Oral Interview of Ralph and Lila (Ohman) Smith

Name of Person Interviewed

Ralph Smith
Lila Ohman Smith


Timothy Madigan



Download Audio Interview (168.0 MB)

Download Transcript of oral interview (13.4 MB)


The tape deals with teaching school in the Finnish community of New York Mills, Minnesota in the late 1930s, and other aspects of Finnish-American immigrant life.


Ralph Smith was born in Glyndon, Minnesota, in 1906. He attended Moorhead State College, and worked as a junior high and high school principal until 1935, when he began to study law and social work, which became his career. Lila Smith was born in Leaf Lake Township, Minnesota, in 1909, to Finnish immigrants. She also attended Moorhead State College, and began teaching in 1928.

Date of Interview



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Length (Time)


Original Format

Audio tape

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Named Persons

Jacob Henry Smyser, Raymond B. MacLean, C.P. Archer, Byron Murray, Joseph Kise, Ethel Tainter, Georgina Lommen, Ella A. Hawkinson, Mr. Knopf, “Ma” Jackson, Floyd Bjørnstjerne Olson, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Elmer Austin Benson, Harold Edward Stassen, Everett Fraser


Teaching, School principals, Social workers


Northern Pacific Railroad Company, Moorhead State College, University of Chicago, University of Southern California, Old Order of Owls, North Dakota State University, United States. Works Progress Administration, Farmer-Labor Party (Minn.), United Charities of St. Paul, Honeywell Inc., Minnesota Farmers' Holiday Association, University of Minnesota, Harvard University, Princeton University, Yale University, Carleton College (Northfield, Minn.), St. Olaf College, Concordia College (Moorhead, Minn.), Augsburg College, Macalester College, College of St. Thomas (Saint Paul, Minn.), College of St. Catherine, Minnesota Historical Society. State Historic Preservation Office, Mayo Clinic


Minnesota—Leaf Lake (Township), Minnesota—Glyndon, Minnesota--Buffalo River State Park, Wisconsin, Minnesota—Stockwood, Pennsylvania—Pittsburgh, Minnesota—Moorhead, Minnesota--New York Mills, Sweden, Minnesota—Otto (Township), California, North Dakota, Montana, Minnesota—Arlington, New York (State), Minnesota—Minneapolis, Minnesota--Saint Paul, Washington (D.C.), Pennsylvania—Altoona, New York (State)—Albany, Rhode Island—Providence, Minnesota—Ottertail, Minnesota—Henning, Minnesota—Perham, Finland, Norway, Minnesota—Graceville, Minnesota--New Ulm, Russia, Finland—Helsinki, Czechoslovakia, Estonia, Finland—Tornio, Germany, Minnesota—St. Olaf (Township), Russia (Federation)--Ural Mountains, Michigan


Emigration and immigration, Finnish Americans, College students, Fraternal organizations, Great Depression, Norwegian Americans--Social life and customs, Cooperation, Sauna, Political parties, Socialism

ID Number

S237 235

Restrictions on Use

Permission to publish, quote, or reproduce these oral interviews must be obtained in writing from Minnesota State University Moorhead Archives.


Oral History | United States History

Oral Interview of Ralph and Lila (Ohman) Smith