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List of Norwegian Americans

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This is a list of notable Norwegian Americans, including both original immigrants who obtained American citizenship and their American descendants.

The list is ordered by category of human endeavour. Persons with significant contributions in two fields are listed in both of the pertinent categories, to facilitate easy lookup.

To be included in this list, the person must have a Wikipedia article showing they are Norwegian American or must have references showing they are Norwegian American and are notable.

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • ✪ What is Norway's Prison System Like?
  • ✪ Norway - The Basic Language
  • ✪ I answer most asked questions about Norway
  • ✪ Top 10 Scary American Urban Legends


This exploration was made possible by Skillshare, a community with over 25,000 classes to keep you learning. Starting in 2015, mainstream news outlets began running indignant headlines. The basic point: a criminal in Norway was living in a prison cell with far too lavish conditions. And this wasn’t just any criminal. This prisoner had taken the lives of 77 people and injured over 300 more in Oslo, Norway’s capital city, and on a nearby island. I won’t state the perpetrator’s name, and I’ll obscure his face in this video. Source one in the description has information about a memorial building for some of the victims (1). Suffice it to say this was an extraordinarily dangerous prisoner, one who had caused much suffering, and one deserving of punishment. That’s why news outlets ran often sarcastic and sensationalist headlines pointing out what they saw as the luxurious lifestyle he was afforded in his Norwegian prison cell: he had a treadmill, a computer, video games, a TV. And it wasn’t merely one cell, but three attached together for extra space. And after all the scars he left on Norwegian society, and all the amenities he was provided, he and his lawyers had the audacity to claim the conditions of his sentence were ‘violating his human rights’ (2). The Xbox and daytime television weren’t enough; Norwegian authorities needed to do more; a lower court even agreed before being overturned on appeal (3). And so it’s easy to see why this was a slam-dunk series of headlines for editors: a terrible crime, ‘softy’ European justice, and a dangerous criminal complaining in front of a judge about plasticware and cold prison coffee (4). But Norway’s public and many family members left behind didn’t call for harsher punishment (5). In fact, inside of Norway it continues to be standard practice to simply ignore this man and leave his handling to the professionals of the criminal justice system. Which leads us to the big question: why? Why does Norway treat prisoners, even the worst among them, in this way (and often far better)? The conditions of this man’s imprisonment open the door to a better understanding of Norway’s prison system, a system which can seem radically forgiving, even to those on the inside. This is the story of a nation which looks at the bigger picture, even when the world watches with exasperation. Norway’s prisons are often characterized as the ‘nicest’ and ‘most humane’ in the world (6). Visitors and journalists familiar with more punitive systems are usually struck by the open feel, integration with nature, and open spaces where prison staff and inmates comingle. But it hasn’t always been like this. In the late 1800’s Norway’s prisons followed a model of isolation, what you could call the ‘water, bunk, and bible method’. Prisoners lived in solitary cells as a means of introspection, to contemplate their sin and to examine their relationship with God (7). They would be subject to regular visits from a priest for discussions of the soul, and their religious knowledge would be measured upon admittance and release. While ineffective, the Lutheran brand of justice planted some seeds for the future. First, because crime was seen as sin, and sin was a shared vice of all humans, the inmates were not seen as separate from society at-large; rather, they were souls in need of redemption. Second, daily visitations and regular contact with clergy made priests a sort of rudimentary social worker. The first half of the 20th century saw major shifts in the conditions and infrastructure of prison life in Norway. The first ‘prison colonies’, ‘camp-like’ shared facilities, appeared in 1912 (7). Church attendance was no longer compulsory, and prison staff started looking at mental health rather than inmate piety. But the mindset of the system was still punitive. Inmates were seen as deficient citizens, and their rights were curtailed accordingly. A couple things started to change this mindset. The first was the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948. Its first article read: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” While most nations dismissed the declaration as unenforceable, it was taken seriously in Norway over the next 70 years (9). And with that in the background, a more radical series of groups in Scandinavia sought the abolition of prison generally. In the 60’s in Sweden, the National Swedish Association for Penal Reform, or KRUM, in Denmark it was The Association for a Humane