Happy Danes and Holy Danes

Nov 25, 2015

When Danish immigrants settled in Western Iowa in the 19th century, they created two very different towns three miles apart: Kimballton and Elk Horn. Kimballton was composed of 'Happy Danes' and Elk Horn of 'Holy Danes.'

"One camp are the followers of a Danish theologian, N.F.S. Grundtvig" says Tova Brandt, curator of the Museum of Danish America in Elk Horn. "He embraced a holistic approach to Danish faith and culture and community and he argued that those things couldn't be and shouldn't be separated." 

So arose the 'Happy Danes' who integrated folk dancing, Norse mythology, songs, and stories into their lives along with church.

On the other hand were the so-called 'Holy Danes.'

"They were more focused on inner piety, more fundamentalism and a little more emphasis on biblical authority. And they really frowned upon dancing, drinking, card playing, things that would be temptations or distractions away from a more focus on your own personal faith."

In this Talk of Iowa interview, host Charity Nebbe talks with Tova Brandt about Danish history in Iowa.