Uusi Kotimaa (New York Mills, Minn.) 1884-1934 Browse the title
The origins of the Minnesota Finnish-language newspaper the Uusi Kotimaa (The New Homeland) are unclear. Finnish immigrant August Nylund apparently established the newspaper in Minneapolis sometime between 1880 and 1882, but they all agree that it moved to New York Mills in Ottertail County in 1884. The Uusi Kotimaa started out as a four-page weekly printed in a Fraktur Finnish font. It was a conservative newspaper that included articles about religion. The Uusi Kotimaa changed its editorial focus several times over the years, and it soon became one of the leading Finnish-language newspapers in the United States.
Finnish immigrants began to arrive in southern Minnesota in 1864. Settlement shifted to central part of the state, and after 1880, with the development of mining, to Minnesota’s “Iron Range.” Finnish families moving to central-western Minnesota in the 1870s settled around New York Mills in Otter Tail County, a region known for lumber and later for farming and the dairy industry. By the 1890s, Finnish settlements spread to the nearby towns of Sebeka and Menahga (Wadena County) and Wolf Lake or Susijärvi (Becker County). New York Mills was considered a “Finntown” with its full complement of Finnish churches, businesses, and cooperatives. An article “A Finnish Settlement in Minnesota” in the March 1889 issue of the magazine The Northwest, describes a Finnish population of 4,000 in New York Mills and the surrounding region of Otter Tail, Wadena, and Becker counties.
In 1888, August Nylund moved the Uusi Kotimaa to Astoria, Oregon, seeking a larger Finnish readership and more financial support. J.W. (Johan Wilhelm) Lähde, a Lutheran pastor in the Augustana Synod and the editor of the Uusi Kotimaa, bought the paper’s type and printing press and started a new weekly, the Amerikan Suometar (“American Finn”). However, by 1890 Nylund had returned to New York Mills and reestablished the Uusi Kotimaa, absorbing the Suometar. Lähde resumed his position as editor. August Nylund died on December 12, 1892, and his sons, Felix and August Ferdinand, continued to publish the paper. Lähde remained editor until 1894 when he left New York Mills. The Uusi Kotimaa then continued under a succession of editors, including Felix Nylund, until Lähde returned around 1900.
By 1896, the subscription list of the Uusi Kotimaa was 4,120. The paper boasted of its appeal to advertisers, noting that its large readership extended to 38 states. By 1916, the paper’s circulation had grown to 9,000. At that time, Uusi Kotimaa was considered independent Republican, reporting on national, international, and Finnish news. It also provided coverage of Finnish communities throughout the region, obituary notices, and advertisements.
In 1919, Nylund sold the Uusi Kotimaa to the People’s Voice Cooperative Publishing Company, subsidized by the Nonpartisan League. At that time the paper’s political orientation became extremely radical. Lähde left the paper in 1921. He had previously expressed the view that the Uusi Kotimaa should not be a party organ, but instead impartially report the news.
In 1923, Finnish-Americans in the Communist Party purchased the Uusi Kotimaa and a well-known party member, K. E. Heikkinen, became its editor. Thereafter, the Uusi Kotimaa became a radical farmer-labor publication with national and local news and topical articles following the Communist Party’s line. Its focus gradually shifted to promoting the interests of industrial workers, although one page of content in each issue remained geared toward farmers.
In 1931, Usui Kotimaa moved to Superior, Wisconsin, where it was published weekly by Työmies Kustannusyhtiö (Työmies Publishing Company). Facing financial difficulties, the paper ceased publication around 1934. The Minnesotan Uutiset (Minnesota News), another Finnish-language newspaper based in New York Mills, published an “obituary” for the Uusi Kotimaa, observing that its service to the Finnish community in New York Mills and throughout the United States had been “far reaching and of great value.”