other communities, while non-Danes began to infiltrate the traditionally Danish neighborhoods. Second and third generation Danes also preferred the more open and free lifestyle of Americans, apposed to their traditional and more conservative customs and beliefs. By the 1930s, the Danish language was no longer used in the various Danish churches established in northeastern Ohio.

Today, Danish Ohioans participate in various social and cultural groups that serve to promote and support Danish beliefs and customs.  The Danish Brotherhood maintains an identity in Ohio.  The Scandinavian Club in Columbus and in Cincinnati, representing Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Iceland, celebrate their heritage with monthly cultural events highlighting traditional holidays, cooking, literature, and history.

See Also


  1. Van Tassel, David D., and John J. Grabowski, eds. The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996.