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Finlandia Foundation, Pasadena, California records

Identifier: IHRC3379


The Finlandia Foundation collection consists of records and materials that document the establishment, activity and evolution of an ethnic organization created by Consul Yrjo Paloheimo in 1953. This material, spanning from the creation of the Foundation to the recent past (2004), covers the Foundation’s dual mission of promoting Finland in America and strengthening the Finnish American community. The collection contains materials throughout the 50-plus years of its history: the creation of the Foundation and chapters in the 1950s, Dr. Vaino Hoover’s era from the defining of the Foundation’s national aspirations in the 1960s through the growing tensions of the 1970s to Dr. Hoover’s resignation in 1983, and the reorganization of the Foundation in the 1980s and 1990s, ending in a narrower definition of the Foundation’s function as a funding organization rather than a unifying force among all Finnish American organizations. The collection also contains recent materials (up to the year 2004) pertaining to the Foundation’s role as a private philanthropic foundation. The materials are comprised of correspondence, reports, minutes, newsletters, newspaper clippings, photographs, audio tapes, etc., and pertain to a wide variety of topics, among others scholarship and grant programs, local chapters and their relations with Headquarters, relationships between Board Members, the Foundation’s tax exempt status, and activities of the Finlandia Foundation National, chapters, and the Finnish American community in general. A small amount of documentation is in Finnish, but most of it is in English, as the Foundation’s official language has been English from the start – Paloheimo’s vision was to “unite all Finland Friends” in the United States. The organization of the collection reflects the way in which the materials were transferred to the IHRC; the donors themselves grouped the materials and the IHRC retained the order given to it. As a result, the collection is not always in chronological or thematic order.


  • Creation: 1950-2000


Language of Materials

English, someFinnish


Open for use in the Elmer L. Andersen Library reading room.


This collection may be protected by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). It is the user's responsibility to verify copyright ownership and to obtain all necessary permissions prior to the reproduction, publication, or other use of any portion of these materials. Researchers may quote from the collection under the fair use provision of the copyright law.


The Finlandia Foundation was founded in 1953 in California with the twin goals of nurturing the connection with Finland and preserving Finnish culture in America. Yrjo A. Paloheimo, the founder of the organization, got the inspiration for the Foundation from the unprecedented unity in which Finnish Americans supported their homeland during the Second World War years; Paloheimo was the Field Secretary for the Help Finland organization and traveled throughout Finnish American communities in 1945-1946 assisting with the relief efforts. After the war Paloheimo, then the Honorary Consul of Finland for Southern California, wrote the official version of how the Finlandia Foundation was conceived and brought to life. On January 21, 1953, nine founders met at the home of Yrjo and Leonora Paloheimo in Pasadena, California, and unanimously approved the Constitution and By-laws that Paloheimo had modeled after the American Scandinavian Foundation. Yrjo Paloheimo was also elected the first President of the Foundation. He remained in this position for nearly a decade, until Dr. Vaino Hoover replaced him in 1962. During the long term of these first two Presidents – Hoover resigned two decades later, in 1983 – local Finnish American chapters were formed throughout the country. In addition to local chapters, the national body was composed of two parts: The Finlandia Foundation National, a non-tax exempt administrative body, and the tax-exempt Finlandia Foundation Trust, which was later initiated by Dr. Vaino Hoover. Without Hoover, the longest serving President of the Foundation, there would have been little chance for the Foundation to succeed, as he endowed the tax-exempt Finlandia Foundation Trust with his own money. The income from the Trust was used exclusively to fund scholarships and grants. During Hoover’s administration, there were also two Boards of Trustees; however, after the death of Vaino Hoover in 1983, the Foundation went through a process of reorganization. In this process, a single Board of Trustees was created to coordinate both the Finlandia Foundation National and the Finlandia Foundation Trust. Finally in 2002 the Trust was discontinued completely and today, after defining a narrower mission of the Foundation’s function as a funding organization rather than a unifying force among all Finnish American organizations, the Finlandia Foundation operates as a private philanthropic foundation. Under the leadership of Gertrude Kujala (1984), Jorma Kaukonen (1989), Juha Makipaa (1991), Carl W. Jarvie (1993), Paul O. Halme (1995), Inger Pancoast-Edwards (1999), John Suomela (2001), and John Laine (2003) the Foundation has increased its grants and scholarships and become the major source of private funding for Finnish and Finnish-American cultural activities in the United States. The Foundation also publishes its own bi-annual newsletter. For more information about the history of the Foundation, please resort to Jon L. Saari: Black Ties and Miners’ Boots: Inventing Finnish American Philanthropy. A History of Finlandia Foundation National, 1953-2003 (Solvang, CA: Finlandia Foundation National, 2003).


13 Linear Feet


The material includes correspondence, newsletters, minutes, photographs, and various other documents, roughly organized chronologically within the various collections of papers.


Seven large boxes of historical material dealing with the fifty year history of the Finlandia Foundation and Finlandia Foundation Trust were delivered to the IHRC on Monday, October 10, 2005 by Jon L. Saari, a current Trustee of the Foundation. Saari, an historian at Northern Michigan University (Marquette, MI), used this material as the primary source material to write a history of the Foundation in 2003-2004; it was called Black Ties and Miners' Boots: Inventing Finnish-American Philanthropy - A History of the Finlandia Foundation National 1953-2003. 8,000 copies were printed and distributed free of charge to members during 2003 and 2004; it has also been used as an outreach tool to publicize the Foundation's story to non-members. The Paloheimo Papers, Collanus Papers, and Kujala Papers were received from Trustee Paul Halme of Solvang, California, who is the executor of the Paloheimo Estate and former President of Finlandia Foundation. The Olkio Papers and Smith Tapes were received directly from Kalevi Olkio and Vera Smith in 2002. The collection was processed by Johanna Leinonen in 2006. Provenance sketch by Jon Saari, 2005, and Johanna Leinonen, 2006.


The Paloheimo, Yrjo A. and Leonora T. Papers (IHRC2027)

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