Frederick Hale


Danish emigration, Rasmus Sorensen, Danish-American, Denmark


Probably no individual played a more seminal role in the limited Danish emigration to North America before and during the Civil War than Rasmus Sorensen. From the late 1840s until the early 1860s this author, educator, politician, and social reformer led three groups of his countrymen to Wisconsin and, through numerous booklets, speeches, and letters encouraged others to settle elsewhere in the United States and Canada. Yet Sorensen has generally been little more than a supernumerary in the historiography of this transatlantic migration. Its pioneering historian, Peter Sorensen Vig, devoted twelve pages to him in his mammoth compendium, a dozen more than John Bille allowed him in his disjoint narrative of 1896. Arne Hall Jensen described Sorensen 's life in two paragraphs in 1937, giving various biographical details without interpreting their significance. There is little to indicate that the recent revival of interest in the Danish-American field will reverse this long tradition of neglect. In his monumental study of emigration from Denmark, Kristian Hvidt relates his activities in a scant paragraph, perhaps justifiably, because Sorensen 's lifespan fell completely outside Hvidt's chronological framework.