March of the Governors, Governor #12, Knute Nelson
Knute Nelson (1843-1923) spent two years as governor of Minnesota on his way to becoming a representative in the US Senate, where he served for twenty-eight years. Nelson was the first prominent Scandinavian-American politician in Minnesota and in the United States. He immigrated from Voss, Norway, to Chicago as a six-year-old child and spent most of his upbringing in Norwegian-immigrant communities in Wisconsin. He made his way to Minnesota after serving in the Union Army during the Civil War and apprenticing to become a lawyer. As a politician, Nelson leveraged his dual identity as a Norwegian and war veteran to gain support from both Scandinavian and American-born populations. During Nelson’s long and accomplished career, he made what is arguably his longest-lasting mark as a US representative with the passage of the Nelson Act in 1888.