Immigration from Finland to the United States started as a trickle in the mid-1800s. Records show that employment opportunities in Michigan copper mines and the lure of California gold enticed hundreds of Finnish sailors to abandon their ships and seek financial gain in America. Poor farming conditions across Western Finland also encouraged large emigration, notably from the Tornio River Valley, Kalajoki, and areas around Kokkola, Vaasa, and Kristiina. In the south, many emigrants left through Turku. Finnish communities grew in Duluth, Minnesota which became known as the "Helsinki of America." Around 10,000 Finns settled in New York City, mostly in Brooklyn's "Finntown." Thousands of immigrants also settled in California, Oregon, and Washington. In the fifty-year period between 1870 and 1920, approximately 340,000 Finns moved to the United States.
Finnish-Americans sought to preserve their cultural heritage for the next generation. In 1876, Antti Muikku published the first Finnish-American newspaper, Amerikan Suomalainen Lehti (America's Finnish Newspaper). Several hundred Finnish-American papers would follow. As early as 1878, a literature society, called Amerikan Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura, was founded in Michigan to publish religious texts and materials for children. The Finnish National Brotherhood, Knights of Kaleva, was founded in 1898 to further Finnish culture in the United States. The Order of Runeberg was founded in 1920 by Swedish-speaking Finnish-Americans of whom about 70,000 were estimated to have arrived in the United States between 1880 and 1940. Possibly the best-known Finnish-American organization, Suomi-Seura, was founded in 1927.