Penal Policy, KRIM, and in Norway it was the Norwegian Association for Penal Reform, KROM. KRUM, KRIM, and KROM sought short-term goals of ending pre-trial detention, ending the imprisonment of minors, and ending the control of post sent in and out of prison (10). The reform movement also placed the concept of prison ‘normalization’ on the table. Inmates weren’t deficient, said the reformers, they were equal parts of society, temporarily removed, yet destined to return to the outside world. Therefore, they were ‘equal in dignity and rights’ just like those outside the prison walls. But it wasn’t until decades later that elected officials began to take action on these principles. Saddled with increasing incarceration rates in the 80’s and 90’s, the government published a series of white papers proposing a major overhaul of the prison system. The first in 1997 was called “A Paradigm Shift”, and proposed changes for prison staff. Guards were not only there for security, like digging through prisoner cells or breaking up fights; they were social workers as well, educated with a two-year specialized degree in law, human rights, criminology, psychology, and ethics. Their role wasn’t only to make sure prisoners served ‘time for the crime’, but also responsible for preventing future crime, lowering the recidivism rate, the percentage of inmates who reoffend after finishing their sentence. Like the priests in the 1800’s caring for the future of the soul, the guard-social worker hybrid would care for the future of the person. And like the priests who saw prisoners as just another sinner among many, the government was moving towards seeing prisoners as just another human being among many. A 2008 white paper entitled, “Punishment that works, less crime, safer society” went further. The entire purpose of the prison system, it claimed, was the rehabilitation and reintegration of inmates. The government was now using the language of reform, calling for a ‘principle of normality’ that would punish criminals with the restriction of liberty, but absolutely nothing more (12). No inmate would live in conditions more restricted than necessary for the good of wider society, and life inside prison would resemble life outside prison as much as possible. The Norwegian prison system of today is a culmination of these 150 years of reform. Norway’s incarceration rate is 72 people out every 100,000 in the population. That’s roughly a tenth of US rate, which imprisons 716 for every 100,000 (5). There are a total of around 3,500 prisoners in Norway spread over 64 prisons. If you’re doing the math, that’s only about 50 prisoners per prison. Norway’s Correctional Service keeps this number low so that inmate families and friends can easily visit, believing this assists reintegration into society (12). In contrast to American prisons, which typically use a static security system, with guards centralized inside wings of cells, a typical Norwegian prison is dynamic, laid out more like a campus. Rather than efficiency, the purpose is normalization. Prisoners ‘commute’ so to speak, from activity to activity: cooking, hair cut, religious services, visitation, recreation. The idea is to feel as much like everyday life as possible. And there are as many prison staffers as inmates (12). Across the system, the staff to prisoner ratio is roughly one to one, assuring that each incarcerated person has a main contact in the prison staff to help with addiction problems, career development, counseling, conflict management, and stress management (9). Rather than hunkering down in a guard booth, staff are required to comingle with the inmates to develop personal relationships. The Norwegians have found that these interactions, more than any other measure, help to keep all inmates and staff safe and secure. Inmates receive assistance finding work, and are entitled to the full income from their labor. If they had a job before their conviction, they often continue to attend with regular leave from prison. If unqualified for work in a field, they have a right to an education. Rather than a diploma with a prison name on it, inmates receive accreditation from a local institution. Prisoners are entitled to regular phone calls and visitation with family. There are no glass walls like in the movies; inmates and their loved ones get private rooms. If prisoners have children, they can apply for additional visitation time. Cells in Norway’s prisons are more like mini apartments. It’s normal for inmates to have a private bath and a mini fridge, common spaces for activities like music and art, fully equipped kitchens (sharp knives and all) to practice culinary skills, outdoor spaces to explore and relax, spots for fishing, sunbathing, sports, and other recreation. In most prisons inmates can move freely, and even have the key to their own room. The principles of rehabilitation and normalization put into practice create something completely different in Norwegian corrections. Every American journalist who visits has remarked in their article, without fail, that Norway’s prisons left them ‘doubting whether they were prisons at all’. Of course, they are. The incarcerated’s freedom of movement has been restricted, and in Norway, that’s considered sufficient. But let’s be honest, this leaves a lot of people questioning