“Few questions in American history,” writes Theodore C. Blegen, “have stirred so much curiosity or provoked such extended discussions as that of the authenticity of the runic inscription on a stone found near Kensington, Minnesota, in 1898.”
Swedish-American farmer Olof Ohman discovered the stone clasped in the roots of an aspen tree on a knoll above the surrounding swamp. His young son was the first to notice the strange letters chiseled into the rock face. Since then historians, geologists and runic scholars have entered the debate over the age and meaning of these carvings. Are they genuine 14th-century runes, evidence of a pre-Columbian Viking expedition to North America, or are they a clever 19th-century hoax? In this classic volume, Blegen untangles the circumstances surrounding the unearthing of the Kensington Rune Stone. Marshalling letters, affidavits, newspaper accounts and investigative reports, he lays out in authoritative detail the early history of this controversial artifact and investigates the background and character of Olof Ohman and other men involved in its discovery. He also describes the first cycles of investigation and dispute and devotes a chapter to the role of Hjalmar R. Holand, who acquired the stone in 1907 and was its chief defender until his death in 1963. Fourteen appendixes offer useful primary (?) source materials and supply English translations where needed.
This lucid text, together with its footnotes and appendixes, remains a cornerstone for further investigation and discussion.
Theodore C. Blegen was a professor of history and dean of the Graduate School at the University of Minnesota for two decades. A former superintendent of the Minnesota Historical Society, he served many years as editor of its quarterly magazine, Minnesota History.