Wayback Whensday – Han Ola og han Per

There is no better portrayal of the assimilation of early Houston County [Minnesota] Norwegian emigrants into American culture and society than the brilliant, whimsical newspaper cartoon series of Peter Rosendahl of Spring Grove. The cartoon series was called “Han Ola og han Per,” which translates into English as “Him Ola and him Per,” or “He Ola and he Per” and beginning in 1918, appeared in the Decorah-Posten, a Norwegian language newspaper published in Decorah, Iowa. During 24 years, more than 700 of his comic strips fascinated readers of the newspaper, the only Norwegian cartoon published continually in the United States.

Comic strips and illustrations in United States foreign language newspapers were rarities and then Hearst happened. In 1895 William Randolph Hearst bought The New York Morning Journal and proceeded to build his newspaper and comics kingdoms. Hearst was surprised to learn that included with the Morning Journal purchase he also came into control of the New Yorker Deutsches Journal, a German language newspaper. When Hearst made comics a part of his promotion he did not leave them out of the Deutshes Journal.

Foreign language newspapers in the U.S. could not ignore the growing popularity of comic strips.

Which brings back to Peter Julius Rosendahl and Han Ola og han Per.

Peter Julius Rosendahl was born in 1878 in Houston County, Minnesota in the community of Spring Grove, the earliest Norwegian settlement in Minnesota…

Rosendahl loved to draw, had a creative imagination and liked a good joke. Neighbors told of Peter drawing pictures in the dust on the threshing machine, many resembling the threshing workers…

In 1918, the year he turned age 40, Rosendahl successfully found a home for his artwork when the February 19 edition of the Decorah-Posten newspaper included one of his cartoons, featuring two characters, Ola and Per along with Ola’s new car (a technological marvel of the era). Readers were captivated, and the newspaper asked for more. In that calendar year of 1918, the Posten published six Rosendahl cartoon strips and paid him $2.50 for each, approximately the value of $40 a century later.

Lee Epps, for The Fulton County Journal, writes of The Endearing “Laugh out Loud” Art of Peter Rosendahl.

3 thoughts on “Wayback Whensday – Han Ola og han Per

  1. Thanks for this! The closest I’ve gotten to this significant piece of midwestern history is through news of a group of gentlemen farmers.

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