whether justice is being served. Many might accept the idea of a common criminal living in relaxed prison conditions, but what about violent inmates? Why should a man whose victims number in the hundreds be afforded a computer, treadmill, and television? And the most common answer to this objection is the results. Norway expends around 90,000 per inmate, triple that of the United States. But for this elevated cost and focus on reintegration they enjoy the lowest recidivism rate in Scandinavia and the wider western world: 20% reoffend and go back to prison after their release (12). For comparison, the recidivism rate in the United States is roughly 68% (13). You can call it soft, they say, but the tactics stop people from committing more crime. Norwegians can put it in more individualistic terms too. It’s a ‘good neighbor’ policy. The vast majority of those who go to prison will re emerge again into society. Who would you rather have as a neighbor? Someone who’s been through a punitive system-punished harshly, or someone who’s encountered restorative social work and normalizing conditions? If you’d rather have a rehabilitated neighbor, the argument goes, congratulations, you’ve found a selfish reason to support a humane prison system. And that’s usually where most analysis ends. A journalist tacs on a fawning headline about the humanity of the system; the Norwegian correctional services links to a study about their low recidivism rate on their website, law and order types roll their eyes. But a deeper analysis calls into question the rosiness of the picture. There’s a glaring problem when comparing the recidivism rate, the rate of reoffenders, between the US and Norway: they aren’t measured the same way. In fact, there’s no standard metric or definition for reporting the percentage of criminals who go on to reoffend (14). How many years after release is recidivism measured? Are all convicted criminals counted, or only ones who have spent time in an actual prison? What crimes are societies imprisoning people for? Is the measurement done on a local, state, or national level? Do parole violations count as recidivism? These variables alone could cause inconsistent numbers. For our case: the US bases the number on the percentage of freed inmates who are rearrested. Norway bases the number on the percentage of freed inmates who are reincarcerated. The statistics represent totally different things. If you compare the USA and Norway on the same basis, on the percentage of freed inmates who are reincarcerated, they’re not that far apart. Norway roughly 25%; the US roughly 27% or 29% (13). If we look at the rearrest rate, Norway approaches 50% compared to the US’s 68% (14,p18). Norway’s still ranks better on both metrics, but the difference narrows. I’ve cited two sources below that detail this further. The point is, upon further examination of the data, we neither find a robust statistical endorsement of treating prisoners better, nor even a conclusive prosecution of America’s punitive system; instead, we find a measurable, modest difference with a lot of ambiguity mixed in. If we want to truly understand Norway’s prison system, we can’t just lean on flashy numbers; we need to ask what the end of the justice system is. In the US, imprisonment is often about justice for individual victims. The end of an American prison is retribution for acts committed against people or the state. It’s individuals held accountable to individuals through the system. In Norway, imprisonment seems to be about justice for society as a whole. Justice is distributive and relative to its holistic effect on all people in the country. Prisoner treatment is not about the satisfaction of grievance, but rather an assessment of how a convicted individual can best reintegrate into the larger social welfare community, not just for their sake, but for everyone’s. To treat even undeniably bad people in accordance with their values, Norway is carrying out a conviction that human rights are a catalyst rather than a hindrance to justice. Taken one step further: human rights are justice. Part of integrating into society is learning how to contribute. That's why Norwegian prisons have top notch educational resources. But you don't need to commit a crime to get top notch education. Whether it’s storytelling, animation, design, photography, or starting a business, Skillshare has more than 25,000 classes to get you started in the new year. Premium membership grants you unlimited access to courses taught by experts, designed to empower you to learn critical skills, and unlock new opportunities right for you and your New Year’s goals. Now, specifically, I want you you join me in Mike Vardy’s class on using ToDoist to increase productivity. ToDoist is a digital task manager I’ve used for a couple years now, and this course helped me to reverse engineer my productivity framework. Annually, Skillshare premium membership is super affordable- less than $10 a month. So join the 7 million creators learning with Skillshare. The first 500 members of this community to use the promo link in the description will get their first 2 months free to try it out. So be one of the first 500 to click the link in the description and get the 2-month risk-free trial. Learn new skills. Do what you love. Try Skillshare today.




