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Initially, Irish, Cornish, French-Canadian and German immigrants came to mine copper on the peninsula. They were followed by large numbers of Finns, Swedes, Danes, Sami and Norwegians who immigrated to the Upper Peninsula, especially the Keweenaw Peninsula, to work in the mines. The immigration of people from Finland peaked from 1899 to World War I. Slovenes, Croatians, and Italians emigrated from about 1880, the first two groups sometimes called Austrians as their homelands were then part of the Austrian Empire. Polish people also were attracted to this successful mining area. Thus the pattern in this boom period was first the native Americans and people from the British Isles, French Canada and Western Europe, followed by people from the Nordic countries, and then by people from Southern and Eastern Europe. The Finns in particular stayed on and prospered even after the copper mines closed, while most moved on to other mining areas or homesteaded in other Midwestern states.

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