Immigration to the US from the Scandinavian countries of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Finland increased dramatically in the late 19th century, due to mounting economic pressures and overpopulation. In the late 1860s, for example, Sweden was struck by crop failures and famines that stimulated massive emigration. High unemployment and a lack of open land for new farms caused increasing numbers of Norwegians and Danes to emigrate to the US. The Homestead Act of 1862, which gave free land to settlers who developed it for at least five years, was a particular magnet for Norwegians, Danes, and Swedes. Facing internal political instability as well as persecution by the Russian government, Finns in large numbers began to emigrate to the US at the beginning of the 20th century.
Scandinavian immigrants settled primarily in the Midwest. Norwegians favored Minnesota, Wisconsin, and North Dakota. Danes settled primarily in the agricultural regions of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, and Kansas, while Swedes settled across the entire upper Midwest. Finns built their new lives on the farms and lumber mills of the upper Midwest, the mines of the West, and the factories of the industrial Northeast: Michigan was the heartland of Finnish America.
Though not as numerous as German or Irish immigrants, Scandinavians still arrived in massive numbers. 1,000,000 Swedes (1868–1914), 800,000 Norwegians (1825–1925), 300,000 Danes (1820–1920), and 230,000 Finns (1890–1924) forever transformed the culture of the American Midwest.