Rasmus B. Anderson

Rasmus Bjørn Anderson (January 12, 1846 – March 2, 1936) was an American author, professor, editor, businessman and diplomat. He brought to popular attention the fact that Viking explorers were the first Europeans to arrive in the New World and was the originator of Leif Erikson Day.[1][2]

Life and career

Anderson was born in the Town of Albion in Dane County, Wisconsin and grew up in Koshkoning.[3] His parents Bjørn Anderson Kvelve (1801–1850) and Abel Cathrine von Krogh (1809–1885) were immigrants from Sandeid / Vikedal in Ryfylke in the county of Rogaland, Norway. His mother also had Danish, Swedish, German, Dutch, and Flemish ancestry. His parents were part of a small band of Quaker sympathizers who organized a Norwegian emigration to America in 1836.[4]

Anderson was a graduate of Luther College and the University of Wisconsin. He was a professor at the University of Wisconsin–Madison from 1867 to 1883. While there, he was the founding head of the Department of Scandinavian Studies, the oldest such department in an American university. He also persuaded Norwegian violinist Ole Bull to give a concert for the benefit of a projected Norwegian language library at the university. Ole Bull subsequently paid Anderson's expenses for a trip to Norway to purchase books for the library.[5][6][7]

Rasmus B. Anderson founded a publication company, The Norrœna Society, which focused on republishing translations of texts devoted to "the History and Romance of Northern Europe". Anderson was the author of a number of books with Scandinavian themes. He also did a series of translations from Scandinavian languages, most notably the writings of Norwegian novelist Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson. From 1905 to 1907, Rasmus Anderson acted as editor-in-chief of the Norrœna Library. [7]

From 1885 to 1889, Anderson served as the United States Ambassador to Denmark. After his return to the U.S. in 1889, he was editor (1898–1922) of the Norwegian language weekly, Amerika. He also served as president of the Wisconsin Life Insurance Co. from 1895 to 1922.[8] [2]

Anderson's book America Not Discovered by Columbus helped popularize the now familiar fact that Norse explorers were the first Europeans in the New World. Anderson was the originator of the movement to honor Leif Erikson with a holiday in the United States. Through efforts he started and led, Leif Erikson Day became an official observance in his native Wisconsin and other U. S. states. Decades after Anderson's death, it first became a federal observance by Presidential proclamation in 1964.[9]

Personal life

In 1868, he married Bertha Karina Olson (1848–1922). They were the parents of five children. His wife died in 1922. Anderson spent the last years of his life in their home in Madison, where he died in 1936. He was buried at Lake Ripley Cemetery in Cambridge, Wisconsin.[6][7]

Selected works

  • Julegave (1872)
  • Den norske maalsag (1874)
  • America Not Discovered by Columbus (1874)
  • Norse Mythology (1875)
  • Viking Tales of the North (1877)
  • The Younger Edda (1880)
  • Amerikas første Opdagelse (1886)
  • First Chapter of Norwegian Immigration, 1821–1840 (1895)
  • Bygdejævning (1903)
  • The Norse Discovery of America (1907)
  • Life Story of Rasmus B. Anderson (1915, with Albert O. Barton)
  • Cleng Peerson og sluppen "Restaurationen" (1925)
  • The Heimskringla or The Saga of the Norse Kings (1889, rev. 2nd ed. of Samuel Laing, The Norse Kings)


  1. "Rasmus Anderson". Norske leksikon.
  2. Odd Lovoll. "Rasmus Anderson, author, philologist". Norsk biografisk leksikon. Retrieved September 1, 2018.
  3. "Koshkonong--Mother Colony of Norwegian Settlements". The Minneapolis Journal. January 28, 1905. p. 13. Retrieved September 28, 2014 via Newspapers.com.
  4. Rasmus B. Anderson. "The First Chapter of Norwegian Immigration to America", Chicago Tribune, December 2, 1894.
  5. "Rasmus B. Anderson, 'Grand Old Viking,' Dies". Wisconsin State Journal. March 3, 1936. p. 1. Retrieved December 1, 2018 via Newspapers.com.
  6. "Life story of Rasmus B. Anderson". Library of Congress. Retrieved September 1, 2018.
  7. Paul Knaplund. "Rasmus B. Anderson, Pioneer and Crusader". Norwegian-American Studies. 18: 23. Retrieved September 1, 2018.
  8. "Wisconsin Professor Who Hobnobbed With Kings". The Milwaukee Journal, June 26, 1932.
  9. "Rasmus B. Anderson's Dream Comes True". The Wisconsin State Journal, May 11, 1929.


  • Husvedt, Lloyd. Rasmus Bjørn Anderson: Pioneer Scholar. Northfield, Minn.: Norwegian-American Historical Association, 1966.
  • Knaplund, Paul. "Rasmus B. Anderson, Pioneer and Crusader". Norwegian-American Studies, vol. 18, p. 23.
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Wickham Hoffman
U.S. Ambassador to Denmark
As Minister Resident/Consul General
Succeeded by
John A. Enander
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