A history going back to 1872 

Here is how it all began:

at noon, Saturday, September 21, 1872, the first issue of America?s Swedish newspaper, Nordstjernan, appeared on newsstands in the Manhattan district of the city of New York.

When Nordstjernan published its first issue, Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885), the victorious Union military commander from the American Civil War, was in the last weeks of campaigning for what would be his reelection to a second term as the 18th President of the United States (1869-1877).

The Confederacy surrendered to him at Appomattox slightly more than seven years before the first issue of Nordstjernan was printed. The nation writhed in confused attempts to heal its wounds, political corruption was abundant, and in Sweden, crop failures were forcing families whose ancestors had tilled the soil for hundreds of years to flee famine and certain annihilation.

ARTICLES IN EARLY ISSUES which dealt with news in the still-wild Western frontier of America, told of wars with Indians, rugged journeys and amazing discoveries by venture some Swedes who dared to conquer the vast and virgin territory. But America was nonetheless a new horizon of promise, hope and prosperity to Swedes who disembarked for the first time from steam-powered ships and set foot in the bustling city of New York.

SOME FEW MADE golden fortunes and sailed triumphantly back home to Sweden, where hard cash could procure a better life for them. Others struck roots and sent money home for other family members to join them in their newly found homeland.

APPEARING IN THE FIRST issue of the Swedish language newspaper Nordstjernan, sold on the streets to the blossoming communities in New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis and Kansas, advertisements from dozens of passenger ship lines support the fact that the trans-Atlantic tickets on board the steam-driven clipper sailing ships were being frequently purchased, and Swedish immigrants were arriving in New York by the shipload on a daily basis. The need for a publication was clearly to serve them, and to produce it, the Svenska Tryckforeningen in New York began publishing Nordstjernan.

On news stands each Saturday, at noon, it sold for six cents per copy, or three dollars per annual subscription, postage not included (later reduced to $2.00 per year and five cents per copy after protests from readers). In that day, a salary of about $25 per month was considered respectable for the average worker.

During the early days of Nordstjernan, the 1870s, stories in publications were painstakingly composed by hand. From shelved sets of intricately divided drawers, one letter at a time was plucked, set in place in a hand held carrier, spaced with tiny met al strips to make the lines of even length and finally, when about a single paragraph was assembled, it was tied with string and set into place in a metal form which eventually grew to become the page itself. Due to the direct printing process, all this hand work was, of course, back wards reading.

Typewriters did not exist until after their invention in 1878, and be cause each printed word required tedious labor, journalists carefully composed their articles in long hand writing to make the maximum use of both labor and news print paper, which was, relative to modern prices, quite expensive.

Engraving was a valuable talent with in the printing trade. All the illustrations which appear, mainly in advertisements, in the first decades of Nordstjernan were carved by hand as mirror images into met al. Photo-engraving arrived much later, but the earliest years? press rooms were filled with teams of craftsmen who worked, often with out sketches, to laboriously carve the delicate lines and minuscule details of every illustration.

THINGS CHANGED throughout our now 150 years (2022). Today, we work with the latest equipment and the latest software to put together what is still to this day the newspaper of America - given our resources we just could not do it any other way - but the legacy continues, as it has now for well over a century. This also means the pages of this newspaper have quite a story to tell. A very lively and extremely intense story. The world changed many times over, as did the world of newspaper publishing, as did the world of Swedish-America, as did Nordstjernan. If you have an interest in things Swedish and Swedish -American you definitely don?t want to miss another issue of a very much alive and living legend.

Ulf Barslund Martensson

Editor & Publisher

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