Theodore C. Blegen

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Blegen Hall on the Minneapolis campus of the University of Minnesota

Theodore Christian Blegen (16 July 1891 – 18 July 1969) was an American historian and author. Blegen was the author of numerous historic reference books, papers and articles written over a five decade period. His primary areas of focus were of the history of the state of Minnesota and of Norwegian-American immigration.[1]


Theodore Christian Blegen was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota to Anna Regine (1854-1925) and John H. Blegen (1851-1928), both of whom had emigrated from Lillehammer, Norway. His father was a professor at Augsburg College in Minneapolis and played a central role in the Norwegian Lutheran Church in America. He was the younger brother of noted archaeologist, Carl Blegen.[2]

During World War II, he directed the National Historical Service, preparing materials for the U.S. Army's G.I. Roundtable. Blegen’s undergraduate studies at Augsburg College B.A. (1910) were followed by graduate work at the University of Minnesota M.A. (1915), Ph.D. (1925) that led to a doctorate in history. In 1928, he was a Guggenheim Fellow and studied in Norway. [3]


Blegen did high-school teaching at Fergus Falls, Minnesota, and at Milwaukee, Wisconsin, then served an apprenticeship at the Minnesota Historical Society in the arts of editing and meticulous research. He succeeded to the position of superintendent of the historical society. Blegen was a professor of history (1920–1927) at Hamline University in St. Paul, after which he moved to the University of Minnesota (1927–1939) where he was later dean of the graduate school (1940–1960).[4]

In 1925, Blegen was appointed the first managing editor of the Norwegian-American Historical Association. He was elected president of the Organization of American Historians in 1943. His career with the Minnesota Historical Society began in 1922. He served on the executive council and was superintendent until 1939. He returned to the Society as a research fellow in 1960 after his retirement from teaching. He was also one of the founders of the Forest History Society. He served two terms as president, was elected a Fellow of the Society in 1963, and for more than twenty years served on the Society's executive committee. The Forest History Society initiated the Theodore C. Blegen Award in 1972.[5][6]

Blegen received recognition in the form of honorary degrees from Hamline University, Carleton College, St. Olaf College, Luther College, and Augustana College. Blegen was made honorary doctor at the University of Oslo, 1938. He was a member of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters from 1946 and The Royal Norwegian Society from 1954. In 1950 he was knighted into the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav. Blegen Hall on the University of Minnesota Twin Cities Campus is named after Theodore C. Blegen.The research papers of Dr. Blegen was located in the University Archives, University of Minnesota. The Minnesota Historical Society also has a collection of Theodore C. Blegen papers.[7][8][9]

Selected bibliography[edit]

  • The Competition of the Northwestern States for Immigrants (1919)
  • Norwegian Migration to America, 1825-1860 (1931)
  • Norwegian Emigrant Songs and Ballads (1936)
  • Building Minnesota (1938)
  • A Review and a Challenge (1938)
  • Norwegian Migration to America: The American Transition (1940)
  • Grass Roots History (1947)
  • The Land Lies Open (1949)
  • Lincoln's Imagery: A Study in Word Power (1954)
  • Minnesota: A History of the State (1963)
  • Kensington Rune Stone, New Light on an Old Riddle (1968)


Additional Source[edit]

  • Flanagan, John T. (1977) Theodore C Blegen, a Memoir ( Northfield, MN: Norwegian-American Historical Association)
  • Commager, Henry Steele (1961) Immigration and American history : essays in honor of Theodore C. Blegen (Minneapolis, MN : University of Minnesota Press)

External links[edit]