emigration history, immigrant letters, Denmark, propaganda for emigration


The title of this paper is two-sided. The private letter is an important source for understanding the psychological and human aspects of immigration. It is also important to note that until recently historians have shown much too little interest in the documents from the immigrants themselves. My hypothesis, which I intend to discuss here, is that the private letter was the most important stimulating pull-factor in immigration history. In certain periods a call for USA was put forward in most letter series. Praising various aspects of American life, private letters were written to draw relatives or friends across the Atlantic. In this way the private letter created a sort of consensus among the public as well as among historians that emigration history to press the point was a history of success. But this is in no way true. Reading between the lines of letters praising America one finds the desolated lonely immigrant tumbling around in a world so different from what he was used to at home surrounded by family and friends. The lack of security and immediate success caused the constant appeal for emigration included in the letters. The method was to stress the innummerable possibilities in the new world.