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Major Valentine's Swedes

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In 1890, Vermont's Commissioner of Agricultural and Manufacturing Interests, Alonzo B. Valentine, launched a program to repopulate Vermont's 'abandoned' farms with farmers recruited from Scandinavia. The program brought a handful of Swedes to three towns in the state, was immediately discontinued, and generally has been dismissed, both by contemporaries and by historians, as a preposterous fiasco. But, in fact, the program had a remarkable legacy, both in terms of its impact on the promotion of summer tourism, and as measured by the subsequent lives of the Swedes and their descendants, many of whom remain in Vermont to this day. In this talk, Paul Searls will explore the bizarre and ironic story of Vermont's Swedish colonists, what the program has to teach us about that transitional era in Vermont's history, whether the program brilliantly accomplished what Valentine hoped for it all along, and what we can learn about twentieth-century Vermont as the Swedes became Vermonters. This program is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Samuel B. Hand.

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