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Our citizens will have it in their power to witness to-night the wonderful and incomparable powers of Ole Bull over cat-gut.

– Nashville


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May 12, 2010

Oleana exhibition

Wednesday, 12 May 2010, at 3pm, an exhibition about Ole Bull and American immigration will open at Bergen Maritime Museum.

Ole Bull’s great grandchild, Olea Smith Kaland, will officially open Ole Bull and Oleana. This exhibition links Bull with the phenomenon of Norwegian emigration by showcasing Oleana, Bull’s failed colony in the USA.

In 1852 Bull bought a large tract of land in Pennsylvania and persuaded fellow countrymen to emigrate there. Although the idea was to use part of the land for farming, the soil was not readily arable; it was a wilderness covered with thick virgin forest and the immigrants lacked the experience, will and wherewithal to become lumberjacks. They had arrived relatively late in the year and endured much hardship through the cold winter. Within the year the settlers began deserting the colony, many heading for ‘greener pasture’ in the Great Plains states. Bull eventually deeded the land back to the seller.

Another reason why Oleana failed was because the venture was ridiculed in Norway. Bull’s visionary project became a laughingstock when several immigrants wrote home warning about the colony, and some of these letters were published in newspapers.

The exhibition
Of the exhibited items, you can see a pioneer home with typical furnishings. The colony’s account book is also on show – perhaps the only artifact from Oleana in Norway today. It contains the names of people paid by the colony and names of people Bull owed money to.

The exhibition also presents diverse items owned by Bull, not least, a book (possibly written by Bull himself) arguing for why one should emigrate to America.

Today the area conceived as Oleana is Ole Bull State Park.

The exhibition Ole Bull and Oleana will be on show at Bergen Maritime Museum Bergens Sjøfartsmuseum throughout 2010.

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last modified Jan 11, 2011 11:24 AM