The Emigration from Iceland to North America
The Weekly Newsletter - Nr 26
November 29, 2003  Keeping in touch every single week! (almost)
 Indipendence Day
On December 1, 1918, Iceland gained its independence after centuries of colonial rule since the late 13th century, first by Norway and then by Denmark. Growing pressure for independence from Danish rule in the 19th century led to the re-establishment of the Alţingi (parliament) in 1845, free trade in 1855, a constitution in 1874, and Home Rule, with a resident Minister for Iceland in 1904.
The Indipendence Day 1918
In 1915 Iceland received its own flag which could be used domestically, and in 1918 Icelandic and Danish negotiators produced a parliamentary bill which began with the words: "Denmark and Iceland are free and autonomous nations, united under the same King." The Icelandic Alţingi and the Danish Parliament both passed the Act, which was confirmed by a referendum on October 19.
Independence came at a time when Iceland had been dealt a series of heavy blows by nature: the previous winter had been an unusually harsh one, and during the preceding months Mt. Katla
Handcolored Postcard showing
the Mt. Katla eruption in 1918
had erupted with dire results. In addition, an influenza epi- demic (known in Iceland as "the Spanish disease") was raging. Hence the occasion was marked only by a modest ceremony at Government House in Reykjavík on December 1. Iceland was de- clared an independent nation, and the Icelandic flag was raised.
December 1 became Ice- land's National Day, to be superseded by June 17 after the foundation of the republic in 1944. Strangely enough, both December 1 and June 17 are the feasts of the Anglo-Saxon St. Botolph.
December 1 was not widely celebrated in the first years after independence, but the new red, white and blue flag of Iceland was raised that day, which was also a school holiday. On December 1, 1921, the Icelandic Order of the Falcon was established and in the 1920s and 30s, December 1 was the usual occasion for awarding these decorations.
Social gatherings of various kinds were held on December 1, often in schools, and in 1921, students of the University of Iceland adopted December 1 as their own event.
The Order of the Falcon
In 1922, the students celebrated December 1 as National Day, and also launched a fund-raising campaign for a Students' Residence. They produced a hefty book for donations, bound in sealskin, which they called Íslendingabók, the Book of Icelanders, although it came to be known as Selskinna, Sealskin. This book was placed in a prominent position on December 1 each year, for people to sign and pledge donations for the Students' Residence.
Events on Independence Day are organized by the students' union, or by a specially organised committee of students. Marches and meetings were a feature of the day from the start. Ten years after independence, the students first invited an outside speaker to address their meeting, and this tradition has been maintained ever since. The students have listened to speeches from politicians, professors, writers and union leaders.
In 1944, when Iceland broke away from the Danish crown to establish the modern republic, June 17 became National Day but the students opted to maintain their own Independence Day celebration on December 1. Since 1944 December 1 has been an official flag day.

Ref. Árni Björnsson: "High Days and Holidays in Iceland"

 Silent Flashes
From Nelson Gerrard came an interesting mail which I forward to you and ask you to consider.
"Sćll Hálfdan Thanks for your latest newsletter. There's always something interesting in them. I thought you and the readers might enjoy seeing a photo of Sigurjona Johannsdottir Bergmann and her first child, born in Dakota Territory. The photo was taken in Dakota before 1890. Sigurjona lived to a ripe old age and became the mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother of many.
(Sigurjona Johannsdottir was mentioned in my last Newsletter as one of the persons who praised the accomodation onboard SS Circassia. Hálfdan.)
This is just one of hundreds of vintage photos from the 1880's and 1890's that will be featured in Thogul Leiftur (Silent Flashes) - an upcoming exhibit and book about photography of and by Icelandic immigrants in North America during the period 1870-1910. The exhibit is slated to open at Hofsos on the first weekend of June, 2004, so I'm busy working on it and the book this winter. I was fortunate to be granted a sabbatical for this purpose.
Most of the photos that will be used are from my collection here at Eyrarbakki - as is the one of Sigurjona - but I have also been seeking out old photos wherever they can be found, in North America and Iceland, and I would really like to hear from anyone who has either a few or many old pictures. I can date old photos fairly accurately by their appearance, the name of the photographer, and other clues - and if there are photos with no names, I can also sometimes identify the people. Either way, some photos would be worth including in the exhibit and book even if we don't necessarily know the names of the people - so long as we know they are Icelandic. If anyone would like to consult about old photos, I would be happy to hear from them, and possibly we could include some of these pictures in the projects. Regular photo copies would be fine for purposes of identification or assessment for inclusion - but only photos from before 1910 (no postcard style photos or pictures in folders were made during that era). Feel free to contact me by email or phone (204-378-2758) or regular mail (Box 925, Arborg, Manitoba R0C 0A0 Canada)."

I'm sure that the readers of the Newsletter are eager to assist Nelson Gerrard by informing about old family treasures.

 Icelandic National League
The Icelandic National League or Ţjóđrćknisfélag Íslands was founded 1 December 1939. The aim was, and still is, to establish and cultivate cultural and social connections between Icelanders and people of Icelandic origin in North America.
The general meeting for 2003 will be held later this afternoon, November 29 in Reykjavík. The former president of Icelandic National League in N-America, Mrs. Sigrid Johnson will address the meeting and so will Mr. Curtis Olafson, president of the INL-chapter in N-Dakota.
The writer Vidar Hreinsson will read from his book about the well known Stephan G. Stephanson (Newsletter #3), the historian Jónas Ţór gives a report about his lectures of the Icelandic settlements in N-America, Almar Grímsson informs about the Snorri West Program and Wincie Jóhannsdóttir will tell about the Emigration Center at Hofsós and the Canadian governor Mrs. Adrienne Clarkson's visit there.

Settler of the Week

Guđmundur Hjartarson

Sigrún Eiríksdóttir

Gudmundur and Sigrun Hjart- arson came to Canada from southem Iceland in the early summer of 1913. Gudmundur was born 26 Sep 1872 on the farmstead of Austurhlid in the district of Biskupstungum in the county of Árnessysla. Sigrun was born 20 Feb 1885 on the farmstead of Midbyli in the district of Skeidum in the county of Arnessysla.
Gudmundur and Sigrún Hjart- arson brought their three oldest children, Sigridur, Hjortur, and Olafur with them. The two youngest children, Gudrún, 17 months old, and Hjortur, 4 months old, were left with relatives in Iceland. It was decided that they were too young to make the arduous and, potentially hazardous, trip across the Atlantic.
The Hjartarson family lived in Westbourne, Manitoba, during the first year in Canada and in 1914 the family moved to the Asham Point district, Manitoba, later renamed Bay End.
Gudmundur and Sigrun took a homestead and they and their family lived the next ten years in Asham Point. Four children were born in the district. They were, Eyvindur, Aud- bjorg, Eirikur and Gudmundur.
Gudmundur Hjartarson died 6 Sep 1942 and Sigrun passed away 22 June 1970.

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