Historians and sociologists

  • Kenneth O. Bjork – (1909–1991) American professor, historian and author.
  • Carl Blegen – (1887–1971) American archaeologist famous for his work on the site of Pylos in modern-day Greece and Troy in modern-day Turkey.
  • Theodore C. Blegen – (1891–1969) American historian and author.
  • Elise M. Boulding – (1920–2010) Quaker sociologist Norwegian, and author credited as a major contributor to creating the academic discipline of Peace and Conflict Studies.
  • Odd S. Lovoll – American author, historian and educator
  • Peter A. Munch – (1908–1984) Norwegian-American sociologist, educator and author
  • Carlton C. Qualey – (1904–1988) American professor, author and historian
  • Rick Steves – American author, historian
  • Martin Ulvestad – (1865–1942) American historian and author whose writings focused on Norwegian-American immigration
  • Thorstein Veblen – (1857–1929) American economist and sociologist



Actors and actresses

Peter Graves
Peter Graves
Melanie Griffith
Melanie Griffith
Lance Henriksen
Lance Henriksen
Priscilla Presley
Priscilla Presley

Screenwriters, directors and producers of film

Singers and musicians

Peggy Lee
Peggy Lee



Boomer Esiason
Boomer Esiason




Charles Schulz
Charles Schulz

Explorers and founders


Eric Sevareid
Eric Sevareid


Earl Warren
Earl Warren



  • Peter C. Assersen – (1839–1906) Norwegian-born, American civil engineer and Rear Admiral in the United States Navy.
  • Quentin Aanenson – (1921–2008) Captain of the 391st Fighter Squadron featured in Ken Burn's 2007 documentary The War
  • Bernt Balchen – (1899–1973), winner of the Distinguished Flying Cross, Norwegian native and later U.S. citizen, known as a pioneer polar aviator, navigator, aircraft mechanical engineer and military leader
  • Bowe Bergdahl – United States Army soldier of Norwegian and Swedish descent. Captured by the Taliban.
  • Margarethe Cammermeyer – former colonel in the Washington National Guard and a gay rights activist
  • Fred J. Christensen – (1921–2006) fighter pilot and ace with the United States Army Air Forces during World War II.
  • Gail Halvorsen – retired career officer and command pilot in the United States Air Force (The Candy Bomber)
  • Louis J. Hauge, Jr. – (1924–1945) United States Marine
  • Orin D. Haugen – (1907–1945) Colonel in the United States Army [13]
  • Knut Haukelid – (1911–1994) Norwegian resistance movement soldier during World War II
  • Olaf M. Hustvedt – (1886–1978) United States Navy vice admiral, World War II battleship commander and twice recipient of the Legion of Merit
  • Ole C. Johnson – (1838–1886) Norwegian-American soldier in the American Civil War
  • Lauris Norstad – (1907–1988) American General in the United States Army Air Forces and United States Air Force.
  • Ralph Ofstie - (1897-1956) United States Navy vice admiral, World War II aircraft carrier commander and post war commander of the United States Sixth Fleet
  • Ludwig Andreas Olsen – (1845–1886), also known as Louis Williams, United States Navy sailor
  • George William Rud – (1883–1916) United States Navy Chief Machinist's Mate
  • Thorvald A. Solberg – (1894–1964) United States Navy rear admiral, twice recipient of the Legion of Merit, and head of the Office of Naval Research.
  • Andrew V. Stoltenberg – (1865–1921) United States Navy sailor and a recipient of the Medal of Honor for his actions in the Philippine–American War.
  • Leif J. Sverdrup – (1898–1976) Norwegian-born American civil engineer and general with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the first half of the 20th century.
  • Jacob Thorkelson – (1876–1945) American elected official, Naval officer and medical doctor.
  • Karl Westa (1875–1949) United States Navy sailor


