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Waldemar Ager and the Norwegian-American Eau Claire
October 19, 2019 @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pmFree
Waldemar Theodor Ager was born at Frederikstad, in Østfold, Norway. He grew up nearby in Grssvik, just across the river Glomma. He was the son of Martinius Mathisen Ager (1834–1894) and Marie Fredrikke Mathea Johnsdatter Stillaugsen (1835–1913). Today, the street he lived on in Gressvik is named Waldemar Agers Vei in honor and in memory of Ager. In 1883, Ager’s father emigrated to America by himself to start a tailoring shop. In 1885, Waldemar Ager and his family went to join his father in Chicago.
Not long after his arrival in America, Ager and got his start in the newspaper business by becoming involved with Norden, Chicago’s largest-circulation Norwegian-language newspaper. He never held any high position at that newspaper, but it got him his start in the business. When Ager first arrived in America, he encountered a vibrant, thriving Norwegian-American community. Use of the Norwegian language was widespread. Hundreds of small-circulation Norwegian-language newspapers and dozens of large circulation Norwegian-language newspapers were in operation from Michigan to the Dakotas and everywhere Norwegian immigrants were living. At the time, the Norwegian-American community was constantly being reinforced by new immigrants from Norway.Ager’s newspaper career began in earnest when, at the age of 23, he moved to Eau Claire, Wisconsin, after being offered a job at a Norwegian temperance newspaper called Reform.
Our speaker, Brian Blakely, grew up in Eau Claire, graduating from Memorial High School in 1958 and Eau Claire State College (now UW-Eau Claire) in 1962. Later, after earning a Ph.D. in Modern British Imperial History, he spent 35 years teaching, most of it at Texas Tech University in Lubbock. In retirement, Blakeley and his wife, Mary, moved back to the region – they live on an old family farm near Wheeler, Wisconsin. He became interested in Waldemar Ager when he decided to wrote a comprehensive history of the city of Eau Claire.
(Photo above show the restored Ager House in Eau Claire)