Secondary Source Struggles

Chandler, Joan. “Newport’s Finnish People.” Accessed September 6, 2017. http://www.soonipi.com/TheFinns.html.

As it turns out, Patrick and I have to make some more trips to the historical society as well as the archives in the near future to get hold of most of our secondary sources. However, thanks to the world of online shopping, we both have copies of The Finns in Newport, New Hampshire by Olli Turpeinen, our chief secondary source, on their way to us in the mail. That means we have yet to obtain them ourselves, and this was the source I had hoped to investigate, but in the meantime I decided to read “Newport’s Finnish People” by Joan Chandler, who uses Turpeinen in much of the article which discusses the Finnish people and their migration and lifestyle in Newport, New Hampshire who largely arrived in the 1880’s[1].

Chandler’s thesis was unclear and because I know that the author relied heavily on Turpeinen’s work, I would prefer to review The Finn’s in Newport, New Hampshire before using this source to report heavily on the Finns in this area. Nonetheless, I did find a few interesting bits of information that are worth sharing. One of these is something my COPLAC class has talked about, specifically as our colleague Amy Schmidgall has some background knowledge on the subject. The subject is that of Finnish names, “Because their names were difficult for others to pronounce, the Finns often took on more “American-sounding” names. “Bill Johnson” might once have been “Yrjo Liimatainen!”[2] Amy had informed our class that the Finnish tend to have eccentric and unusual names to Americans and she was not lying. It is thought provoking that the Finnish so often changed their names to more easily assimilate into American culture. It is important to note that the Finnish were one of the European migrating groups that were understood to be more assimilable, and thus, desirable to Americans, and still, they had to sacrifice parts of their culture to appropriately join the self-proclaimed, American “Melting Pot”.

Chandler also wrote about the political position of many Finns in New Hampshire. Again, I am going to refer to Turpeinen’s book before I discuss Chandler’s work in more detail. One thing Chandler wrote that intrigued me, though, about the Finns, “It was becoming uncomfortable to be (or admit to being) a Communist. One local Communist laborer was said to have applied for US citizenship. The FBI, investigating his background, interviewed the man’s employer, George Dorr. Mr. Dorr said he didn’t wish to fire the man because he was an excellent worker.” Again, it is interesting to me that it is possible that a Finnish man was investigated due to his ties to a political party, specifically because the Finnish may have influences from Russia. These are patterns that we still see today in American society. The acceptance of migrants is dependent on how assimilable they are.

[1] Joan Chandler, “Newport’s Finnish People,” accessed September 6, 2017, http://www.soonipi.com/TheFinns.html.

[2] Ibid., Chandler.

2 Replies to “Secondary Source Struggles”

  1. A very nice evaluation of this article. The political leanings of the Finns in N.H. may have resulted in the generation of good documentation of their lives. Following on this angle could yield significant information. Note the caption on the photograph of the Finnish Socialist Hall for example — there is a story there…perhaps one that reaches back across the Atlantic and forward in the USA.

    1. Thank you, Professor Dunn. Your leads regarding the photo captions has certainly brought us valuable new insights, and we are excited to continue this hunt for Finnish history in New Hampshire!

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