The Stavig Letters Collection
The Stavig Letters are an extensive collection of letters written between two brothers, Lars Stavig, who emigrated to America and Knut Stavig, who stayed in Norway. Consisting of more than 150 letters spanning five decades, the Stavig Letters give voice and reality to the immigrant experiences from the perspectives of the old country and the new country.
The letters document the period between 1881 and 1937. Lars' letters from Dakota Territory offer a first-person perspective of the arrival of the railroads on the prairie, changes in agriculture, the advent of aviation, World War I and the Great Depression. Knut's letters from Norway tell not only of personal struggles, but also of the state of the Norwegian economy, the dangers of traditional fishing practices of the period and changes in Norwegian culture. Woven through the letters are the dreams and aspirations, the joys and griefs of two brothers, one who came to the prairie and one who stayed by the sea.
The letters were collected by Harold Torness of Sisseton, SD, and Dorothy Stavig, of Sacramento CA. They were translated from Norwegian into English by Marta Boyce of Minneapolis, MN. Copies of the letters in Norwegian and English are archived at the Center for Western Studies at Augustana University in Sioux Falls, SD. The collection of original letters at the Romsdal Museum in Molde, Norway, were accepted into UNESCO's Memory of the World Registry in 2018.
“The Stavig Letters”
is a documentary based on these stories of Lars Stavig, who immigrated to the U.S. in 1876, and his brother Knut, who stayed behind in Norway. The two exchanged more than 150 letters spanning more than five decades from 1881 to 1938, the Stavig Letters give voice and reality to the immigrant experience from the perspectives of both countries.
The collection of Stavig Letters inspired a readers theater, an Emmy-award winning documentary and a published book, all available through the Stavig House Museum.
Readers Theater production
"The Stavig Letters: The Story of a Norwegian Immigrant"
The immigrant experience comes to life in this performance by Dr. Wayne S. Knutson. The cast of three includes a narrator and the two brothers, Lars Stavig, who came to the prairie and Knut Stavig, who remains in Norway. Using excerpts from the Stavig letters and basic theater props, the play can be performed anywhere. More than 80 performances have been given throughout the Midwest and in Scandinavia over the past twenty-five years. The readers theater is a program of the South Dakota Humanities Speakers Bureau
Contact us about bringing the program to your community.
about scheduling a performance of The Stavig Letters in your community.
Documentary: "The Stavig Letters"
The Emmy-award winning documentary produced by South Dakota Public Broadcasting is available on DVD through the Stavig House Museum for $25, includes shipping.
Annotated Book: "Dear Unforgettable Brother"
The Stavig Letters from Norway & America, 1881-1937.
Published by the South Dakota State Historical Society Press in 2013, this book of letters, historical photographs and essays provides a window into the universal story of immigration through the Stavig family.
Available through the Stavig House Museum for $25, includes shipping.