Copper Country Finnish Milestones Past & Present


Finnish Americans in Michigan's Upper Peninsula (in Finnish and English)

A video by Tomi Hinkkanen of FINNTIMES. To view the video click here




Michigan's Copper Country

Amerikan Suomalaisten Pesäpaikka


Since the first Finnish copper miners arrived in Hancock in 1865, the area has developed into one of the most significant Finnish ethnic enclaves outside of Finland. It didn’t take long for the Finns to make their mark on the city and its surrounding area, and they’ve continued to influence local culture into the present day, as seen on this timeline:


• 1867: A Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran congregation establishes a church on Quincy Hill north of Hancock. The church, administered by Norwegians, was the first in the area to serve the Finns in the Finnish language.

• 1877: The weekly newspaper Amerikan Suomalainen Lehti is begun in Hancock by Antti Muikku. It was the first Finnish-language newspaper in the United States. The second Finnish newspaper in the U.S., Sven Tuuwa, was also founded in Hancock.

• 1879: Peter Christopher establishes the first Finnish restaurant in Hancock. This restaurant is recognized as the first Finnish business in the city.

• 1885: The Pohjantähti (North Star) Temperance Society forms in Hancock.

• 1890: The Suomen Evankelisluterilainen Kirkko (Suomi Synod) is established in Calumet.

• 1896: Suomi Opisto (now Finlandia University) is founded by Finnish immigrants. It is the only existing institution of higher education in the U.S. founded by Finns.

• 1899: The Nyyrikki Lodge of the Knights of Kaleva is organized in Hancock; the lodge was the third K of K lodge in the U.S.

• 1900: The Finnish Lutheran Book Concern publishing house on the Suomi College campus begins operations. It created several publications such as Amerikan Suometar and Kirkollinen Kalenteri.

• 1913-1914: The 1913 Copper Strike sweeps across the Copper Country, with repercussions that are felt in the community to this day. Most poignantly, the Italian Hall Disaster in Red Jacket (now Calumet) on Christmas Eve claims the lives of 73 individuals, including 55 Finns.

• 1913: Big Louie Moilanen, who stood 8-feet, 3-inches tall and was the tallest man in the world at the time, dies in Hancock.

• 1909-1919: Famed Finnish American singer-songwriter Hiski Salomaa lives in the Copper Country, owning a tailor shop in Hancock.

• 1917: A Finnish hospital is started in East Hancock. The structure burned several decades later.

• 1918: A Finnish Independence Day observance becomes an annual event at Suomi College.

• 1923: World renowned painter Akseli Gallen-Kallela makes a widely-celebrated visit to the Copper Country as an honored guest of Suomi College.

• 1932: The Finnish American Historical Archive is founded at Suomi College. It’s currently the largest collection of Finnish American archival materials in the world.

• 1934: Famed leftist Oscar Corgan, who led the “Karelian Fever” movement when thousands sought a better life in the Soviet Union, leaves with his family from Hancock for Soviet Karelia.

• 1937: Reijo Suojanen, editor of the newspaper Valvoja, begins broadcasting news in Finnish on radio station WHDF of Calumet.

• 1939: Eleven recruits leave Hancock to fight in Finland’s Winter War.

• 1962: The Suomi Synod merges into the Lutheran Church of America. The merger results in the creation of the Suomi Conference as a special interest group in the LCA.

• 1976: President of Finland Urho Kalevi Kekkonen visits Hancock for to the first national festival for Finns in the United States. The celebration was part of the wider United States Bicentennial.

• 1985: Hancock hosts FinnFest USA for the first time.

• 1986: The Finnish Theme Committee is founded in the City of Hancock with the goal of maintaining and strengthening the role of Finnish ethnic culture in the city’s public life.

• 1990: The Finnish American Heritage Center opens on the campus of Suomi College during FinnFest USA, which was hosted by the city for the second time.

• 1995: Hancock Public Schools, in collaboration with high schools across Houghton County, uses distance-learning technology to offer Finnish language as an elective course.

• 1999: Hancock hosts Project 34, a national conference on Finnish identity, simultaneously launching the annual Heikinpäivä Finnish Midwinter Festival.

• 2000: At Finlandia University’s commencement, Prime Minister of Finland Paavo Lipponen delivers the keynote address.

• 2000: The Finnish American Reporter, the most widely circulated newspaper for Finns in North America, is given to Finlandia University by the Työmies Society.

• 2004: President of Finland Tarja Halonen visits Hancock, delivering the commencement address to graduates of Finlandia University.

• 2007: Finnish documentarian Erkki Määttänen and popular musician J. Karjalainen visit the Hancock area, resulting in the creation of multiple documentary films for YLE television as well as three concept albums.

• 2011: The Finnish-American opera Rockland premieres in Finland in June and Houghton in July to capacity audiences. The opera is based on actual events during labor strife in the Upper Michigan town of the same name in the early 1900s.

• 2013: Hancock hosts FinnFest USA for the third time.


A map from the 2000 United States Census showing the Upper Peninsula of Michigan as the area with the largest percentage of people with Finnish background in the nation