Swede from North Dakota, The
DESCRIPTION: Having spent a year working, the Svede decides to visit Minnesota's State Fair. He meets a Salvation Army group (refusing to work for Jesus when he learns "Yesus don't pay nothing"), winds up drunk, and returns home
EARLIEST DATE: 1932 (book by "Yumpin' Yiminy")
KEYWORDS: farming travel party drink clergy humorous
FOUND IN: US(MW)
REFERENCES (4 citations):
Ohrlin-HBT 8, "The Swede from North Dakota" (1 text, 1 tune)
Cohen-AFS2, p. 478, "The Swede from North Dakota" (1 text)
ADDITIONAL: James P. Leary and Richard March, "Farm, Forest, and Factory: Songs of Midwestern Labor," published in Archie Green, editor, _Songs about Work: Essays in Occupational Culture for Richard A. Reuss_, Indiana University, 1993, pp. 261-262, "Ay Ban a Svede from Nort' Dakota" (1 text, 1 tune)
James Taylor Dunn, _The St. Croix: Midwest Border River_, reprint edition with new introduction published 1979 by the Minnesota Historical Society press, p. 258, ["Swede from North Dakota"] (1 text, from a manuscript apparently copied by Ludwig Rydquist)
cf. "Reuben and Rachel" (tune) and references there
cf. "Ole from Norway" (theme)
cf. "Down on the Corner of Dock and Holly" (theme of not working for Jesus)
The Svede from Nort Dakota
I'm a Swede from Minnesota
NOTES [320 words]: It can at least be said that this song is well supplied with local color. The Minnesota State Fair claims (I'm not sure on what basis) to be the largest in America. (If nothing else, it produces huge traffic jams.)
Both Minneapolis and Saint Paul have areas known as "Seven Corners" (though changes in traffic patterns have reduced the number of streets and intersections); it's likely but not certain that the Minneapolis site is referred to.
The Minneapolis site, probably better known, is near Washington Avenue (which runs from the University of Minnesota to the north side of downtown Minneapolis, and is mentioned in the song). It's not the best area; bars and nightclubs are not hard to find.
Saint Paul's Seven Corners, on the west side of downtown (and so called because two street grids overlapped there, producing some very strange intersections in the 1880s), is on the same side of the Mississippi river as the State Fair, and is near a Salvation Army mission (though I've never seen a band play there). It's also an old area, but perhaps in somewhat better shape. Though some of that is the result of urban renewal; it's said to have been a pretty rough area in the 1920s
Leary and March, p. 261, think it is the Seven Corners area of Minneapolis, which was heavily Swedish, but I'm not sure they were aware that Saint Paul also has a Seven Corners. The version they print has the Swede leaving Saint Paul to visit Seven Corners, but this is not universal.
Although he knows of no version earlier than the 1932 Yumpin' Yiminy printing (which he pointed out to me), Paul Anderson believes the song dates to around 1900, since some versions to "Yim Hill's little red vagon" (a reference to railroad tycoon James J. Hill). This is not absolutely decisive (Hill is still a frequently-mentioned icon in Saint Paul, with his home and his library being preserved), but I agree that it is a strong indication. - RBW
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