Amy C. Mulligan
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Migration of a North Atlantic seascape
Leif Eiriksson, the 1893 World’s Fair, and the Great Lakes landnám
in From Iceland to the Americas
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In a headline-grabbing re-enactment of Leif Eiriksson’s Vinland voyage, a wooden Viking ship sailed from Norway to become one of the most popular spectacles at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. The voyage of the aptly-named Viking to America’s Midwest, as well as the later erection of a statue of Leif in Chicago and the 1927 naming of the major highway now known as ‘Lake Shore Drive’ as ‘Leif Ericson Drive’, show the many ways in which a medieval Viking past was re-mapped onto the landscape of one of America’s most dynamic urban centres, Chicago, a city which excelled at reinvention like nowhere else in late nineteenth-century America. Through place-naming practices and immersive performances in new landscapes, powerful identity narratives rooted in a medieval past allowed those who came to Chicago, and Scandinavian-American communities in particular, to find Valhalla in the Midwest and establish a valorised American future.

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From Iceland to the Americas

Vinland and historical imagination


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