Hubert H. Humphrey
Hubert H. Humphrey
Henry M. Jackson
Henry M. Jackson
Warren G. Magnuson
Warren G. Magnuson
Walter Mondale
Walter Mondale




Ernest O. Lawrence
Ernest O. Lawrence
Sally Ride
Sally Ride



Visual artists

  • Mikkel Aaland – American photographer known for work in the early days of digital photography
  • Hendrik Christian Andersen – (1872–1940) American sculptor, painter and urban planner
  • Gene Amondson – (1943–2009) landscape painter, woodcarver, Christian minister and prohibition activist
  • Sigvald Asbjornsen – (1867–1954) Norwegian-born sculptor
  • Jon-Erik Beckjord – (1939–2008) paranormal investigator and photographer known for his far-reaching ideas regarding such phenomena as UFOs, crop circles, the Loch Ness Monster, and his specialty, Bigfoot
  • Emil Biorn – (1864–1935) Norwegian-born, American sculptor, painter and composer
  • Benjamin Blessum – (1877–1954) American painter, graphic artist and illustrator
  • Bjorn Egeli – (1900-1984) Norwegian-born portrait artist
  • Jacob Fjelde – (1855–1896) Norwegian-born American sculptor
  • Pauline Fjelde – (1861–1923) Norwegian-born American painter, embroiderer, and textile artist
  • Paul Fjelde – (1892–1984) noted American sculptor and educator
  • Alexander Grinager – (1865–1949) American artist most noted for his murals and scenic painting
  • Herbjørn Gausta – (1854–1924) American artist best known for his landscapes, portraits and scenes from rural settings
  • Al Hansen – (1927–1995) American artist considered one of the most important Fluxus figures
  • Lars Jonson Haukaness – (1863–1929) Norwegian-born American-Canadian impressionist painter and art instructor
  • Per Lysne – (1880–1947) artist most associated with bringing the traditional Norwegian folk art of Rosemaling to the United States
  • Carl Manzo – (1964–) artist of Norwegian, German and Italian ancestry
  • Eric Norstad – noted ceramicist and architect
  • Karl Ouren – (1882–1943) Norwegian-born artist best known for his paintings of Norwegian landscapes and scenes
  • Shag – American artist
  • Yngvar Sonnichsen – (1873–1938) Norwegian-born American artist and painter
  • Svend Rasmussen Svendsen – (1864–1945) Norwegian-born American impressionist artist.
  • Trygve Rovelstad – (1903–1990) renowned sculptor and designer of medals
  • Dan Weggeland – (1827–1918) considered the "Father of Utah Art", artist and teacher in the early history of Utah

Writers and editors

Norman Borlaug
Norman Borlaug


Eliot Ness
Eliot Ness

See also


  1. ^ Henry W. Orth (AIA Historical Directory of American Architects) Archived 2012-03-31 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ maternal grandparents were immigrants from Norway
  3. ^ "Rowan Blanchard - Biography - IMDb". IMDb. Retrieved 2016-08-08.
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ Grandmother Randi Toseth was born in Rennebu in Sør-Trøndelag county, Norway
  7. ^
  8. ^[permanent dead link]
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ Earl Sande (Genealogy)
  12. ^
  13. ^ Col. Orin D. "Hard Rock" Haugen
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
This page was last edited on 27 April 2019, at 16:03
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